The Broncos are heading to a blustery Foxborough today to take on the New England Patriots Sunday. Everyone knows this is a big deal - whether they admit it or not - so we once again have not just one but two Ultimate Fans ready to give us some awesome - and occasionally hilarious - insight to a game that is becoming redundantly played in the frigid Northeast.
Regardless of that oversight by the scheduling gods, BroncoTatDude and Shasta77 are up to the task for previewing one of the most legendary rivalries in pro football.These two aren't taco-loving fans either. They go for true game food - beer and brats. So pop a cold one and get ready for what should be one of the best NFL games this year.
MHR - What would be your takeaways from that awesome win against the Chargers on Thursday night?
- The D is steadily maturing into a unit that will put fear into opponents. I mean, really, who are ya gonna attack and find consistent success? Yes, I think the safeties need to tighten it up, but the talent is there. My opinion is that the safeties miss Trevathan's play more than anyone. His ability to cover the TE effectively allows the safeties to concentrate more on other aspects of their game. So hurry, hurry, Danny and get back here healthy.
- Most of the stars are playing like stars, and some support players are playing like stars too. Peyton Manning, Von Miller,Demaryius Thomas, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Jr., Wes Welker (always makes an impact even in limited action),Terrance Knighton and DeMarcus Ware (always a beast to normal human standards) are all living up to their star billing. Guys like Emmanuel Sanders, Derek Wolfe, Bradley Roby,Brandon Marshall, Hillman, Thompson and yes even Paul "slow foot" Cornick (one good game does not a star make, but let's hope he gets there) are playing above expectations. The most exciting thing about this comment is there are some stars (lookin' at you JT and Clady) who are not playing to their full potential yet or are struggling a bit, but we all know it is just a matter of time before they break out of the funk. Holy Win It All Batman!!!
- The defense played the fastest I've seen yet this year. Guys were flying to the ball the entire game. That means as group they are "getting it," and can now just react. A scary proposition for those still on our schedule.
- Adam Gase is starting to enforce his will on defenses. His play-calling has been progressively aggressive the past few weeks. And he's getting more creative with formations that team's haven't seen. I would have loved to have seen what the call was supposed to be on that goal-line play with the muffed snap. We've never run that formation before.
- Sanders is exactly what this offense was missing last year. His speed and quickness will continue to frustrate defenses that try to press him, and he's going to challenge defensive coordinators on who the safeties provide help to in coverage.
MHR - Thursday's win over San Diego seems already like a month ago. How do you think the Broncos will respond coming off a hard week of two games, then a long weekend off and then traveling to the East Coast to face the New England Patriots?
Shasta77: With the veteran leadership of guys like Manning, Ware, Knighton, and Clady I expect them to come out focused and prepared. Plus a lot of this group watched us "let it slip away" in Foxboro last year. That should be solid motivation as well.
It's the Patriots in their house, and a chance to add another win against a division leader. If you can't get fired up for that, you probably should be selling insurance.
MHR - Tom Brady just put up 5 TDs in a massive win over the imploding Chicago Bears. Do you think the Patriots are red hot right now or that they haven't faced any really tough opponents?
BroncoTatDude: Let me address the second part of that question first. I know it is cliché, but I honestly believe it to be a truism - this is the NFL and these are some of the most highly skilled, talented and trained athletes in the world. Any opponent in this league is tough because, you know,....any given Sunday.
That said, many teams facing the Patriots do suffer from being "star-struck." The Patriot organization has enjoyed so much success over the last decade and a half that opponents doubt even before kick off that they are good enough to beat the Patriots. I think this has as much to do with their recent success as the play of the team itself.
As far as them being red hot, it's hard to tell. Brady is known to have other-worldly streaks, but I think we have also seen his play decline. It is quite possible he is on one of those streaks (making the upcoming game a more difficult task for the good guys), or it could be that this past game with Chicago was a perfect storm for a Patriots' shellacking of a team (da Bears) in such disarray and turmoil that they are attempting to disprove the any given Sunday maxim.
MHR - What do you think will be the Broncos biggest challenges as they face the Patriots?
