|09-25-2007, 01:32 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
October will be Broncos’ defining month
The bill has officially come due for the Broncos.
They are 2-1 with two close wins and a kick-sand-in- their-face loss to the Jaguars on Sunday to show for their efforts. The close wins were signs of character or luck, depending on which side of the half-empty, half-full equation you fall on.
Maybe a little of both, but close games are a fact of life in the NFL.
However, Sunday’s loss turns the Broncos into the wind now. By the time October is over, they already will have played five of their eight home games for the season.
And by the time October is over, they will have played Indianapolis, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
They will certainly dice that into one-week-at-a-time pieces, but the big picture says how they exit October will determine if they get to enter January in uniform.
"We’ll regroup, we’ll get better, we’ll go to the drawing board," cornerback Dré Bly said.
When Jason Elam’s kicks sailed through the uprights to bring the Broncos victories in Buffalo and against the Raiders, many with the team, including coach Mike Shanahan, said it was good for the team’s confidence.
Sunday can be the other side of that coin, however, especially because the Jaguars didn’t just win at Invesco Field at Mile High, they shoved the Broncos out of the way as they put their feet on the coffee table.
The Broncos’ defensive game plan was lost in a pile of rushing yardage left behind.
And the Broncos offense had a three- and-out to open the game — after having just one in the first two games. They had a two-play drive that ended with a fumble, they fumbled the second-half kickoff, had a three-and-out on their first full possession after halftime and had a four-play drive that ended when they turned over the ball on downs.
Waiting Sunday in the wake of that are the Colts, playing on the fastest track this side of Talladega. And since Peyton Manning arrived to play behind center, the Colts have scored the points that mattered in the games that mattered against the Broncos.
The Broncos haven’t gotten enough pressure on Manning, haven’t forced him into enough turnovers, haven’t kept him from finding the receivers he has wanted to find. They haven’t been patient when they have to be or aggressive when Manning doesn’t expect them to be.
And they’ll have to be better than that Sunday and beyond. Because Manning is just the start of what could be a very long month for the Broncos if they’re not careful.
Get it done
The older Colts quarterback Peyton Manning gets, the more he is willing to take what’s available in the passing game. Unlike some, he doesn’t challenge cornerback Champ Bailey unless he believes there is an honest opening. If there isn’t, and usually with Bailey there isn’t, Manning moves on and takes his yardage elsewhere.
That is the Broncos’ challenge, to deal with Manning when he moves away from Bailey. Reggie Wayne has benefited in recent meetings — 10 catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns Oct. 29 to go with 10 for 221 and two touchdowns in January 2005.
The Colts also have taken to putting tight end Dallas Clark in the slot of late, a tough matchup for a safety because of Clark’s size and strength and a difficult one for a linebacker because of Clark’s speed.
Teams that have had at least some success against Manning have played with a steady diet of zone coverages to keep plays in front of the defense, then to try to squeeze things down a little more inside the 20 when the angles can make it tougher to throw.
The Titans gave up 312 passing yards to Manning in Week 2 and only one touchdown throw. The Saints, by contrast playing far more man, watched Manning zero in on the matchups the Colts could win for 288 passing yards but three touchdowns.
That said, the Broncos can’t play zones that are too soft and they can’t miss tackles. Defenses have tried man-to- man, tried to get physical to knock the Colts off their routes, but that means the defense has to consistently win one-on-ones on Marvin Harrison, Wayne and Clark.
A tough chore.
Broncos DE Simeon Rice vs. Colts T Tony Ugoh
Actually, Ugoh will get a look at Elvis Dumervil, too, but the Broncos have kept Rice at the right defensive end in passing downs and flopped Dumervil to the other side.
Ugoh, a rookie, got the job of protecting Manning’s blind side when Tarik Glenn, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, retired before the season. Rice, who said his shoulder feels fine, has shown flashes of his explosiveness, but he has not consistently been around the edge to have a sack this season.
Ugoh, who has quick enough feet to have thrown the discus for the Arkansas track team, dealt with a variety of medical worries in his college career — thigh injury at the combine to go with a pinched nerve, a kidney stone and knee surgery in 2002 — which is likely what pushed him into the bottom of the second round.
Peyton Manning has been sacked only three times.
Break it down
Broncos middle linebacker D.J. Williams, playing his third spot in the past three seasons, said he continues to learn the nuances of playing in the middle of the field.
And a quarterback run — for 19 yards — by David Garrard in the fourth quarter Sunday showed why it’s so tough to work in the high-traffic zone.
On a third-and-4 from the Broncos 20-yard line, the Broncos, in the nickel, lined up in an eight-man front with safeties Curome Cox and Nick Ferguson up along the line of scrimmage with the two linebackers.
At the snap, Ferguson dropped into coverage while Cox was picked off in the rush by running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Elvis Dumervil, at defensive left end, then left the rush to move out wide to cover tight end George Wrighster.
That left Williams and defensive tackle Alvin McKinley to hold the edge. But McKinley got turned to the inside, which then pinned Williams, who was to McKinley’s right, in the pile.
Garrard, seeing the lane available, went through for the 19-yard gain to the Broncos 1 and Williams was unable to get free to pursue the play.
Garrard said after the game when he saw that kind of alignment it "put a smile on my face."
No spot is hotter right now than the Broncos’ run defense.
Three teams effectively have controlled the tempo and largely dictated terms to the Broncos at this point.
The Colts present a different look than the Broncos have faced so far. They run the ball in the quest for defensive honesty, to slow down what defenses can send at Peyton Manning.
And they have been effective — 191 rushing yards in the Super Bowl certainly gave the Colts the trophy.
Joseph Addai has one 100-yard game this season to go with four rushing touchdowns. By contrast, the Broncos have two rushing touchdowns as a team in three games.
Addai runs with good power and is athletic enough to have gone airborne over Houston’s 5-foot-10 cornerback Demarcus Faggins in the open field to finish a 4-yard touchdown run Sunday.
Peyton Manning has done just fine in his career outings against the Broncos.
Manning vs. DenverDate Com - Att Yards TDs INTs Sacked Result
Jan. 6, 2002
16-of-30 191 2 1 1 Won 29-10
Nov. 24, 2002 27-of-44 229 0 1 2 Won 23-20 (OT)
Dec. 21, 2003 12-of-23 146 0 0 2 Lost 31-17
*Jan. 4, 2004 22-of-26 377 5 0 0 Won 41-10
Jan. 2, 2005 1-of-2 6 0 0 0 Lost 33-14
*Jan. 9, 2005 27-of-33 458 4 1 1 Won 49-24
Oct. 29, 2006 32-of-39 345 3 0 0 Won 34-31
* AFC playoff games