5 Keys to the Denver Broncos Beating the New Orleans Saints
Sports Authority Field at Mile High
The Denver Broncos will be hosting the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football in another prime-time appearance of this young NFL season. The Saints will provide a troublesome task for the Broncos secondary that was stellar last week against the San Diego Chargers while picking off Philip Rivers four times. But Drew Brees will pose a more dangerous threat with his receiver options and getting TE Jimmy Graham back on the field after a short absence.
The hardest part about this game for the Broncos, though, will be which Broncos team will actually show up. Will it be the first or second half Broncos and will Head Coach John Fox be able to get a full sixty minutes out of this team for the first time all season?
The game itself should not actually be as tough a test for the Broncos as some may have thought when the schedule was released. The Saints come into Sunday at a paltry 2-4, and have struggled against some poor teams in losing to the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs. They have bounced back, however, winning against the Chargers in comeback fashion in week 5 and also beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week after their bye.
With the Saints getting interim Head Coach Joe Vitt back from his Bountygate suspension, the attention to detail may be refined, but it may be a little too late going into Denver. Here are my five keys to the Broncos being able to beat the Saints, and no, I do not believe Peyton Manning needs to be one of those keys this week. Manning has shown that he is all in and will have respectable performances no matter who he faces. These keys may be obvious, but they are non-negotiable in order for the Broncos to succeed.
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Coaches Need a 60 Minute Game Plan
As I said in the opening slide, the most important question that needs to be answered is which Broncos team will show up on Sunday night. It is imperative to the Broncos success that John Fox, Jack Del Rio and Mike McCoy are able to get a full sixty minutes out of their team in order to make any sustainable run to the playoffs.
It is one thing if here or there the players come out a little sluggish and gain momentum as the game progresses. But after six straight games of watching this team play mistake-prone and unorganized football in every first half, it is time to start putting the pressure on the coaches to step up their game and get this team better prepared.
I do believe that the Broncos will need a full game effort to beat this Saints squad that has suddenly found a groove their past two games. And I will firmly stand by my statement that if the Broncos can play sixty minutes of quality football, there may not be more than a team or two in this league that can beat them.
Run Game Will Be Pivotal
As in most games the Broncos might have played so far or will play in the future, this may not be a game that is solely decided by Peyton Manning. Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman meet up with the NFL's second worst run defense that allows 160.3 yards/game. This may be the moment where McGahee gains his 150+ yards and Hillman finally finds a lane.
As in any football game, if the run game is viable, then other options open up and Manning will make sure he takes advantage. The running attack will be key to keeping the defense well rested from the athleticism and spread options they will see from Brees that will tire them out as drives are extended. McGahee should have a field day and control the time of possession which I believe will be the weapon that allows the Broncos a blowout win.
Solid Secondary Against Brees
With Tracy Porter out in week 6 with an undisclosed illness, the Broncos were able to evaluate just what kind of players they have in their secondary. Let's just say that the backups provided quite a boost as they picked off Philip Rivers four times and completely shut him down in the second half.
Chris Harris, Jim Leonhard and Tony Carter all had key INTs and Rahim Moore and Mike Adams made the tackles when they needed to. No mention of Champ Bailey? Don't need to when no QB decides to throw his way. That is how you know he does his job. If this secondary can keep Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham in check, then it will be a long day for Who Dat Nation.
Von Doom Will Set the Pace
Last game against the Chargers, the trio of Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and Derek Wolfe sacked Rivers four times and stayed in his face most of the game. Disrupt the rhythm of Drew Brees and cover well in the secondary and the Saints will be left for dead on the season at 2-5. Drew Brees has been well protected so far this season, only being sacked 12 times, but even if the pass rush can be a pesky bunch that gets Brees on the run, then that allows mistakes to happen.
Brees does have the check down options in Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, but the linebacking unit has been better of late and this could be a critical matchup to watch on Sunday. As the Broncos rush and wreak havoc, they can not afford to overlook the short yardage plays that will gain big yards and keep the chains moving.
Create Turnovers and Limit Mistakes
The turnover game will be huge, as it always is. If either team makes mistakes, the other is good enough to capitalize and put points on the board. The Broncos need to make sure Trindon Holliday and anyone else returning balls has a firm grip and does not give the Saints good field position.
If the Broncos can somehow anticipate and get an INT or two against Brees, or create a fumble against a team that usually protects the ball, then they will give themselves the advantage. The one thing the Broncos can not do is trip over a blade of grass, drop a ball when nobody is within ten yards, or fumble a return. These mistakes will cost the game and great momentum heading into a stretch against opponents that are relatively easier than they have seen so far.