Sunday, the Denver Broncos have a chance to advance to the Super Bowl which is instantaneously exciting as it represents the potential realization of a dream for both players and fans of the storied franchise.
The game against their perpetual adversaries, the New England Patriots, for the AFC championship and a berth in Super Bowl 50, the golden anniversary, is the 9th time in the era of owner Pat Bowlen (1984-present) the Broncos have played for the Lamar Hunt trophy, which is annually given to the champion of the American Football Conference. In previous AFC championship games in the Bowlen era, the Broncos are 6-2 (a .750 winning percentage) and they are 3-1 all-time against the Patriots in the postseason, including a 3-0 mark at home in the playoffs in series.
In any case, while the Broncos have lost cornerback and punt returner extraordinaire Omar Bolden for the rest of the season, they have promoted 2015 seventh-round draft pick Taurean Nixon in his stead. While Nixon has not played yet this season, he has greatly attended all of his scheduled community assignments so if nothing else, this suggests he is responsible.
Beyond this, the Broncos’ defense is generally healthy and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. will do his best to overcome a shoulder injury which appeared to have been aggravated against the Steelers in the 23-16 win in the AFC Divisional playoffs last Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Head coach Gary Kubiak, in speaking to the Denver media Monday, reported that in the event Harris cannot go, he is highly confident in reserve cornerback Kayvon Webster, who has made solid plays on special teams all season, especially in Sunday’s win against Pittsburgh. Webster’s heroics enabled him to be one of three special teams standouts to receive player of the week honors from Kubiak, along with Bolden and kicker Mike McManus who made all five of his field goals in the win.
As for signal-caller Peyton Manning, he was on his A game even if his statistics were not spectacular. A careful analysis of the film confirms that numerous receivers let Manning down throughout the game which neutralized the Broncos’ offense all afternoon.
Against the prolific Patriots who have all their weapons back for legendary signal-caller Tom Brady, (they had the sixth-best scoring offense in the season, 27.0 points per game in 2015), it’s reasonable to suggest that the Broncos must score touchdowns on all forays inside the red zone.
The turnovers were non-existent Sunday in the win against the Steelers and as was confirmed by Broncos’ sideline reporter Andy Lindahl and his afternoon drive time radio co-host, Broncos’ radio broadcast color analyst Ed McCaffrey, Manning looks like he has finally mastered the Kubiak offense sufficiently.
If the Broncos remember to execute and if the defense can limit New England’s points when they do drive into scoring position, it’s also reasonable to suggest they will be playing for a Super Bowl title.
The journey continues this Sunday afternoon at 1:05 pm MST and we’ll see what happens at the appointed time.