Over the past couple of weeks, during the Denver Broncos playoff and Super Bowl run, I along with the other talented writers here at Predominantly Orange have been cranking out a seemingly unprecedented volume of articles. The stories have varied from the totally inane to the serious to the strategy of the game. I cannot speak for my colleagues, but I feared that the tank is running on empty. Then I hearken back to the verbal savant, Hedley Lamar (played by the late, great Harvey Korman in “Blazing Saddles”) when he said, “My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention”. Then I reach down, deep inside for that little extra and put characters of binary code to computer screen in an effort to inform and humor. And I do it all for you, my fellow Broncoholics.
Today I want to share with you what I think the keys to a Super Bowl victory for the Broncos are.
On Offense: As I have indicated in the past the opponent cannot score if they don’t possess the ball. So I think the efficient, ball control style of offense installed by offensive coordinator Adam Gase and executed to near perfection by the offense in the two playoff games is the proper game plan. In doing so, Denver must capitalize on each drive, jump out to a lead, and try to grow that lead to double-digits in the second half. That will take away the best part of the Seahawks offense, the running game. If they can limit “Beast Mode”, Marshawn Lynch‘s influence on the game, I don’t think Seattle has the horses in the receiving corps to keep up with Denver’s high-octane offense. I have the utmost respect for Seattle’s quarterback, Russel Wilson but I believe the Broncos have to put the game in his hands and dare him to beat them.
Win the turnover battle: This is as cliché’ as it gets in the NFL. However it has never been more true. Every time the rock is turned over, that means less time it’s in the hands of Peyton Manning. PFM = maximum opportunity for victory. In addition to a lack of ball control, it also means that a scoring opportunity is missed or Seattle gets a short field with which to operate, depending on where the turnover takes place on the field.
Open up holes in the running game: The Seahawks are big, physical, and quick in their front seven. We know that the Broncos plan to spread out the Seattle D to provide the wide receivers the space to get open. In doing so, if the offensive line can move the front seven at the point of contact and win the battle in the trenches, Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball should have a huge day at 5 yards a clip and picking up critical 3rd and 4th downs. And as we know, that will soften the defense up for play-action.
On Defense: Much has been made of the irresistible force (the Denver offense) against the immovable object (the Seattle defense). However, I believe that the other side of the ball for each team offers up just as much importance and is where this game will be decided. The Broncos on defense have been very stingy since week 16 of the regular season. After being pushed around by the San Diego Chargers in week 15, executive vice president of football operations, John Elway made his way down to the locker room and berated the team; specifically the defense. Elway told them that they were soft and that, my friends is the worst thing you can say to a football player; especially on the defensive side of the ball. That loss and post-game verbal butt-kicking seemed to be just what the doctor order as the defense tightened up their game and have shut down all opponents since.
The front seven: The Seahawks on offense are going to attempt to play throwback football and punch Denver right in the mush. The Broncos’ front seven must be up to the task and counter-punch with even more ferocity. Lynch is going to get his 90-100 yards but Denver has to limit the big runs, be aggressive (B-E AGGRESSIVE!), and gang tackle Beast Mode. Also, don’t tackle the ball. Concentrate on wrapping up and bringing down the man and the turnovers will come in the form of punts and on downs. In order for the Broncos to contain Lynch, Terrance Knighton (who has the greatest nickname in sports today, Pot Roast), Mitch Unrein, and the rest of the defensive tackles have to hunker down and clog up the works between the tackles. Marshawn is much harder to bring down inside than if you string him out beyond the tackles.
Containing Russel Wilson: Wilson is a good passer but is probably more dangerous with his legs. He is able to buy time and is quick to pull the ball down and take off with it when he doesn’t have an open receiver. As an elusive runner, the Broncos are going to have to shadow him with a defensive back. Since the Broncos play a nickel defense more times than not, they should have the resources to do so. When flushing the former Colorado Rockies’ farm hand out of the pocket it is essential to keep him moving to the right. The scouting report on Wilson indicates that he throws better moving to his left. That means it is incumbent on Robert Ayers, Malik Jackson, and the other defensive ends to keep contain on the right side of the defensive line and force him in the opposite direction.
Special teams: I believe that the strategy employed in the two playoff games is a good one and must continue on Sunday. Trindon Holliday should be back to receive kickoffs. He is more dangerous to the opposition on kickoffs, but more dangerous to the Broncos on punt returns. Holliday has shown a propensity to put the football on the ground on punt returns. Which is why I like Eric Decker back there to receive punts. He has sure hands and there is no shame in calling for a fair catch and putting the ball back in the hands of Peyton “Freakin” Manning. So I think it is obvious that I want to see Holliday no more than three times in the game and Decker all game long.
Kicking game: While the weather is going to be less of a factor than originally thought, the temps will be in the low 30′s which will harden the ball and make it more difficult to kick. Matt Prater usually blasts kickoffs out of the end zone, especially at (Sports Authority Field at) Mile High Stadium, prohibiting big plays in the return game. There is little chance that many kicks will go for touchbacks so kick coverage is going to be critical. Giving Seattle a longer field with which to work makes it a lot more difficult for them to score. Keep in mind that the Seahawks’ dangerous return man, Percy Harvin will return to the lineup after being concussed for a second time this year in the divisional playoffs against the New Orleans Saints. I am not sure how much Harvin will play from the line of scrimmage, but I fully expect him to be back there returning kicks. That said, pro-bowler and special teams captain, David Bruton will need to prepare to play the best game of his career. One last thing on special teams; the Broncos have to be on guard for fake punts and on-sides kicks when they are least expected. Look for Seattle head coach, Pete Carroll to call for a trick play at least once in this game.
Now I know it may seem, per this article that I think Denver has a lot more to execute than Seattle to win this game. That could not be further from the truth. Seattle is an extremely talented group and are not in this game because of luck or smoke-and-mirrors. They are the best team in the NFC and deserve our (and the Broncos’) respect. That said, I think for the Seahawks to win, they must play no less than a B+ game, where Denver can win with a B- effort. Here’s to wishing that the Broncos come back with straight A’s.