Good morning, Broncos Country!
On the bright side of that unbelievably lucky 27-25 win by the Patriots last night, Week 9 is looking better and better for the Orange and Blue, isn't it?
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Broncos are staring down a three-game stretch that has to be the hardest three games among any NFL team this season. Not that I've looked at any other team's schedule (I am not even remotely that interested), but 49ers on a Sunday night, followed by the Chargers 10 minutes later and then the Patriots in New England the next week - are you kidding me?
That's gonna leave a mark.
3-0 this next stretch would be amazing. 2-1 more realistic. If 2-1 happens I would prefer 2-1 with wins against SD and NE.— Eatin' Greedy (@Bronco_Mike251) October 17, 2014
Luckily, we've got just the team to handle what John Fox calls a "salty schedule."
While I may be intimidated by this mid-season lineup, Chris Harris Jr. is not.
"These are the games you get up for. You face any other top teams in the league, you always want to get up for them," he said, adding that there is extra incentive since it's a Sunday Night Football game on primetime. "We want to go out there and show we're definitely a contender, definitely one of the top teams. And it's going to be a great test."
That's probably an understatement, but we'll cut him some slack. After all, Harris Jr. has been passing all the previous tests with flying colors.
Note the yellow above - Harris has given up less than 100 yards total, has broken up eight of the 27 passes coming his way, and has one interception.
That kind of play is going to come in handy Sunday when facing Colin Kaepernick - the maturing QB who likes to run, likes to throw, likes to run and throw. Heck, he probably even likes to throw then run ("thrun" as I like to call it) just because he can.
Stop me, Terrance Knighton.
"The good thing is we'll have our pass rushers there, we'll have our fast guys in and he'll get his yards here and there. It's hard to stop scrambling quarterbacks in this league, especially the guy that has the ability to throw down the field," said Knighton.
And Von Miller seems poised for the challenge too.
"He's a very talented quarterback. He can run, pass and make all the throws on the field," said Miller who has six sacks on the year so far. "You just got to go in there and play your game. That's what's been working for us, that's what we're going to go out there and do."
Knighton pointed out that while Kaepernick is a major concern of the defense, its primary goal is to stop the run, which has been golden for the Niners.
"We'll do our best to contain him, but our first focus is Frank Gore."
Argh, Gore! That guy. He's slugged 403 yards rushing so far this season. St. Louis held him to only 38, but the veteran 49ers running back had 100+-yard games in the previous two matchups.
DeMarcus Ware calls the Kaepernick-Gore tandem a "two-headed monster" to cover.
"They're always going to try and grind it out and get third and short so they can run the ball. But then you have Kaepernick that can really string plays out," said Ware, adding that the key to getting Kap is cutting his angles. "If you don't take the right angle, he can beat you. You have to make sure that just because it's a passing down, it's also a running down too. You have to be aware of where he is."
Lots of weapons
Knighton believes it all starts with stopping Gore first and giving Kap fewer options.
"We just have to do a good job up front like we've been doing for the past few weeks and making teams one dimensional," Knighton said.
And don't forget Vernon Davis. He's no Julius Thomas, but he's an added threat, particularly with that mobile quarterback of his.
"You've got a bunch of different weapons within their group and he's certainly one of them," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "He's back in the lineup and certainly somebody that we've got to account for."
And then there's Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and even former Bronco Brandon Lloyd who are snagging their fair share of catches. Accounting for all that firepower will decide the game, Knighton says.
"It'll be a tough game; they've got a good defense, we have a good defense," he said. "Whichever team performs best on defense will win, not necessarily the offense."
That may be true. Probably is true if the first five games have been any indication, but I'm personally hoping the Broncos offense is what wins this game, with Peyton Manning throwing a good four to five TD passes and shattering the touchdown record held by the former Green Bay Packers QB who likes "real comfortable jeans."
But Manning's not thinking about breaking Brett Favre's record nearly as much as just winning the game, which will be no easy task against a 49ers defense that while banged up has been surprisingly tough so far.
"If Ronnie Hillman runs for four touchdowns I promise you I am OK with that," Manning said.
While the Broncos quarterback has no intention of running for any touchdowns, he doesn't agree that he's a completely immobile QB.
"I think for a guy that doesn't run very well, being able just to move and slide in the pocket and make certain throws, I think I can still do that."
Yeah, I'd say so. Averaging three touchdowns a game so far in 2014, Manning has reached 506 touchdown passes in 245 games compared to 302 games it took Favre to hit the 508 mark. Pretty impressive for a quarterback some (not me!) want to say is in decline.
But the Broncos insist the media and fans are the only ones really thinking about Manning's record. The offense is more concerned about scoring more points than the 49ers.
"You might not believe this, but I really don't know what you're talking about when it comes to the record," said tight end Jacob Tamme. "It'll be great for him, it'll be an awesome moment when it happens, but we're kind of focused on winning the game."
No matter when Manning does break that record, he admits he'll remain in awe of the man who got to 508 first.
"I'm not sure anybody played the game quite like Brett Favre did. I miss watching him play, and if there's one thing I wish I could take from Brett's game, is I'm not sure anybody had more passion for the game than he did," Manning said in a conference call with the 49ers media. "It's something that I strive for, but I'm not sure anybody can quite reach Brett's passion. It showed on the way he played, his longevity, his productivity in his career was second to none."
Manning is not the only Bronco on a record-setting pace this season. Both Julius Thomas and DeMarcus Ware are chasing a leaderboard. And that can only mean good things for both the offense and defense come Sunday night.
With nine touchdowns so far, Thomas has the most of any tight end in history through the team's first five games. As Manning looks to add touchdown passes, and Thomas wants touchdown catches, we have a match made in heaven. Dust off those record books boys, we've got some changes to make.
"I wasn't going to rest on what I did last year," said Thomas. "I was really determined to come in and keep working and try to find every way I could to get better. Everything I've done now inspires me to work harder, so I'll stay after it."
And not to leave the defense out of the race, Ware is working on the all-time sacks ranking. Currently at 17th with 121 sacks, he is just two sacks away from 15th and nine sacks out from 12th on the ranking. But don't tell Ware that; he says he doesn't check his sacks tally.
"I just look at it every week as I have to get pressure on the quarterback and do what I have to do," he said, but added that Von Miller can't claim "sack master" yet. "He has 40 and I have 120? I think that still puts me at the top (laughing)."
OK, so maybe he is keeping track a little. I like it.
"Von, he's playing really well and it's awesome that he's taken that brace off now and that really shows that he's 100 percent," Ware said of his fellow edge rusher. "He's ready to go and he's getting that pressure on the quarterback and I'm glad to be on the team with him."
We'll see what Kaepernick thinks of that on Sunday night.
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