One year ago today Denver Bronco fans were at an all-time high and then an all-time low! Basically, in one play Super Bowl dreams and aspirations were wiped away and an offseason of missed opportunities and hope of a new season filled our hearts. That fellow die-hard Bronco fans is playoff football in a nutshell – you never know what is going to happen and a single play may doom your season or it may make your season. Today, the Broncos have another opportunity to take a step toward another Super Bowl championship So, what must they do to advance to the AFC Championship?
I am not a super football analyst and would rate my knowledge of the X’s and O’s of the game around low to medium. Most days I let my heart dictate my football comments and reasoning much more than my head. Even though I am emotional during Bronco games, I am also somewhat realistic. My wife will probably disagree with this comment and will say that I am way too emotional and very often negative. All that being said, I am putting aside my strong emotions and desire to see the Broncos advance in the playoffs and attempt to look at what the Broncos must do to beat the San Diego Chargers.
Most “football people” would say that Peyton Manning is the key to the Broncos beating San Diego and I would agree with that but for some strange reason I am thinking that Knowshon Moreno may be the hero in this divisional playoff. If you look at the playoff games on Saturday, the running backs were the players of the game, possibly due to the weather conditions in those games (rainy and windy). Marshawn Lynch rushed for 140 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns in the Seattle Seahawks 23-15 victory over the New Orleans Saints. This effort, as good as it was, was overshadowed in the Saturday evening game when LeGarrette Blount carried the ball 24 times for 166 yards and four touchdowns. Blount’s effort allowed the New England Patriots to easily defeat the Indianapolis Colts 43-23.
When San Diego visited Denver in December and handed the Broncos their only defeat at home this season the Broncos offense seemed like it was sputtering most of the night. Not to take anything away from the Chargers because they obviously had a game plan to stop the Broncos and it worked. As bad as the Broncos played that night, they still had a chance to win or tie up the game near the end; in other words, they weren’t out of it. A good running game and a good passing game feed off of each other and in week fifteen both of these were well below the Broncos expectations this season. Manning threw for only 289 yards and two touchdowns while Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball combined for a dismal eighteen yards on eleven carries.
The passing stats, and especially the rushing stats must be drastically improved today if the Broncos hope to host the AFC Championship on January 18th. Is it possible? Absolutely. During the regular season the Chargers rushing defense ranked 21st in the league and allowed just over 100 yards rushing per game. The Broncos offense averaged 117 yards rushing per game, which is 15th in the league. Moreno’s season average for rushing yards (64.9 yards per game), when combined with Ball’s (34.9 yards per game) is just under 100 yards. The tools are there – let’s hope the Broncos utilize the running game to take some pressure of Manning and the wide receivers.
Regardless how the Broncos do it – running or passing, I just hope they’re able to beat the Chargers today. We have heard a lot about it, but given the way the season ended last year, I would be absolutely be shocked if any Bronco player was looking past this game in any way. Fans on the other hand, who knows?! When the Chargers came into Mile High and beat the Broncos one month ago who would have thought that particular game would be so motivating come January 12th, 2014!
Strap yourselves in Bronco fans – playoff football is back in the Rocky Mountains! Get your Broncos tickets now!