Keys to a Patriots victory over the Broncos
The New England Patriots will have their toughest test of the season on Sunday afternoon as they travel to Denver, where a trip to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California is on the line. Sports Authority field in Denver has been a house of horrors for Brady and Belichick as they are only a mere 2-6 in Denver. The highlight of media talk this week has been that this game will be the 17th and possibly last match up between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. However, this time around the game is not expected to be a duel between two dominant quarterbacks, but a match up between one very balanced team on both sides of the ball in the Patriots, and the other with a number one ranked defense and a very strong running game. The Patriots need their best performance of the season if they want to return to the Super Bowl next week. Here are my keys to a Patriots victory.
Stop the run: This is the obvious number one overall key to a Patriots victory on Sunday. In the two team’s week 12 match up in Denver, the Broncos ran for a total of 179 yards and three touchdowns. CJ Anderson specifically ran for 113 yards and two scores. Although, a major factor in that run production was the fact that Jamie Collins was inactive, and Dont’a Hightower left in the first half with a knee injury. Both are still banged up, but are expected to play this Sunday. When those two are inactive the middle of the New England defense is a gapping hole. With them in there they are a force to be reckoned with. Expect Bill Belichick to really focus on stopping the run and to make Peyton Manning beat the Patriots with his arm.
Get after Peyton Manning: If the Patriots are keying on stopping the Denver run game as expected, that means that they will be sending multiple players into the back field. The old adage is that if you blitz a player like Brady or Manning that you will get torched. Nevertheless, Peyton simply hasn’t had that old zip on the ball that made has made him a top three quarterback of all-time. Therefore, the Patriots can still allow themselves to send extra guys after Peyton. Jabaal Sheard had a very solid game in the week 12 match up, and he will certainly need another big performance in the biggest game of his life.
Make Peyton Manning throw deep: The game plan on the defensive side of the ball for the Patriots this week is fairly simple. Stop the run and clog the short to intermediate part of the field. In a broader sense, make Peyton throw deep. Put Devin McCourty over the top and allow Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler to play man coverage against Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Those match ups played out pretty well for the Patriots in the first match up this season, until late in the game when Brock Osweiler hit on a pair of deep passes. If you have watched Peyton Manning this season, you know that he has struggled greatly pushing the ball down the field. Therefore, the Patriots have to test that arm of his.
Get Julian Edelman involved early: Last week Tom Brady went to Julian Edelman early and often. After shaking off some of the rust, Edelman started to take over and the Patriots offense once again looked like an unstoppable machine. Chris Harris Jr. is the most important player in this game for the Denver Broncos without question. He has been banged up of late and it limited his production against Pittsburgh. Harris it the best nickel back in the National Football League, and if he is truly injured he will have all sorts of problems with Julian Edelman. That is why Tom Brady must go to him often early in the game in order to set the tone.
Don’t turn the ball over: If the Patriots don’t turn the ball over at all this week there is about a 90 percent chance that the Patriots will win this Sunday. A turnover in the week 12 match up changed the entire complexity of the game, when up by 14 points and about to get the ball back at mid field, Chris Harper fumbled a punt. From that point on it was almost all down hill for New England. Turnovers in the playoffs, on the road, in the most hostile environment in the league will change the game for the worse. Tom Brady got lucky a few times last week when Kansas City defenders dropped a few interceptions. This week that won’t happen. The Patriots must protect the ball at all costs this week. If not, they will see their defense of their title disappear in the blink of an eye.
In the end, this game will turn out to be a hard fought, hair tearing game for the Patriots and their fans. Nothing ever comes easy on the road in the playoffs, and especially in Denver. Nevertheless, this Patriots team has all their key players back on the field, and when that is the case they are the most talented team in the National Football league. That is why they will finally get the Denver monkey off their back this Sunday afternoon when they win by five points.