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AFC Championship Broncos vs Patriots: The No Bull Review

The Denver Broncos deflated the 2015 season for the New England Patriots in a very special game on Sunday afternoon. Let's break down the performance, coaching, and all 3 phases in preparation for Super Bowl 50!

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

I freaking love this team and this season. The players come to play every week. The coaches while at times making us scratch our heads, do a pretty fantastic job of keeping the team motivated and moving forward. The heart this team has shown from the top down is a special thing to behold and today I'm very proud to call myself a die hard fan of the Denver Broncos.

I've soaked in this win as I'm sure the team has over the past day and a half. It is time to break things down a bit though. We aren't done yet. The tunnel is still around this team even though they can see the light at the end. For Broncos Country, let's dig into the good and the bad of what we saw in this game from our team and how they threw down a beating on the defending champion New England Patriots to secure the AFC Championship trophy for the Denver Broncos and their fans.


We got a solid half out of our offense. From a 20,000' view, New England was playing the run the whole game with defenders in place to stop the short routes. They were trying to force us to throw the ball downfield and unfortunately that backfired quite a bit on them in the early game.

I thought while the first half was a solid effort, the team went full-Foxball in the 2nd half (you never go full-Foxball, Kubes!). I thought the play calling because completely predictable and stoppable. Look, I'm all about an enforcing run game that closes out games, but we don't have that offensive line yet. Until we do, good defenses WILL be able to shut that down with numbers. Instead of run/run/pass or run/pass/pass, it would have behooved us to go PA/run/run or something besides an inside zone run left or right on first down.


Haters can keep on hating, but this was probably one of my favorite Peyton Manning games ever outside of that time he lit up Baltimore for 7 TDs. It was gritty. It was him playing football. It was Peyton Manning hauling tail on a 3rd and 10 for 12 yards in a damn football PLAY.

My wife was getting a bit frustrated by the misses in the passing game, but I pointed out to her the big thing I want to point out to Broncos Country: a lot of those misses were just barely missing. Half a foot closer to the WR would have been a catch in many instances. I haven't seen Manning that accurate in probably more than a year.


You know who I never really picked out from the offensive line? Michael Schofield. He held down the edge in another post season solid effort and I'm no longer crapping my pants with worry about a speed rusher on the right side. I'm curious to see if we hear anything about an injury with him after this is all said and done.

I think pretty highly of Matt Paradis, but OMGosh dude can you peel off to block the A gap every once in a blue moon when that blitz is dialed up. Teams have used it enough that we should be getting that diagnosed far more often than what I'm seeing and it isn't always the RB's assignment.

The run blocking suffered in this game overall and there weren't many creases for the backs to jet through. It isn't going to be any easier next week and I'm hoping the 2 week break give the line some time to rest up and get some punch back into their run blocking.

Looking back at the season, I feel pretty compelled to give a big Mile High Salute to Ryan Harris. He's not been the most dominating Left Tackle in the NFL, but that dude was NOT supposed to be playing over there. He's our 3rd option at LT and he's done a pretty admirable job of holding down the blind side for Manning all season long. Dude is on a short deal for a veteran (friggin teams always wanting to get younger and all is unfortunately the reality in the NFL), but he's been a helluva Bronco for us this year.

Running backs

  • Stop trying to run Hillman so often on the inside zone plays. That's not his game and it should be attempted maybe 1/4 of the time that he runs just to keep the defense honest.
  • Stop insisting on giving Hillman the majority of the carries in the first half. He hasn't earned it for weeks honestly based on performance (I do understand the line has a lot to do with it)
  • One back got 4.5 ypc, the other 1.5 ypc. Can we apply basic logic and mathematics to this and come up with a better strategy?
  • Also, Hillman, if you aren't going to play until the whistle blows and protect the ball, get the F off the field. That lateral play that went off your fingertips while you just stood there and watched the defenders get it was pathetic.


Demaryius Thomas wasn't slouching in this game. We targeted him 7 times and he got 2 of them. The 5 he missed were mostly defended with superb technique. I don't know if he could have ran a better route to get separation, but I thought he was just outplayed in this one. It happens. Come back big in the Super Bowl, DT. We are still cheering for you and you still got PAID this year...go earn it!

Emmanuel Sanders' catch over the defender was flat out amazing. That was the "want to" you want to see in every skill player on offense. Go. Get. The. Ball.

I know I've been pretty critical of Owen Daniels this year (cause let's be honest, dude HAS lost a step). He showed up big in this game and after his 2nd TD on a double-move that shook his defender out of his sneakers, NE was forced to play him with better coverage. The damage was already done though.

I really thought the whole receiver corps showed up in this game. Manning targeted eleven different receivers and connected with 8 of them. Teams aren't being allowed to key in just on our stars. It is solid offensive philosophy employed in a limited passing offense.


Given the level of competition, that was THE BEST DEFENSIVE performance I've witnessed in my over 3 decades of watching football. Sure there have been lower scores, but not on this big of a stage against this level of opposition. Wade Phillips and Bill Kollar friggin rock. I can't give them enough praise for the work they've done with this defense and our pass rush. The game plan was astounding and absolutely fearless.

