Good Morning, Broncos Country and Happy Halloween!
So is there a Broncos game Sunday? Because I hadn't heard.
There is apparently some sort of Peyton Manning/Tom Brady showdown, but I'm trying to figure out how that works.
How can you compare touchdowns if you don't have receivers? And you would then need to add in some corners just to keep everyone honest. And as long as you do that, I suppose some linebackers and pass rushers would make it more challenging too, which means of course, you have to add an O-Line or it would just be ugly.
If I'm doing the math right - and I like to think I'm pretty good at addition - that is no mano e mano competition.
Emmanuel Sanders, a newbie to this Manning-Brady hype, is getting my PreGame Ball for his detection of this absurdity.
"I feel like every week, playing with No. 18, there's always some kind of storyline," Sanders said. "First there was the touchdown record, now it's Brady vs. Manning. He would tell you the same - it's never about him; it's always about the team. And it's the Denver Broncos vs. the New England Patriots."
Hallelujah! (sing that in your best opera voice for full effect here).
Always so many storylines with the Broncos-Patriots games, and so little time to actually talk about football.
There's the "Who's better, Manning or Brady?" angle, which has multiple sub-angles, depending on which statistic you'd like to focus (It's obvious it's Peyton, but if you just can't decide, the tiebreaker is always commercials. And Peyton will win those every time.)
Or the "How much of a factor is weather going to be?" route.
The "Are you still mad that Wes Welker laid out your corner last year?" story seems to be a fun one to revisit.
And, of course, the "Does this feel like a playoff game to you?"
Here's the only story that is going to matter on Monday - Manning's team will beat Brady's team, and that will give the Broncos a huge advantage, both geographically and psychologically, heading into the playoffs.
So there. Yes it's an important game, yes it's going to be tough to beat the Patriots at home, and yes, we should win.
We should win because this is not 2013.
That's the story to tell.
We have a defense much better suited to stop Brady and Rob Gronkowski ... or Brandon LaFell ... or Julian Edelman.
And their running back? Oh, he's going nowhere on Sunday. Not with this Broncos No.1-in-the-NFL run defense.
And if you want to talk Manning...if you really want to go there, then let's talk Demaryius Thomas. And Emmanuel Sanders. Oh, and former Patriot Wes Welker who apparently hit Aqib Talib so hard last year that Talib adopted the "if you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em philosophy" and came to the Broncos. And don't forget Julius Thomas, the co-leader for touchdowns among tight ends in the NFL. With the Patriots' perforated defensive line, Manning should have his way out there.
We have finally have a weapons-stacked offense and defense, so this game should be one for the ages.
"They have a really good scheme, and they play it really well and they are very aggressive," said offensive coordinator Adam Gase about the upcoming game, noting that the Patriots held the Broncos to field goals on four out of six trips to the red zone last Novemer. "So we just have to make sure we're on point ... we have to win our one-on-one battles. You've got guys like [Darrelle] Revis and [Brandon] Browner and then D.T., Emmanuel [Sanders], Welker, Julius... all these guys. Something's got to give at some point."
Something does but the Broncos aren't planning on being on that side of the equation.
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. noted that a big reason the Patriots do so well at home is thanks to the leadership of Tom Brady.
"He just turns his game up to another level at home, so we've got to try to take our game up another level on the road," Harris Jr said. "It's always harder. We started out fast on them last year. If we can start out fast again and just maintain that the whole game, that'd be good for us."
Yes, it would and Harris knows why. Ditching the "It's just like any other game" cliché, the father of a newborn baby laid it on the line.
"It's a battle of the AFC. Who wants to win the AFC?" Harris said, adding every year it's the Broncos v. the Patriots for top billing and home field advantage. "Since I've been here, it's been those two at the top, and at the end of the year, we're always battling for the home field advantage with them. So we all know what's at stake."
It's a good thing too because despite the Broncos matching up well on just about every position, the Patriots aren't 6-2 for nothing.
"Versus the Patriots, it's about just executing your defense, what you can do well and your technique," Harris Jr. said. "You have to have great technique against a guy like Tom Brady at all times, because he's going to catch you when your bad technique is there. You've got to raise your game up to another level if you want to win."
And that's exactly what Harris Jr. and his teammates plan on doing.
Jacob Tamme said there's no telling what the weather will be like or what kind of tricks Belichick and his crew have up there sleeves, but that's the kind of environment he likes.
"I kind of thrive on that environment. I like those games where it's just you against the world on the road in tough conditions," Tamme said. "I don't know what it's going to be like this weekend but either way, it's going to be a big challenge and I enjoy those types of challenges."
So does Peyton Manning. As much for the individual competition of that game as for how it prepares the team for tough games - playoff games - down the road.
"It's a challenging week of preparation to get ready to play these guys. It's the mental challenge. It's the physical challenge as well," he said. "You know that you have to find a way to move the ball against their stingy defense, against their excellent cover corners."
Manning added that at the same time, the Broncos can't go three-and-out or Brady and his receivers will run up the score in a hurry.
"You know Brady and company are capable of putting up a lot of points, and you're going to find yourselves behind, especially up there," Manning said.
Because Welker and Talib are former Patriots, they get a lot of attention regarding "the return to Foxboro."
Both insist it's not really what they think about and neither is concerned about it.
Welker said he and Brady text each other occasionally still, though he has no plans to be that chummy this week.
"This isn't really a friend week this week," Welker said about texting his former quarterback. "So, I don't think so."
DeMarcus Ware, Papa Bear of the Broncos defense, believes Talib will likely be more amped for this game because it is a return to his former team, even if the cornerback insists it isn't any different.
