Shhh, Broncos Country...be very, very quiet.
I have a secret, and you have to promise not to tell anyone...and I mean anyone.
The Denver Broncos aren't any good.
I promised the team I'd never tell a soul - especially the fans - but I'm no good with secrets. So now you can't tell anyone or I'll get in trouble.
We don't want the Indianapolis Colts to know our quarterback is old, the offensive line is going to get crushed, the defense can't play a full game and our multitude of kickers can't possibly boot the ball long and straight, do we?
If the Colts get wind of this, they'll destroy us. And if by some grace of the Orange&Blue gods we get by this Andrew Luck guy, well, ha! there's no way we're getting past Tom Brady and the Patriots the following week. (I mean, they're named the Patriots, for crying out loud...it's treason to beat them. Treason, I tell you!)
No, what we need to do is continue our silly "we can win" narrative, no matter how outlandish it may be, so we at least have a shot at intimidating the Colts before they step on the field.
We can remind them that Peyton Manning threw just one less touchdown this year than that young buck Luck who tossed for 40 TDs.
And let's keep saying that among our carousel of running backs, maybe - just maybe - one of them can rush for more than 100 yards a game.
We can even - gasp! - act like we have not one, not two, but three - oh heck, four! - receivers who are among the best in the league.
And if we really want to get crazy, let's go ahead and tout a couple of our cornerbacks (as if being selected to the Pro Bowl is a big deal...Pfft!)
Silly, I know. But for the good of the team - and possibly our only chance at winning - we must continue this lie.
I mean, the Broncos have been doing an excellent job of pretending it's been a good season - winning 12 games, taking the AFC West - again, going 8-0 at home, allowing only 17 sacks, pummeling other QBs 41 times, and averaging 30 points a game. (someone better tell the team to slow down or fans and opponents might think they're for real!)
Surely we can help perpetuate this lie a little longer, especially since the players keep helping us with this rhetoric.
"I'm 100 percent. I'm ready to go," running back C.J Anderson said on Wednesday. "Fresh, smiling, ready to go have fun."
Fresh? Having fun? It's the end of an 18-week season. No one is fresh and having fun.
And what about this from Von Miller:
"I'm super excited. I haven't played in a playoff game in two years, so I haven't gotten to feel that different speed. But I'm definitely feeling it now. We had a great practice today and I'm excited," said Miller, who missed the playoffs last year because of a late-season ACL injury. "I'm excited to go out there with my guys and excited to go out there and do something special with them."
Our Broncos are really selling this.
"I think the team we have here is one of the most balanced teams I've ever been on," said tight end Jacob Tamme. "I think at the end of the day it's all about who plays best for 60 minutes on one day. Talking about balance and all that stuff doesn't really matter at this point. It's all about how it applies on Sunday."
Phew. At least that had a shred of doubt as to which team could come out on top Sunday.
"Everybody's on the same page, everybody's got the same goal in mind," Terrance Knighton said Thursday. "Like I said earlier in the season, we're going to hoist that trophy at the end, and everybody believes that. Everybody probably won't say it, but everybody believes that in their heart."
Yeah, no way the Colts are buying this.
Wait...Oh, they are?
"[Anderson's] a real good back. He's definitely one of those guys who tries to fall forward every time when he's coming through the hole. He's got that good burst," said Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman. "I think all their running backs are pretty good to tell you the truth. I know he's the back starting now, but we're going to have to be able to stop all of them."
And Freeman apparently isn't biting on the Manning-is-old narrative either.
"When you've got a quarterback like that, you've got all those weapons out there, you can do things like [change your approach during the season]," Freeman said about the Broncos morphing from a pass-heavy team to a more balanced offense. "Definitely trying to get [Manning] in particular situations, stopping that run first and foremost because they've picked that run game up a whole lot. We've got to do that and just try to get him off his mark."
If I didn't know any better, I'd have to think there was some truth to this potential Broncos dominance.
"We'll have to find a way [to win]," Tamme said. "If we need to throw the ball 50 times to win a game then we need to do that. If we need to run the ball 45 times to win a game, then we need to do that. I think everyone in here has that mindset offensively that we'll do whatever it takes to win the game."
