BroncosRants: Denver Broncos vs New England Patriots 5 Keys To Focus On
When the Denver Broncos walk onto the field of Gillette Stadium to face the New England Patriots this Sunday, the next era of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will undoubtedly begin. There is so much more to this matchup though, as the Broncos field a very different squad than what took the field in January for a Divisional Playoff game and received a 45-10 beating at the hands of the Pats.
That Broncos team was led by an inefficient and unseasoned QB named Tim Tebow, to go with an undermanned and outhustled defense. This game promises to be different. Enter Manning, with weapons that some say he never had the luxury of playing with as an Indianapolis Colt, and a defense that has been solidified through the off-season.
One thing's for certain though, the Broncos that did play in January's game will most assuredly have a chip on their shoulder and will look to reverse the roles and prove to Brady and Head Coach Bill Belicheck that this is not last years Broncos.
There are five key areas that will determine this game. The first of course is which future Hall of Fame QB will elevate their team and make the plays when they count. That is a given whenever you have Manning and Brady on the same field. The second is the battle between the Broncos linebackers and the Patriots excellent TEs that never seem to miss a beat.
Another key will be if Willis McGahee can make the most of his chances and open up the passing game with consistent running. The Broncos also have to be wary of not only Wes Welker in the slot, but ex-Bronco Brandon Lloyd proves to be a solid weapon for Brady. Finally, the Broncos defense must chase Brady, harass him, and find a way to force him into mistakes while protecting against the run.
This seems like a tall order for the Broncos, but they have the personnel that will be able to give Brady and the Patriots fits in several areas of this game on offense and defense. Now it is just a matter of putting it all together and taking the crowd out of the game early. Here is a further breakdown of my five keys that will lead the Broncos to victory.
In their thirteenth meeting, Peyton Manning,36 and Tom Brady,35 have always been formidable opponents even though Brady owns the series eight games to four. This is a different type of game though, as Manning comes in with arguably a better receiving corps than he has ever had and a running game that is consistently solid.
Manning and Brady both showcased offensive explosions last week and if they are both on their mark on Sunday, this will be a very high scoring game. Manning will try to utilize his own TEs in order to open the receiving field for Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Brady might only have one of a two-headed TE monster that is Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. This will leave Brady to find Welker and Lloyd more often.
If both QBs have time in the pocket, the defenses will look foolish and it will be nothing more than festival of TDs. If either defense gets the pressure, both QBs will undoubtedly be rattled and make mistakes. Brady must get the edge being at home and with full arm strength.
Broncos Linebackers Must Contain Pats TEs
Last week against the Oakland Raiders, the Broncos were forced to go with Keith Brooking at middle linebacker to replace the suspended Joe Mays. The result? The linebacking unit looked more cohesive and quicker in all aspects than they have all year. If Mays has a problem guarding the run and of course against Gronkowski, then maybe Jack Del Rio might want to plug Brooking back in the mix.
This remains a critical area for the Broncos, or any team for that matter, when trying to limit the Patriot TEs. One note is that Hernandez has been injured and is questionable for the game. We all know Belicheck's injury list though, and you might assume that Hernandez plays. If he does, he will be nothing more than a decoy that will test Wesley Woodyard, Mays, Brooking and Miller. The edge? It's always tough to go against the league's toughest TE tandem.
McGahee Must Open and Exploit Holes
In one of the more interesting matchups of the day, Willis McGahee has the job of exploiting the Patriots offensive line and creating opportunity for Manning to work in the pocket. McGahee has become a consistently creative back who quietly gains 100yds and a TD with very little notice. It will be up to Vince Wilfork, Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo and company to contain McGahee, and I feel this line will be up to the task.
McGahee needs to find a way to attain 80yds and a score in order for the Broncos to be able to win this game. The high powered offense of the Pats will dictate this game and if they get off to an early lead, you may not see much of the Broncos workhorse come the second half. Advantage here may just go to the Patriots offense to dictate the Broncos run game.
Beware Welker and Lloyd
Here comes the biggest and baddest test for the Broncos secondary so far this season. Yes, they have seen the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers so far, but this is the Pats. No other team poses the threat of Wes Welker in the slot, Brandon Lloyd on the outside and Rob Gronkowski up the middle. With that said, Champ Bailey has been incredible this year, Tracy Porter has held the other side well save for two bombs by Matt Schaub, in which he was only really responsible for one.
The secondary, with the play of Mike Adams,Chris Harris, Porter and Bailey may be just what the doctor ordered against the Patriots. Do not look for Brady to just fly up and down the field, although he always finds a way into the end zone. This advantage may for the first time, go to the Broncos.
Defense Must Pressure Brady
One thing that Brady hates is being run up and down the field being chased by defenders. He is so used to having a solid pocket that once it breaks down often, mistakes happen. This is where the pass rush of Elvis Dumervil, Derek Wolfe and Von Miller must take control. I leave the game in their hands, and theirs alone.
The best way to beat any beast is to chop off the head, we all know that. If Brady stays horizontal all game, then he can not possibly make the key throws to advance the ball. It is as simple as that. The question remains: Where has the pass rush gone, and will it be resurrected in Foxboro? It better be, because if Brady has time to throw the ball, then the Broncos might have a long evening in a hostile environment. The advantage here is to the Patriots until the Broncos prove otherwise.