Shasta77: On offense, Gase/Manning can't let the Patriots encourage them to become one-dimensional like last year's game. Bill Belichick is going to offer up the run to take away the pass. Gase/Manning have to dictate the play-calling, not Belichick.
On defense, it's all about "doing your job." Brady is at his best when he gets players out of position and off assignment. The only play like that against San Diego was when Gates fooled Quinton Carter on the 3rd and 20. Instead of preventing the first down, Q was looking to jump the route 10 yards short of the line to gain. Can't make those mistakes against Brady. If the Broncos stay true to the scheme, they will stop the Patriot offense.
MHR - What does the Broncos defense need to concentrate on to be successful in stopping Brady and his favorite tight end target, Rob Gronkowski?
BroncoTatDude: The Brady/Gronk connection is by far the most effective on their offense, and it must be game-planned specifically. If the Broncos can limit the effectiveness of this combo, their chances of winning are much improved.
If not, then it could be a much closer and less comfortable game than I would like.
It all starts with the pass rush. Brady gets the ball out in an average of 2.49 seconds (PFF). That is good for first among QBs.
In order to stop the Brady/Gronk connection, I think it is extremely important for the interior rush to push the pocket back. If the jumbo heavies in the middle are stymied on the initial push, then get those hands up! We know that Von and Ware will be on the way, and if the interior can delay Brady's pass just ~.75 second, then the odds between our guys getting to him and him completing a pass in the middle go significantly in the Broncos' favor.
I am in the camp of "sometimes our coaching is too conservative," although most times I understand why. But I would love to see some defensive innovation this week.
Perhaps have Talib shadow Gronk when he is standing. I think Talib has the athletic ability to stick with Gronk and the closing speed to defend passes to him. Talib playing off of him could help mitigate the famous Gronk push-off. Of course Gronk will get his, so it is very important that Ward be assigned the bracket double team in order to increase the odds of an immediate tackle to limit YAC.
I have no real fear of the wide receiver threat from the Patriots and think a combination of CHJ/Roby/Webster should be able to hold them mostly in check. If Gronk is positioned as an in-line TE, then I think whatever DE is lined up opposite him should take an outside position and use the chip-block tactic. Knock him off his route, or even more ideally, on his butt.
MHR - Tom Brady said after the Bears game that he has seen a lot of defenses and it's hard to surprise him. Do you think the Broncos can "surprise" him?
Shasta77: Probably don't need to because we have the talent to simply "man up" with them. But I do expect a few wrinkles from JDR, particularly with line stunts and creative blitzes. Having Von in the Joker role will give Brady some looks that may not surprise him, but will be very difficult to block.
MHR - The running game the last two games has been surprisingly solid. Do you anticipate a third game with good rushing stats and how important will that be to our offensive attack?
BroncoTatDude: I am pleasantly surprised with Hillman's production the last few games. Along with Hillman and his quicks, Thompson adds the bruiser aspect that will make the Patriots respect the Broncos' ability to run the ball.
Currently the Patriots are ranked 25th in yards allowed, giving up 129.6 yards/game and 4.6 yards/rush attempt (nfl.com).
I predict another 100+ yard performance by Hillman and ~135 total rushing yards by the Broncos in this game.
As far as importance goes, an effective rush attack makes the play action offense tick. If our guys can grind out some yards on the ground, Peyton will have a field day with the play action.
MHR - How much of a factor do you think the Broncos running game will need to be - and will be - against the Patriots?
Shasta77: With no Jerod Mayo in the middle, the rushing yards will definitely be available. The burst that Hillman has shown the past few weeks could really present problems if we run the ball out of spread formations. It will quickly put him into the second level, and he's got too much speed for their LBs. It's going to put a lot of pressure on their safeties if we have early success running the ball - and I think we will.
MHR - The Patriots will also be missing pass rusher Chandler Jones due to injury. How big of a problem do you expect the Patriots defense to be for Peyton Manning and the Broncos offensive line?
BroncoTatDude: I believe the O-Line is really beginning to come together. I realize individual players are still struggling at different times, but for the most part we have seen steady improvement from the big boys on the O-line.