That is the big difference between this defense and the one we had last year. It is aggressive and impactful. It does not bend. It does not play scared. It comes all up in your grill and punches you in the mouth for 4 quarters. Ask Tom Brady about this defense. He'll friggin tell you all about it straight up.

Front 7

Dude...I could write pages about this front 7. Let's start with the best NFL player on the field Sunday afternoon though. Von Miller was a friggin unnatural catastrophe on the field. I hear people whine about him "not showing up in big games".  Stuff it. Seriously. That is just nonsense from this point forward. I'd say 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH, 1 INT, and 1 PD is a pretty decent showing. I'd also say that doing that in the AFC Championship game against the defending champs is a pretty big game.

The next guy up here that needs some more love from Broncos Country is Derek Wolfe. I love it when a player gets paid and keeps bringing it, if not starts bringing it harder. Wolfe led the team in tackles with 6. He also had a sack, TFL, 2 QHs, and a PD. He was an interior presence the whole game and was a big reason why Brady never had much room to climb the ladder.

DeMarcus Ware quietly had a tremendous game as well. He only got a couple assists and a half a sack, but he got 7 hits on Brady. He was almost there so many times and it forced a lot of hurried throws that were off the mark. I'm so excited for such a classy God-fearing man to get a shot at a title. He deserves every bit as many cheers going into the SB as Manning does.

Malik Jackson also did a solid job in this game even if he was overshadowed by the other guys above. Still, the talent is so thick on our line that the only reason he wasn't getting the sacks was because other guys were beating him to the job.

There is not enough credit to go to Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan either. As linebackers in this scheme they are the clean-up crew and are oftentimes the weak link in coverage that gets targeted. Tom Brady attacked them in coverage so much and it did so little for him. I didn't get notes on how many times these guys were in coverage on go routes down field, but it was phenomenal for them to go out there and get it done.


Darian Stewart is still the soul of this defense. If he and T.J. Ward don't get injured, NE has NO chance at all of making the game close. Their safety play was so friggin solid. Darian was all over the field until he got dinged up. T.J. was all over Gronk and up in his grill playing him with physicality that you just don't normally see from guys that defend Gronk.

Their back-ups though leave a lot to be desired. I know we all want to thump our chests about that one good pass break-up Josh Bush got and the onside recovery by Shiloh Keo, but seriously go look at the film. They both look like Rahim Moore in coverage. They play too deep, they don't break on the plays aggressively most of the time and are out of position to defend the pass. That long bomb to Gronk late in the game was on Bush. He let Gronk get a step behind him. That is rule #1 for a safey with a coverage assignment: no one gets behind you. We need our starters healthy for the Super Bowl or we'll be susceptible to the deep ball in a bad way.

Chris Harris Jr. was a flat-out stud in this game. Edelman has often in the past handed CHJ his hat. Not this time. Not in this game. CHJ was back in full form being a shut down corner and one in the game.

Aqib Talib also earned his friggin keep in this game. He had two great pass defenses and that game winning 2 pt conversion was a HUGE play. I was so excited to see him get it done for us.

Special Teams

Brandon McManus is our starting place kicker hopefully for a long time to come. He was 2 of 2 with one of them being 50+ in a championship game. That is big time. Well done, Brandon!

Also another guy who I've railed against all year long is Britton Colquitt. He's really turned up his game in the post season and had another very solid effort this week. He looked cool, calm, and in control on his 9 punts averaging 47 yards.

It is worth noting that our Special Teams unit is very well coached. They had one return that some guys whiff tackled, but that is a rare occurrence for coverage units. We had several solid plays from these units too with guys like Cody Latimer, Kayvon Webster, and of course Shiloh Keo getting in on some impactful plays in the 3rd phase of the game that never gets enough love.


I found it pretty hilarious in reading some the pp comments that they thought the officiating was very fair. It made me laugh so hard. Basically the Pats expect to get home town calls when they are the visitor is what it looks like. I have a few of very big problems with the officiating in this game:

  1. Tom Brady had blatant intentional grounding at least 2 times in this game (didn't get the ball to the LOS and wasn't outside the pocket) and another 2 that were very very questionable (got to the LOS, but there was NO receiving option anywhere near).
  2. Gronk absolutely, positively pushed CHJ out of the way on his TD catch. The refs swallowed their flags. It was blatant and it was completely bull. After all the hubbub about Gronk's OPI calls from the Pats fans this year, I don't want to hear any more whining about it. You got a chance to tie the game with him breaking the rules.
  3. This is nothing new to Broncos fans, but Von Miller getting clotheslined and bear-hugged as a legal form of pass blocking needs to stop. Just because you suck so bad that you have no chance, shouldn't mean that you get to break the rules. There were two of these late in the game that were 2 second counts.

Final Thoughts

Man this win felt so good. Those of you who have read my stuff for a long time know that I love me some defensive football and this season has been a deliciously juicy slice of heaven for me, especially this game. Our defense is where it is at. I've never seen so much talent on a Bronco defense (sorry Orange Crush, you were before my time unfortunately).

Let me finish by saying that we got one more to go. One more for Pat. One more for Bronco Mike. One more for Peyton Manning. One more for DeMarcus Ware. One more for Broncos Country. Go seal the deal, Broncos. We will be cheering you on and you know we've got your back!