"Sometimes when you go back ... it's like proving a point of what you lost," Ware said about playing a team that cut you. "And [Talib's] been working really hard and doing what he needs to do to get the job done. It's like a two-headed monster. You're going into a big game this week, playoff-type atmosphere-type game, ... so you get really riled up for those games."
He's going to need to because the 6'2" corner may be matched up on his former teammate, the 6' 7" Gronkmeister, which will be no easy task.
"He's 6-7, 200 and who knows what. And then he can run like a wild dog man," Talib said. "Great hands, great catch radius. He's one of the top tight ends in the league. He knows how to play the game of football and then on top of that, he's got a great quarterback throwing him the ball."
Yeah, so there's that. And Jack Del Rio obviously knows it.
"He's certainly a gifted player," said Del Rio, noting his production on third downs and red zone situations especially. "He's a key to what they do offensively. He's one of the special players in the league at that position and there are a bunch of them out there, but he's as good as they come."
Once again, though, Sanders put it all in perspective.
"We've got to handle business," he said. "We've got to go out there and execute at a high level, be assignment-detailed, be physical and come out of there with a win. We've got to be the Denver Broncos. We've got to be technically sound and we've just got to be us."
"It's not so 'bleepin' easy"
With all the talk about Gronkowski this week, there's been little attention paid to our own star tight end, Julius Thomas. Not that he cares, because he certainly knows how to get national attention if he wants it - just mic him up in a game!
But this week, Thomas is the contributing editor for The Player's Tribune, an online publication created by professional athletes.
He writes an excellent piece discussing his somewhat misleading quote that scoring, playing football, being a tight end is in fact easy.
It's well worth the read and also gives some great insight in what Thomas' transition from basketball to football was like. The theme of his article is all about how hard he has had to work at any of his athletic pursuits (even his dance moves!), which should give Broncos fans hope that his blocking skills will eventually come around too.
"I often get asked about how hard it is to block or run routes. Well, let's start with how hard it is to just get into a stance," Thomas said, noting that eight years of just basketball wasn't easy to overcome. "My initial attempts to get into a proper three-point stance were probably among the more ridiculous things my coaches had ever seen. To hell with the playbook, to hell with the pads - it took memonths just to develop the hip flexibility I needed to get into a proper stance."
It was so tough, in fact, that Thomas nearly gave up. But after a call home to his dad, he decided on one more week. Luckily for Broncos fans, our boy found his skills that week.
"During that second week of practice, I got my first glimmer of hope," Thomas said, explaining the Y route he ran. "I run the route and look up at the quarterback, and to my surprise, I saw the ball coming towards me. I catch my first pass - and as soon as I caught that thing, I might have been the happiest that anyone has ever been - and I take it straight to the crib. Just outran everybody. Touchdown."
Just outran everybody. Sounds about right.
But here's his best line: "Give me a little time, I'll get better. But I assure you, it's only easy when you're determined to make it so."
Just a few more tributes to Champ
Champ Bailey's retirement announcement has been covered in detail, but yesterday a few more Broncos had a chance to give their tributes, and they're worth sharing:
"Champ helped me on the field and off the field," said Demaryius Thomas. "When I first got in here as a rookie, I used to have to go against him every day and I was frustrated and frustrated. But he sat me down and talked to me and told me what I can work on and do better. As the years went on, I got better and better. I can say thanks to him. Some of the stuff I do now was just from going up against him and competing because he was one of the best."
Jack Del Rio feared Champ's skills when he was coach at Jacksonville.
"A great, great career. Champ was a special player. It was a treat to be able to coach him. I know that when we came up here and went against him, the quarterback was typically told, ‘Stay away from Champ. Don't throw to him,' because he would intercept the ball so often," Del Rio said. "And then when I got here and was able to work with him, he's a pro's pro, he's a good man, great in the community, terrific football player. He is future Hall of Famer and it was an honor to coach him and great to be a part of the team he was with."
Possibly another Champ in the making, Chris Harris Jr. knew right away that working with a future Hall-of-Famer was going to be good.
"Just coming in the league as a rookie, Champ helped me a lot in preparation of getting ready for the games. I watched him and learned a lot from him, and I was blessed to be able to play with a Hall of Famer...so that really helped bring along my game a lot faster."
It’s Just So Easy | The Players' Tribune
Julius Thomas writes Thursday's contributing piece. Apparently that was so easy.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, Broncos WR Wes Welker are all good now - The Washington Post
Belichick called Welker's hit on then-Patrots CB Aqib Talib in last year's AFC title game "one of the worst plays" he's ever seen.
Tom Brady, DeMarco Murray lead Players of the Month - NFL.com
Tom Brady tied Peyton Manning by winning his record seventh AFC Offensive Player of the Month award for October. DeMarco Murray took home his second consecutive player of the month accolade.
Welker ready for "playoff-type" game
Sunday will be Wes Welker’s second game in Foxborough as a Bronco. As someone who has been on both sides of the Broncos-Patriots rivalry, Welker knows the importance and implications of this game.
NFL Week 9: Power Rankings and Picks - WSJ - WSJ
Our Model Shows How All 32 Teams Stack Up and Where It Disagrees with the Week’s Spreads
Skeptical Football: Stafford Redux, Murray Revisited and 26,099 vs. Roethlisberger | FiveThirtyEight
Week 8 was a crazy one for Quarterback scores. Peyton Manning led it off with a 286-yard game, 3 TDs and 71 percent passer rating. But by the end of the weekend, that was only sixth-best in the league. And guess who was ahead of him? Kyle Orton. Not. Even. Kidding.