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Ultimate Fan: Offense needs creativity, running attack, first downs for Broncos to beat Saints

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But as always here at the Ultimate Fan Guide, we believe all that can happen - and will. So we predict Broncos win.

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It’s been a long week discussing (or ignoring) a loss by our beloved Broncos to the hated Raiders, but thankfully that week has almost come to an end, and it will be time to see how this team fights its way back into contention on the road in New Orleans.

Going against one of the premiere quarterbacks in the league the last 10 years, the Broncos have a big test against Drew Brees, and Gary Kubiak knows it.

"He’s brilliant in his progressions. Drew can throw to spots with his eyes closed," Kubiak said. "He plays the game extremely fast and with a great tempo."

If the Broncos offense is going to hope to keep up with the Saints - who found a running attack the past few weeks and will present some tough matchups for the Broncos D - then the first order of business is staying on the field.

"We have to get it going," Kubiak said of the offense generally, the running game specifically. "We also know the key to getting it going is staying on the field and running plays. We’re looking for snaps and the only way you’re going to get snaps is making first downs and time of possession."

This week’s Ultimate Fan, Branconomad, believes staying on the field and getting a win in NOLA may only happen with less-stubborn coaching, i.e., creative plays, misdirection, anything to keep the Saints guessing (heck maybe even some wildcat!) Calling the offense’s scripted plays a "disaster" so far, Branconomad wants to see the Broncos running out of the gate and expects at least two first downs in every drive to give the defense a fighting chance at being fresh and ready to cover multiple offensive threats.

But I digress...let’s let our fabulous UFGer - whose got all the right favorites as far as I’m concerned (see below) - tell us how the Broncos can win this one against all odds.

Week 10: Denver at New Orleans

MHR – Ouch. That Raiders game was not good in any way for a Broncos fan. So give me two things that made you the most angry, and then tell me how you’d fix them.
Branconomad: Just two?! That’s tough. First, like everyone in Broncos Country, it has to be the play calling. I think it’s been three weeks in a row we’ve started games like this (more below). Second, special teams costing us yardage on kickoffs. PLEASE JUST KNEEL! Pretty please.

MHR – Since we like the Kool-Aid here, what highlights from that game (there were a few) would you want to build on and how would you do that?
Branconomad: I was pretty excited to see Kapri Bibbs come on a little bit. Local CSU guy. Underdog. Hopefully he builds on his performance.

Von Miller has been a bright spot all year. Teams are scheming to take him out of the game, and he continues to force his will on them. I know he only had one sack, but he was constantly disruptive.

I am getting pretty excited about Riley Dixon. He had another big punt when we were backed up. The future is bright.

MHR – Play-calling is an issue and seems to be coming from a variety of sources. What do you think of the "scripted plays at the beginning from Dennison with Kubiak taking over later" approach?
Branconomad: The scripted plays have been a disaster. I honestly don’t know if it’s execution or just bad coaching. We have to run the ball. If Andy Janovich can’t go, we need to put someone (Virgil Green? Lineman?) back there as a full back…anyone. We have to get positive yardage on the ground on early downs. It does two things – sets the tone for the offensive line, and it puts the defense on its heels.

If Kubes isn’t involved, he needs to be. If he is, he needs to re-evaluate. I do think we have the personnel to make it work, but we need to set the linemen up to succeed with easy positive plays.

MHR – Undoubtedly our run game is better with a healthy fullback, and there’s hope that Andy Janovich will be without a cast this week. But in the meantime, how can "we help the line play better" (as Kubiak likes to say) and get this run game going again?
Branconomad: We need to get creative. We see it across the NFL week in and week out. Other teams scheme to cover weaknesses. For some reason we don’t, and we need to – extra linemen, misdirection, maybe some wildcat? Anything to get the defenses to second-guess. The coaching is sooo stubborn. Unbelievably so. I miss Gase and his creativity.

MHR – Our defense has been the bright spot, but Atlanta exposed our weakness with linebackers and Oakland ran our running defense into (and onto) the ground. When those options are available to an offense does it even matter that we have the No Fly Zone and the Orange Rush?
Branconomad: It absolutely matters. We have shut down the top tier QB/WR combos in the league. When our offense starts sustaining drives, the defense will just get better. We have to stop the run. Our entire defensive philosophy is based on getting offenses in long third downs and letting the NFZ and pass rushers finish drives. But the defense can’t play 40 minutes a game. Marshall had a pretty good game in coverage last week, which was encouraging. I still think this defense is built for January, and we just need a spot in the tournament.

MHR – Broncos have an 8-2 all-time record against the Saints but this is a different Saints team – an explosive offense with a smart quarterback. How do the Broncos avoid getting down early to Drew Brees & Co., which is averaging 32.6 points, 441.4 yards and 25.6 first downs in the last five games?
Branconomad: Defensively we have to stop letting teams come out and score on the first drive. (I know, I know … Captain Obvious!)

We need first-quarter points from the offense. We have to run the ball. Even if we don’t get points, we need to sustain drives and get a minimum of two first downs per drive and eat 3-5 minutes game clock per possession.

The defense needs to set edges and stop the run game. Gap discipline. I was hoping Talib would be back as he adds a different emotional dynamic to the team when he’s on the field.

MHR – The Saints have found offensive balance – rushing 35 times for 123 yards against the Seahawks and 42 times for 248 yards against the horrendous 49ers. Do you expect the Saints to go for the juggernaut this weekend and run the ball down the Broncos’ throats and how do they stop it?
Branconomad: If I were the Saints, that’s exactly what I would do. And after watching the Oakland game, I bet they’re licking their chops. If Brees and the Saints offense have a consistent run attack, we are in trouble.

