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Broncos-Patriots matchup all about that Orange Crush defense

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Whenever the Broncos and Patriots square off, the story line is always focused on the quarterbacks - even in a game without Peyton Manning. But for the first time in a while, this game is going to come down to the defenses - and quite possibly the coaching.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Happy post-Turkey Day, Broncos Country!

I hope you had your fill of turkey and stuffing (fun fact: down South we eat cornbread dressing!) and enjoyed appreciating those around you.

But now it's time to get to work, Broncos fans. Get your sweat pants and jogging shoes on, we've got the Patriots coming to town, and we need to be in shape for this. No slouching.

You have to play as good as you can possibly play. -Gary Kubiak

We need our mojo to keep that offensive momentum going but aim our sights on that defense because it's the Orange Crush where magic is going to happen at Mile High this weekend.

So much of the talk in Denver this past week has focused on Brock Osweiler getting his second start in the NFL and how the last battle in the "War of 18-12" has likely been fought for good.

But the truth is that this game is all about the D. The team whose defense is more damaging to the opposing offense is the team that gets the W. That seems obvious, I know, but it's a different mindset than saying the offense that scores more points wins.

This game will be about aggression, smart play and grit.

"You have to play as good as you can possibly play," Gary Kubiak said after Wednesday's practice. "Our team knows that and we're working toward getting there."

Kubiak noted on Thursday that one of the things his team cannot do is to get conservative - certainly not against that crafty Bill Belichick and whatever tricky game plan he has created after bugging the locker room in mind.

"They're obviously the best right now and at the top of this league in the way they're playing," Kubiak said. "They've got a lot of great players, but we need to be aggressive, too. We need to make plays in this football game if we're going to be successful."

On the offensive side, Kubiak doesn't anticipate adding more responsibility for his young QB, but Osweiler will definitely have to be prepared for more coming from the Patriots.

"It won't be any different this week as far as the load and what we do, but it will be a little bit different for him because of what these guys do," Kubiak said. "You may practice against one thing all week and you may play against another. This will be a new test for him from that standpoint."

Even though Brock's only previous experience playing against the Patriots was slightly different from QB1, the fourth-year player has a secret weapon - Peyton Manning.

Peyton has been great to me. He's talking me through his past experiences going against the Patriots. He was out here at practice helping me out...Peyton has been a great teammate.  -Brock Osweiler

"Peyton has been great to me. He was in meetings today. He's talking me through all of his past experiences going against the Patriots and whatnot," Osweiler said Wednesday after practice. "He was out here at practice once again helping me out, asking me questions. Peyton has been a great teammate. Obviously, I love having him around. It's a great brain to pick."

But as I already mentioned, the key matchup in this contest is the No. 1 defense against the No. 1 offense - a challenging matchup to say the least, but one the Broncos are excited about.

"It will be fun - Sunday Night Football, undefeated team coming in. It will be a lot of fun," said cornerback Aqib Talib who will be playing his former team and a group that got the best of him in last year's battle. "It's great playing against Tom, though. He's a great competitor."

He is such a great competitor that Von Miller isn't sure the guy even needs an offensive line.

"I think with Tom, some of the times he doesn't need to play with the offensive line. He just needs the receivers and Gronk," Miller said. "He could go down the field and play. He doesn't even need those five offensive linemen."

In all seriousness, Miller knows that Brady's quick release is what makes it tough to bring him down, so pressure on the quarterback, followed by great coverage of tight end Rob Gronkowski and whatever receiver steps in on Sunday is what the Broncos need to do. With all the injuries to the Pats' offense, pressure is a must and will keep that offense honest. Well, you know what I mean.

"He's just so good he really doesn't lean on the offensive line. You can tell in games he's getting the ball, he's throwing it super fast, he makes his decisions super quick," added Miller, who will be missing the Batman to his Robin for another game as DeMarcus Ware misses his third game this season with a back injury. "We've got a really good secondary. Hopefully we can slow [Brady] down a little bit with that."

Miller is still aiming to take Brady to the ground (and hope that maybe one hold on him - JUST ONE, REFS! - will be called so he can go after the spry 38-year-old without dragging two linemen with him). But with or without some referee love, Miller isn't so concerned with the lack of calls on penalties against him or on the number of sacks he's getting. In some ways, it really is the effort that counts.

"My time will come. I've just got to keep on rushing the quarterback," Miller said. "We've got a real good secondary. Talib is playing out of his mind right now, T.J. and Chris Harris - all those guys are playing insane right now. I'm just trying to make them get the ball out quick. As long as he's doing that, we'll be good. The sacks will come."

T.J. Ward doesn't believe there's a blueprint out there for dealing with Gronk.

My dad said this to me - 'Belichick can take his team and beat yours. Then he can your team and beat his.' He's a great coach.  -Wade Phillips on Bill Belichick's coaching.

"I don't think anything works week-to-week," Ward said. "I think guys change it up, and he adapts to different things that defenses do."

But in case that comment concerns you, Ward has more: "We'll have a plan."

Speaking of a plan, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said the idea is always to take the best player or play out of the equation. That's harder when you have to account for Brady and Gronk, but it will all start with pressure on the quarterback. And given all the injuries on offense, Broncos better be on the lookout for a Pats' running game too.

"It means doubling [Gronkowski] a lot, certainly, but it also means putting enough pressure on the quarterback where the guy doesn't have time to throw to the guy even when he gets open," Phillips said, adding that Brady is no walk in the park to cover either. "He puts the ball on the money so much. He gets rid of the ball instead of getting sacked and then he comes back and makes the next play."

When you break down this game between the 8-2 Broncos and the 10-0 Patriots on various levels, it's a close one all across the board:

  • Broncos' top-ranked defense v. Patriots' top-ranked offense = advantage Broncos
  • Broncos' low-ranked offense v. Patriots' mid/high-ranked defense = advantage Patriots
  • Broncos' Brandon McManus v. Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski = tie

So it may come down to this matchup: Kubiak/Dennison/Phillips v. Belichick/McDaniels/Patricia.

"My dad said this one time, 'Belichick can take his team and beat yours, but he could also take your team and beat his.' He's a great coach," Phillips said. "It's going to be a real challenge for us, but we're really looking forward to it. We are really looking forward to it. Our fans, our team and I think everybody is excited about it. We're going to go out and play the best that we can play against a great football team."

Now get those shoes on and let's run some laps. We've got to be ready for this one.

Horse Tracks

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