I am not yet ready to join the Paul Cornick Fan Club, but if the game against San Diego is any indication of how he will improve and play from game-to-game, I could see myself getting there.
Obviously if the Patsies can't stop the run and can't get any pressure on Peyton, this game could turn into a laugher.
If the #Broncos take care of the ball they will win. Period.— Eatin' Greedy (@Bronco_Mike251) October 29, 2014
MHR - In Foxboro last year, the Broncos - who had dominated early but let the lead slip via turnovers - ended up losing thanks to a fluke play in OT - Wes Welker let a punt go, it bounced off Tony Carter and the Patriots recovered, setting up an easy, game-winning field goal. What do the Broncos need to do to make sure it is never that close this weekend?
Shasta77: Execute. That's what allowed the Pats back into that game - failure to execute on offense, defense and special teams. Drops by the receivers, turnovers, blown coverage assignments, poor kicking game decisions...that's how the Pats beat you. If the Broncos play a clean game in those areas, the score won't be close.
MHR - Emmanuel Sanders had a huge game last week, and Demaryius Thomas the game before. Julius Thomas had huge games the first three of the season. Do you anticipate a big game for Wes Welker going up against his former team, or will it be another Thomas/Sanders show?
BroncoTatDude: I like the fact that Welker is being used in a situational role. I believe this will keep him healthy and able to contribute (albeit less frequently) throughout the remainder of the season. His skill set is undeniable, but unfortunately he has had well-documented issues with concussions. That being said, I expect him to make an impact at precise moments when he is needed most.
In all honesty, I really like the way the Broncos wide receivers match up with the DBs of the Patriots. Darelle Revis is an awesome talent, but I think D.T. is playing on another level. I am not sure any DB in the NFL can contain him at this point.
Sanders has proved his toughness and reliable hands and will also have a huge game. I could easily see these two guys racking up 100 yards each this coming Sunday, weather permitting, of course.
I also expect our running attack to pile up some pretty good numbers against a very suspect run D in New England.
Again, if that happens then, look for Peyton to use the play action to devastating effect.
MHR - Darrelle Revis said the Patriots are a team on a mission. If you were giving the Broncos the pre-game speech before Sunday's game, what would you say to them?
BroncoTatDude: I would tell them this is the type of game that separates the contenders from the pretenders. It's the type of game that makes the legacy of this team legitimate.
Revis and the Patriots are on a mission to make the playoffs. This team is on a mission to win a championship! Play clean, play crisp, play with desire and maturity. Show the entire NFL, teams and fans, what it means to be the best team in the league.
MHR - Tom Brady has gotten the best of both Peyton Manning and the Broncos on so many occasions, except for some very memorable games, including last year's AFC Championship game but also the 2006 AFC divisional playoff game when Champ Bailey intercepted Brady in the end zone, helping the Broncos win 27-13. Which game was a bigger Broncos win over the Patriots, in your opinion?
Shasta77: I would say the 2006 win was more important because it showed the Broncos organization - and its fan base - they could win a playoff game without John Elway.
Last year's win was important because it got us back to the Super Bowl, and we were the No. 1 seed, so we were supposed to win.
Brady has a losing record against the Broncos in his career (even with the four-game winning streak he had snapped in the AFC Championship game), so beating him is something the Broncos have done better than anyone. Whereas, that 2006 playoff win put to rest the rhetoric that the Broncos couldn't win a playoff game without Elway.
BroncoTatDude: Well obviously last year's game was HUGE. It propelled us on to the Super Bowl. I would take that result every year. It was absolute sweetness to take the AFC crown after the second half meltdown suffered earlier in the regular season at Foxborough.
But the sheer drama involved in that 2006 season (for the Pats as well as the Broncos), made that game one of the greatest victories in Broncos history. The Pats were going for an unprecedented third championship in a row, and the Broncos had never won a playoff game in the young history of Invesco Field.
The defending champions came in with an uncharacteristic (at that time) 10-6 record. The Broncos, reinvigorated under the leadership of Jake "The Snake" Plummer, had just completed one of the best regular seasons in Broncos history, finishing 13-3. The game was highlighted by Champ Bailey's 99 yard interception return that woulda coulda shoulda been a touchdown. No matter the immediate outcome of the play, it allowed our Broncos to go on to win that game.