My gut tells me stopping the run will come down to Darrian Stewart and T.J. Ward unfortunately. New Orleans doesn’t have the monstrosity of an offensive line we saw in Oakland, but missing Derek Wolfe is huge and really worries me. We need better production from Jared Crick/Adam Gostis and whoever we run out on the interior.

The interior line cannot get manhandled like it did last week. The bear wrestler has his hands full.   -Branconomad

MHR -€” Brees has been excellent on third down and has used more than 10 receivers for his passes. Will he have a new match with the No Fly Zone?
Branconomad: Brees is a great quarterback. We have to make him uncomfortable on passing downs. Pressure is the key.

MHR – Ok, the elephant in the room – how do you feel about Trevor Siemian as starting quarterback? Good or bad, Broncos need to keep him as starting QB? May want to test out Paxton Lynch after the bye? Or, talking about the QB as the biggest problem is ridiculous?
Branconomad: I’m actually OK with Siemian. I don’t think "kicking the tires" on the rook behind our O-line while we are in the middle of a heated division race is the answer. Lynch has more talent – way more talent – but his football IQ isn’t ready. And that’s OK; we knew that. But we have lived a midseason QB change with Plummer/Cutler. It wasn’t the right thing to do then, and I don’t think it’s the right thing now.

Blaming Siemian is what it is. That’s life as the quarterback of the Broncos. Elway set the bar really high.

One thing I will say is I don’t understand the Lynch or the Siemian faithful. We are fans of the Denver Broncos, and I enjoy reading opinions on actual QB play, but some of the arguments are ridiculous. I am just as frustrated with the QB play as anyone, but patience is important with young quarterbacks, and I trust Kubes and Elway’s judgment more than my knee-jerk, six-pack fueled, keyboard tough guy self on game days.

MHR – Which Broncos defensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
Branconomad: Ward. He will get the responsibility in coverage for tight ends and running backs (opposite Marshall). He has to make plays.

MHR – Which Broncos offensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
Branconomad: The fullback - Jano, or whoever can be the FB this week. We need a fullback to hit people and clear running lanes.

Predictions

Stats for Trevor Siemian? 21/285, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Number of carries/yards rushing for Broncos? Booker, 15/60; Bibbs, 10/45; Jano, 2/15 and a TD.

Number of yards receiving for Broncos? 110 Demaryius Thomas; 95 Emmanuel Sanders; 25 Virgil Green.

Number of sacks to Siemian? 2

Number of sacks to Drew Brees? 7

Broncos player with the most sacks? Von Miller with 3

Broncos player with the most tackles? T.J. Ward with 12

How many turnovers for the Broncos defense? 2 INTs/1FF/1FR

Final Score? Broncos 28, Saints 17

The Favorites

Favorite win you’ve watched the Broncos accomplish? Super Bowl 32 – such an emotional day in our household. I was in high school, and it was one of my fondest memories. My mom (maybe biggest fan on the planet) was banging her hands on the kitchen counter during the final defensive series, and she knocked the diamond out her wedding ring. She couldn’t watch so she would "clean" and listen nervously on a small radio. She cried. My aunt/uncles cried. I missed school for the parade. Really great day.

Favorite game you’ve traveled to watch? This is a tough one. I’ve been to a bunch of away games. I travel a lot for work and catch games wherever we live, but probably two favorites and both were Cowboys games:

Thanksgiving Day game, 2005 (old Cowboys stadium): Ron Dayne game, OT win. Champ had a pick-six. One of the first games my girlfriend (now wife) and I went to together.

Cowboys 2013, The 51-48 game (new Cowboys stadium): Trevathan with the game-sealing INT in the fourth. Peyton Manning with a rushing TD - haha!The 51-48 game. Trevathan with the game-sealing INT in the fourth. Peyton Manning with a rushing TD - haha!

Team you hate to lose to the most? Raiders, and it’s not even close.

Team you love to beat? Raiders.

Game most looking forward to this season? Raiders round 2

Game most worried about this season? Raiders round 2…I really don’t like the Raiders.

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Von Miller. He is just a freak of nature athletically and such a joy to watch.

Favorite rookie/young guy on the team? Janovich. My wife is a Huskers fan, so I kind of knew about the Legend of Jano before we drafted him. You have to love a guy who enjoys hitting like he does.

Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway. I grew up with him as the man… He still is the man. Close No. 2 - Steve Atwater because he is and always will be one of the GOAT hitters the league has ever seen. He put the Nigerian Nightmare to sleep!

Superstitions on game day? Last season I would wear the Orange Manning and Blue Von jerseys, depending on who I needed/wanted to have the better game. I wore Manning A LOT. But I wore Von during the Super Bowl and every game this season. I’m not saying I had anything to do with his performance, but… I’m just saying.

Favorite Broncos jersey color combo? Orange, the old orange jerseys. I have an old Mecklenburg orange jersey signed that’s my favorite. I never wear it but, it’s good wall art.

How did you come up with "branconomad" as your handle at MHR? My family and I move all over the States for work (big infrastructure projects), so a couple years at a time. Nomad seemed relevant.

How did you become a Broncos fan?

Born and raised. Great parenting. The memories of Sunday afternoons with my mom, dad, aunt, uncles at games…all the usual Colorado native reasons. To this day I still call my folks after each game.