Could it be that I've gotten this all wrong? That the secret isn't that we're no good...but that we are?
OK, OK, I'm buying it. But let's keep this new secret to ourselves while we talk a little strategy, game plan and winning, shall we?
First, the defense:
"Every week you want to affect the quarterback," said Miller, adding that it just can't be seven on seven though, even with two of the best corners in the league. "We have great cornerbacks but if you have them out there covering all day, somebody can slip open. So our job is to pressure Luck. We've just got to do our job of trying to pressure those guys and make [Luck] throw some passes sooner than he really wants to."
Ware believes keeping Luck in the pocket is part of the secret.
"He is just one of those guys at the end of the day, he's just an all-around type of quarterback," Ware said, using his favorite phrase and pointing out that Luck can string plays out by running. "You have to have good pocket presence; you have to keep him in the pocket because he can beat you with his legs or his arm."
And in the event Luck escapes and sends the ball downfield, the Broncos will be looking to All-Pro corners Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib plus rookie Bradley Roby to make a big stop. It was Roby after all who prevented a potential tie in the first game of the season when he defended a 4th and 6 bullet from Luck.
"It was big for me," Roby said of making the game-winning play versus Reggie Wayne in Week 1. "It was huge for my confidence, just letting me know that I can play with these guys. I'm ready to step my game up to that next level. You lose you're out. I love those odds; I love that pressure because it brings the best out of you."
That pressure is something the entire Broncos defense is looking forward to - the intensity that the playoffs will add.
"It's just a whole different intensity in the playoffs and it's something you really can't explain until you're on the field. Everything just moves faster. Everything's more physical and there's a lot on the line so every play matters," said Knighton. "In the regular season, you can make a mistake in the first quarter and it won't affect you in the fourth quarter, but in the playoffs there's no margin for error."
Ironically, the Colts QB had the same thought.
"They do a heck of a job. It shows up on film. You can tell they know what they do and they do it well. They do it fast," said Luck, adding that the Broncos are dangerous because they have guys that can get after the passer, stud linebackers and Pro Bowl cornerbacks. "You see guys ripping at balls, getting hands on throws. Tough challenge but I think one that we're excited about and looking forward."
The Broncos offense is also looking forward to the rematch and trying to wear down the opponent.
"I think us playing up-tempo and then at altitude out here can really give the defense fits," said Anderson. "When you start getting those seven-, eight-, nine-play drives, it gets defenses tired. So I think that's why playing in Denver, playing at home, having our fans behind us is just that much more energetic."
But Coach Chuck Pagano and his Colts don't see the altitude as ultimately being a factor (shhh...let's definitely keep that one a secret!)
"Hydration, nutrition, sleep, all those things," Pagano mentioned as important. "You've got to go play. You've got oxygen on the sideline. If you need oxygen, get some oxygen. At the end of the day, they ain't going to be thinking about that, not in this game."
But they probably will be thinking of the offensive matchups, and it's unlikely even we can keep the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker and even Julius Thomas - who has been hurt but also torched the Colts with three TDs in Week 1 - a big secret.
"You look at between Thomas and Sanders, one's got 111 I think and the other one's got 101 catches and over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns," Pagano said, adding that the Colts defenders "better be on point. If they're not, it'll be a long, long day for us."
Colts' defensive end Cory Redding has his own remedy to prevent that.
"All 11 of us have to win our individual battles. All 11 of us have to win our jobs more than [the Broncos] win at their job, period," noted Redding. "It's everybody. Forget just front seven man, it's all 11 of us."
But the Broncos receivers have plenty of respect for the guys covering them. Just ask DT, who had a tough time fighting off Vontae Davis in the first game.
"I'm going to do whatever I've got to do to try to catch every ball thrown my way or run after the catch or whatever. It's a big challenge, especially on Vontae's side. He's one of the best in the game, I can say that," said Thomas. "I just know it's either win or go home and I'm not ready to go home. I put my best on the field and do whatever I've got to do to make plays to help my team."
Now what was our secret again?
"We know that it's going to take hard work and everybody to be doing their jobs and doing a little bit extra," Knighton added. "It's going to take extra to win a Super Bowl, but everybody's on the same page and everybody has the same agenda at hand."
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