The year 2013 for Denver felt a lot like 2004 for the Colts. The Colts had a historically efficient passing game with 3 1,000 yard Wide Recievers and a QB who threw for a record setting 49 TD's. It was an offense the league had not seen the likes of. Yet, through the course of the season, it was apparent that it was not a complete football team. For as high powered as the offense was, they lost four regular season games and had to play on Wild Card weekend in the playoffs.
Indianapolis came flying into the playoffs and looked unstoppable on offense. They played near perfect offensive football for two games, not punting the ball once. Two football games. No punts.
Then they got hit with a buzzsaw. A trip to snowy Foxboro against the number 2 scoring defense in the league. A physical secondary threw off the timing of the routes, and stalled an offensive juggernaut for an entire game. The Patriot offense played keep away with Corey Dillon plowing through Colt defenders. The game ended without the Colts entering the endzone. 20-3 was the final.
Sound familiar? The Broncos were historically good last year on offense. We know the numbers. We know the records that were broken. We know how incredibly unstoppable the offense looked. They also flew into the playoffs looking like an unstoppable force. Through two games they punted the ball once. Two games. One punt.
Then the buzzsaw. All of those team accolades meant nothing on that dark winter evening in the Meadowlands that will forever be embedded in our brains. The howling of the crowd from the start, and the negative growth of the cursed snowball that was growing with every Bronco mistake, washing away any joyous memories of what once seamed like a team of destiny.
But of course we have moved on. What doesn't knock these guys out makes them better. Its not whether one falls, but whether one continues to get up. And John Elway has gotten these boys back on their feet.
With the signing of three pro bowl caliber defenders, John Elway gets it. Defense wins championships. And balance is needed to matchup with everybody you play against. Good on one side of the ball; great on the other. How about great on both sides of the ball? With the Miller, Ware, Talib, Ward, and Knighton, the Broncos are at the threshold of being an elite defense.
Now it's time to work on the offense. A thought that seems absurd when looking at the record breaking numbers of a season ago. It seems like an overreaction to one off game against an elite defense they hadn't seen the likes of all year. How can they honestly be better?
Statistically speaking, they cannot be. But balance and versatility is needed. In 2004 it was a team that had a physical secondary and talented defenders throughout their defense. This was the exact type of defense that gave Manning and company issues in the Super Bowl this year. But that wasn't the only defense that slowed them down. All three of their regular season losses were against teams that defended them in a similar manner. An offense so predicated on QB/WR correlation, relies heavily on timing and being on the same page. Secondaries that can push around the WR's and stay with them while the line gets penetration, can successfully disrupt this style of offense.
New England knows this. The loss fresh on their minds is the defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos ariel assault. They have taken notice of Elways moves on the chess board and have responded. Darrelle Revis and 220 lb 6'4 CB Brandon Browner were brought on. These two players excel at playing press man coverage. Don't think that has nothing to do with preparing to play Peyton Manning and his Horseman.
The stage is setting up for two superpower teams to be in a dual this next season. It has already started with battles for some of the same Free Agents. And should continue all the way until next postseason is upon us. For as good as the Broncos are shaping up, their enemy is looking just as good, and some could argue, better built for a championship.
Think about it. When the Patsies won their Super Bowls, Tom Brady was not the elite QB he is today. He had no elite WR's to throw to. They relied on their defense, and their solid running game. This team this past year was built the same way. The defense does a great job of stopping the run. Their one weakness has been their secondary. That is now a strength. Their run blocking is among the best in the NFL. And now Gronk is back, and a draft deep at the WR position awaits them. This could be one of the best teams put together for the Brady/Belichek regime.
One thing I really wanted for Peyton was for him to walk onto a team that would not be so reliant on his arm. A team that could win with strong defense, and a powerful running game. With the injuries last year to the defense and offensive line, they were very reliant on the passing game. I'm really hoping this year that they can achieve that balance. This may be achieved by adding a quality OL in the draft. Or just by means of being more dedicated to a running game through the course of the season. But it certainly would be a nice weapon to have when playing with a lead, or when the passing game is nuetralized.
With a potentially elite defense, the offense will not have to force the issue when playing good defenses. With that, and an improved running game, this Denver team will be one scary team to face. They will have the unstoppable force on one side of the ball, and the immovable object on the other. All challengers better keep up.