This weekend’s marquee matchup between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots is framed as a shootout between the two best quarterbacks of this era. However, the game’s most important matchup will be between the Broncos running back, Knowshon Moreno, and the Patriots’ linebackers.
The Patriots may have perhaps the best linebacking corps in the NFL. Brandon Spikes, Don’t’a Hightower and Jerrod Mayo are all big, physical and instinctive players who, thanks to a potent pass rush that eats up blocks, are often free to make plays at the line of scrimmage and rarely miss tackles. They have the ability to not only limit Moreno’s production as a running back, but also as a receiver coming out of the backfield, looking for yards after the catch.
It is not that shutting down Moreno would be catastrophic for the Broncos’ offense, but it would force the Broncos to become one-dimensional with Peyton Manning, and allow the Patriots edge rushers to pin their ears back. Something the Broncos must avoid at all costs considering they must face a fierce some Kansas City Chiefs‘ defense just a week later.
The Broncos were very successful last week rushing the ball 27 times with Moreno – against the best defense in football no less. The team’s commitment to the run kept the defense on their toes and allowed the Broncos faulty offensive line to better protect Peyton Manning throughout the game.
If Moreno is able to shake his inconsistent history and be productive against these New England linebackers, the Broncos will win this game. They can control the clock, keep Tom Brady off the field and score extremely effectively.
If Moreno is shutdown and the Broncos must rely solely on Peyton Manning to drive the offense, this Patriots’ defense can force turnovers and slow the Broncos’ offense enough for Brady to keep up and possibly win the game.
If the Broncos do not win in Foxboro this weekend their game in Kansas City becomes a must win. Two losses in a row would instantly take the Broncos out of the running for home field advantage in the playoffs, and out of control in terms of their divisional destiny.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.