The One Key to a Patriots Victory Over the Broncos
As a football blogger you’re required by law to write a “5 Keys to Victory” post before every game. I usually avoid this, mostly because I find five keys to be too arbitrary. Who’s to say a victory doesn’t require ten keys? Or maybe just three?
But for this week’s playoff game I’m busting out all the stops, and I only have one key. Just one simple thing that the Patriots need to do tomorrow to win the game.
That one key… (drum roll)…
Protect Tom Brady.
That’s all it really comes down to. The Broncos can run wild versus the Pats, Tebow can complete more than 50% of his passes (crazy I know), and the Pats running game can sputter to a start like it usually does, but it will not matter if the Patriots offensive line gives Tom Brady time when they pass the ball.
If Brady feels comfortable in the pocket he will pick apart the Broncos no matter who they choose to double cover and take out of the equation.
The one consistent theme of the recent playoff losses (which I’m looking forward to no longer hearing about next week btw) has been Brady under duress which has slowed down the Patriots offense and forced them into turnovers.
So cross your fingers that Logan Mankins is able to prove why Bill Belichick called him “super tough”. That Nate Solder isn’t overwhelmed in his first playoff game. That Sebastian Vollmer is suddenly healthy. That Brian Waters plays like this could be his last chance at a Super Bowl (which it could be). And that Dan Connolly is ready to prove he’s the heir apparent to Dan Connolly.
As this group goes tomorrow so will go the Patriots chance at victory. It’s really just that simple.
You’ll rarely find me making serious predictions or power rankings here on the blog, but this weekend’s Patriots-Broncos game seems like a ripe opportunity to break the trend.
I’m not one of the people who is sick of all the Tebow storylines because I don’t watch Sportscenter. And I’m not going to try and tell you whether or not Tebow is a long term solution for the Broncos. Nor am I going to make any commentary on his faith, though it’s clear he talks the talk and walks the walk in that department.
For me it just comes down to football and I think this is the week Tebow and the his disciples falls back to earth. Let’s lay out the ingredients…
A still-angry Tom Brady who has something to prove after how his last pass ended against the Redskins.
A Patriots defense that might not be great against the pass, but are excellent in the simple fundamentals and “doing their job”, especially when it comes to staying within the system.
An entire Patriots team that has something to prove on the home field of the Broncos moreso than any other home field in the NFL.
Let’s start with Tebow. It doesn’t take a football genius to figure out the secret to ending his current run. Put him in an early hole. Force him to have to abandon the run game and throw the ball to catch up. The golden number is a 17-point lead.
The only possible model for success for the Broncos is what the Browns did last year. Get an early lead. Pound the ball on the ground and keep Brady off the field. Run a couple successful trick plays. Force the Patriots to be one dimensional and allow Elvis Dumerville and Von Miller to pin their ears back and get after Brady.
Where the Patriots can get into trouble defensively is when offenses run multiple shifts, forcing the Pats to communicate and adjust to each one. The Broncos should be able to mimic this Mangini-esque game plan to get the Pats defense on their heels. But with what the Broncos have shown this is one week the Pats should be ready to be attacked as such.
So for the Patriots defense it will be all about discipline. Ideally the Pats would like to mimic what the Bears were successful with for three quarters last week. Play man to man, put eight in the box, and make sure everyone maintains their gap and doesn’t overpursue or fall for the myriad of misdirectional plays the Broncos thrive on. Playing sound fundamental defense
The Broncos have a respectable defense but it’s about to be tested like it hasn’t since the Lions mauled them. In the big picture the Broncos D is a very solid road test for the Patriots to handle. It’s still very possible they’d have to travel to Baltimore, Pittsburgh or Houston should they make the AFC Championship.
I expect a full 60 minutes from New England on both sides of the ball. Their defense has literally been laughed at all week, and the storyline that was second to that was Brady’s endzone interception and the argument that followed.
When I look at all these factors the result seems obvious to me.
PatsPropaganda is written and edited by Mike Dussault. He is an unapologetic homer and a card-carrying Belichickian. He has a soft spot for hard core X's and O's, and believes in "throw to score, run to win", low pad level, and touchdown celebrations that last two weeks.
He is a Patriots Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report, and his work has been featured on FoxSports.com, Yahoo Sports, and SI.com. He also co-hosts the weekly PatsPropaganda & Frenz Podcast with Bleacher Report's AFC East Editor Erik Frenz.
PatsPropaganda was TruFan.com/CSNNE's 2011 winner for Best Patriots Blog.
He can be contacted at PatsPropaganda [at] gmail.com