I have to admit that I loved our chances that year to win our third Super Bowl. Unfortunately it didn't happen because the Broncos just couldn't seal the deal against the eventual champs in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Broncos forced five (yes, count them, five) turnovers in that game. I would love to see a repeat of that performance with one of our stellar DBs taking one all of the way to the house this time.
It would only be fitting if the Broncos give Champ a game ball this week in commemoration of his incredible play back in 2006.
MHR - The question in the media that will not die is always, Manning v. Brady - who is the better QB? So let's put this to rest once and for all:
BroncoTatDude: Bah...this question. There are legitimate arguments that can he made for both. I am going full homer on this one and taking PFM! My reasoning is simple. Brady is good, but Peyton is great. You don't end up setting every record for the position without greatness.
Shasta77: PFM, hands down. And not because he plays for the Broncos. I thought he was the best QB in football while he was in Indy. Having watched him even closer in his three years in Denver, I have no doubts whatsoever.
Brady is an excellent QB. But PFM changes how defensive coordinators consider calling the game, every game - and still goes out and puts up HOF numbers almost every week.
No other QB has ever done that with the same level of consistency and focus.
MHR - Who makes your "Hall of Fame" Broncos team?
WR: DT/Eddie Mac
TE: Shannon Sharpe/Orson Mobley
RB/FB: TD(of course)/Howard Griffith
DL: Rulon Jones/Pot Roast/Simon Fletcher
ST: Horan/Elam/Glyn Milburn (how exciting was this guy?)
This should be a post of its own, but here's an abbreviated grouping:
Most of the SB winning crew with a few specific additions - Champ, Upchurch, Gradishar, Simon Fletcher, DT, T-Knight, Harris (to cover the slot), and Von.
|Ultimate Fan||Peyton Manning stats||Manning TDs/INTs||# yards by RBs||WR with most yards||# sacks on Uggs Brady||# sacks by Patriots D||Most tackles by Broncos player||Broncos player with most INTs||# penalties by Broncos||Final score|
|BroncoTatDude||27-33, 326 yards||3, 1||135 yards||Demaryius Thomas||6||2||Brandon Marshall (out on a limb)||Chris Harris Jr. (1)||Good Lord, let’s hope 0…but realistically 7/55||Broncos pull away late, 38-21|
|Shasta77||27/36, 338 yards||4, 0||188 yards (Hillman, 17/145, 1 TD)||D.T. with 155 (Sanders over 100 again)||6 (2 for Von and Ware)||1||Brandon Marshall||Aqib Talib 2)||7||45-17 Broncos|
Favorite team to watch the Broncos play?
BroncoTatDude: I love watching the Broncos play anyone at any time!
Team you most hate for the Broncos to lose to?
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster?
BroncoTatDude: Von Miller
Favorite Broncos player of all time?
BroncoTatDude: Terrell Davis
Favorite thing to eat during a game?
BroncoTatDude: Pork chop in a can. XP
Favorite Game-Day ritual?
BroncoTatDude: Actually I work Sundays so I rarely see the game live. Favorite ritual is get home, kiss the lady, grab a beer and hit the DVR.
Favorite "celebration" when Broncos score a TD (high-five, salute, dance like Von Miller??)
BroncoTatDude: Depending upon the situation, I have been known to do all of those things. I do think I will try more Miller dances though...they just look fun :)
Most embarrassing-to-admit superstitious behavior regarding Broncos on Game Day?
BroncoTatDude: Pretty much if you are not in the den to watch the game, then get the heck out! I am probably not the most attentive family man during the game.
Best Broncos game ever played?
Shasta77: The Green Bay Super Bowl is an easy choice. But for the most complete game, I would have to go with the 42-17 thrashing of the Jaguars in the playoffs that same year, or the 38-3 mauling of the Dolphins in the following year's playoffs.
BroncoTatDude: I have only cried three times when it comes to the Broncos - the day John retired, the day TD retired and Jan. 25, 1998. I doubt I have to remind any Broncos fans that that was the day the Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII, and I cried like a little baby. That was the epitome of a great game!