2014 AFC Championship Game - Broncos v. Patriots - 7 keys to victory

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Gameday Broncos fans!!! It's finally here. One more game for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. What must the Broncos do in order to win?

Offense

  1. Make sure Peyton stays clean, especially from the edge. Chandler Jones is a scary dude, Ninkovich makes a lot of plays. Both edge rushers can create significant pressure and cause turnovers. Clark and Franklin must neutralize as much as possible.
  2. Spread them out. I don't just mean with our 11 personnel, I mean split Julius and Knowshon wide. Make those defenders get out in space and make the Patriots beat quick decisive throws. This limits what they can do as far as blitzing and also puts some inexperienced players on an island in coverage.
  3. Control the pace. No need to go hurry-up early on. No need for it whatsoever. Mix in the running game, gain positive yardage on 1st and 2nd, keep 3rd manageable. Move the chains and grind the ball downfield.
  4. Not sure if Logan Ryan will be matched up exclusively on Wes Welker, but if he is, test the rookie early and often. For that matter go after Jamie Collins when he's covering Julius Thomas.
  5. Get the run established from the 1st quarter. Need to make the Patriots cheat a safety to the box, need to establish play-action as a viable threat early on. Run it right at Sealver Siliga, see if that guy is still the bottom feeder he was when the Broncos cut him.
  6. Adjust to the adjustments. Belichick is the absolute best at making in game adjustments to what your offense is doing. Broncos must do the same.
  7. No turnovers. One last week broke a streak of three straight games. Broncos offense is one of the few out there that can marginalize the impact, but in order for NE to win they will need extra possessions and extra opportunities with favorable field position. Best way to do that is to get turnovers.

Defense

  1. DRC on Julian Edelman all day. He is their current #1. He has been targeted the most and has the most receptions of any Patriot receiver. Brady does not have the same comfort level with the other receivers at his disposal. Take Edelman away and things become much more difficult for Brady.
  2. Put out the Blount. Once he's fired up that Patriot offense goes on a journey with a line right through your refrigerator before coming to a halt in the endzone. How do you stop a big guy that moves down field? Hit him as hard as you can possibly imagine all game long, and when you do wrap up. Make him grind out every yard.
  3. Once you have those things taken care of, get to Brady. Brady gets the ball out quick, but he's also severely disturbed by pressure from the middle. This is something the Broncos have been able to do down the stretch with Malik Jackson and Terrance Knighton.
  4. Make Brady sling the ball as much as possible. He has had a terrible season accuracy wise and does not have a lot of confidence in the passing game. One of the reasons why Edelman has such huge numbers, he's trusted. Outside of that the chemistry between he and Amendola has never fully developed, and the repeated and crucial mistakes made by his young receivers is not something that has fostered a lot of development. Bottom line, you want Brady throwing to this group of players a lot. They will make more mistakes this way then they would handing the ball off.
  5. Make them kick FG's. Something else that has happened to this Patriot team this year has been the dropoff in redzone production from previous seasons. No team can afford to count by 3's while the Broncos offense is counting by 7's
  6. No need to blitz. While Brady's completion % drops about 4 points when he's blitzed, his 9-1 TD/INT ratio when blitzed indicates that he has hit some big plays in the face of those blitzes. Pressure is important but more-so with the front 3/4.
  7. No more breakdowns in coverage. Can't afford them against a team like this. The Patriots do not have big explosive plays built into their passing game with the current personnel. It will take a missed tackle, poor communication, execution, and folks being out of place for this to happen.

Special Teams

1) Be prepared. There will be an onside kick, a fake FG/punt, or some trickery during the game. Bank on it

Wrap-up

I'm glad the game is here because I'm tired of it. I'm tired of hearing Manning v. Brady, I'm tired of hearing fans from both sides (and from other loser teams no longer in the playoffs) shoot their mouths about about blah blah blah. Both teams have made it this far and both will duke it out for the Super Bowl.

I've felt good and confident about the game all week. If the Broncos execute, they win. Simple as that. (how's that for a Belichickian answer?).

Regardless, I look for the Broncos to end a four game losing streak against the Patriots and I look for them to advance to their 7th super bowl in franchise history.

My Prediction?

Broncos 34 Patriots 24

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