Film Room: Broncos vs. Steelers wild-card preview
Whatever LeBeau chooses will work; we’re talking about the league’s top-ranked pass defense against the league’s most inept passing quarterback…The first idea is to just throw deep and hope luck tilts your way (a cornerback falls down, a ref calls pass interference, two Steelers collide while going after the same easy interception, etc.)...Another idea is to draw up trick plays. Lots of trick plays.
As lopsided as this matchup seems, the final score could be tight given that Pittsburgh’s offense might have trouble against John Fox’s and Dennis Allen’s defense…As much as the Broncos might like their secondary, they can’t expect it to be the league’s first unit that sustains coverage against the Steelers’ prolonged improvisational plays. Thus, when the Broncos do blitz, don’t be surprised if they bring the kitchen sink to ensure that Roethlisberger goes down or throws hot.
Playoff Preview: Steelers at Broncos
The Steelers might not have beaten a tougher team on the road this year than the one they’ll face this Sunday…If the Steelers get out to a double-digit lead early, the Broncos basically have no hopes of coming back. But there are reasons to believe that this will be a close game.
...the Steelers will need to hit on a big play or two downfield to score points. Mike Wallace is certainly up to the task, but if Roethlisberger is inaccurate and the Broncos pass rush comes to play, we might see a lot of punts.
Tebow went from offering up two turnovers in five weeks to two turnovers per week. If he arrests that trend, the Broncos might be able to turn this game into a field-position war…There’s no reason to think the Steelers will be totally unable to create turnovers because of what happened in the first half, but there’s also not any strong evidence suggesting they’re the ballhawks from 2010, either.
None of this is unreasonable - the Broncos definitely have more than an anything's possible chance.
Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Dave Krieger decided to
debunk dig into this ridiculous notion that the play calling is completely* to blame for Denver's recent offensive struggles. So, he asked John Fox why the team hasn't utilized more screens and quick slants. Here's what the coach said:
Everybody's mush-rushing us because of Tim's ability to scramble. They're not really rushing. Really, the screen pass and the draw play are typically for a very aggressive, penetrating, up-the-field style of defense, and because of the style of run game we have, we're not getting that.
Krieger also checked in with Brian Griese, asking him about the so-called "conservativeness" of the offensive game plan:
I don't agree that the play calling was too conservative. We talked at halftime about coming out and throwing the ball, play-action, specifically on first down, and Mike McCoy did that on three successive downs in the third quarter, called those passes. And the thing that happened was Tim Tebow didn't feel comfortable letting that ball fly and brought the football down and either took a sack or got a minimal gain.
So, the plays were called and Tim, for whatever reason, whether it was confidence, whether he wasn't able to see well enough, or whether he just got nervous, I'm not sure what it was, but he did not look like the same player that he was during the six-game winning streak.
* I just realized that I didn't quite express my point clearly this morning, thanks to a comment from BRASO (Thanks for that). I don't mean to suggest the play calling is completely blameless, but I find calls for Mike McCoy's head to be ludicrous.
Expect a lot of Steelers fans in Denver Sunday
So come Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, expect Sports Authority Field to be littered with Steelers fans and Terrible Towels. Never mind that this is the Broncos’ first postseason appearance since 2005 (the Steelers knocked them out of the AFC Championship game that year), or that Tebowmania is still alive. As of Thursday morning, there were 3,900 seats available on StubHub and 5,700 ready for purchase on Ticketexchange. Even if those tickets remain unsold, history suggests that it’s fair to expect Steelers fans to number in the tens of thousands.
Part of the problem? Maybe Tebowmania isn’t quite so much alive as on life support. After winning six in a row and getting the Broncos to 8-5, Denver backed into the playoffs after three uninspiring losses. The last, a 7-3 effort against the Chiefs that saw the Broncos punt three times for each point they scored, was the last straw for some fans.
“That game was one step above watching paint dry,” said longtime season holder Todd Tenenbaum (via the Associated Press). “To watch the running back and quarterback bump into each other to see who can get up the middle first is just boring. I’d rather stay home and watch ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ with my kids.”
Astute IAOFM readers know that the formal version of the 4-3 defense was created when Giants DC Tom Landry [Lombardi, Landry and the invention of modern football] slid rookie draftee Sam Huff back from the middle guard position to the area a couple of yards back, giving him a better view of the QB in an increasingly pass-oriented game, and creating the position of the middle linebacker. Huff was a hickory-tough man who defined the middle linebacker of the day. On one play, he was knocked flat and unconscious. With several teeth broken and blood pouring down his face, he picked up his helmet, got oriented and headed back onto the field. He was that tough a player. It was no surprise that he has made the Hall of Fame - he also had a defensive line that was the original, if less famous, Fearsome Foursome.
While most view his season-ending injury as detrimental to the Steelers’ title chances, I believe there could be a silver lining in his departure.
Roethlisberger doesn’t just make improvisational magic; he is also capable of picking apart defenses with pinpoint strikes from the pocket. He has become more efficient when making short and intermediate passes, enabling him to stretch the defense at every level.
Isaac Redman and John Clay give the Steelers’ running game a different dimension than Mendenhall did. The combination of Redman and Clay gives the offense a punishing downhill running attack that will pose problems for opponents. Losing Mendenhall is certainly significant, but it could be a blessing in disguise for the Steelers.
By now you're all really tired of reading/hearing how bad Tim Tebow was on Sunday and has been for the past few weeks. So, let's just get to the numbers. They speak for themselves.
Last week, Tim ranked 25th in ANY/T and was tied for 32nd in NY/T with Matt Cassel - out of the top 40 quarterbacks in terms of pass attempts. What did his 30-touch, 66-yard, two turnover performance against the Chiefs do to his rankings?
Pressure on Bears coach
It’s well known Jay Cutler had to be cajoled into the idea of working with Martz in the first place. So it’s not surprising the quarterback went to Halas Hall on Tuesday and let Smith know he was in favor of moving on without Martz before the coaches had met.
Cutler might push for Jeremy Bates, who he worked with previously with the Broncos. Bates was out of the NFL this season after one year with the Seahawks. How would Smith perceive him after Bates declined overtures from the Bears for an interview two years ago? Maybe just fine. Sources said Angelo turned off Bates.
Here's a handy reminder of why Pat Bowlen (yes, it was his call - not Josh McDaniels') decided to ship Cutler out of town. And wow - it could be that both instances will have been for the sake of Jeremy Bates. Gotta wonder if Jay realizes that Bates isn't a package deal with an offensive line that permits him be sacked only 11 times in a season, like the 2008 Broncos did.
How long before Jay runs Lovie Smith out of his job?
Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his latest mailbag, Woody Paige says that unless the Jaguars hire Mike McCoy away to be their head coach, the coaching staff will likely remain completely intact next season. He writes that of course, John Elway is quite happy with the job John Fox has done, and to expect Fox to be here at least another three years (the length of his contract).
Woody also says the football operations are truly under John Elway's oversight, with no meddling from Pat Bowlen or Joe Ellis. And regarding Kyle Orton, he writes that "he was a distraction, had lost interest, and the Broncos wanted somebody else to pick up the $[2.6] million."
As for the current QB, naturally Woody seems to think that Tim Tebow is a surer thing than is Matt Flynn, and his proof is that Matt Cassel hasn't set the world afire (Hmm, why didn't he compare Flynn to Matt Schaub? Oh, right). His guess is that Denver will draft Arizona QB Nick Foles and sign a veteran like Josh Johnson. Finally, more WR blame and a suggestion to sign Ray Rice. Good one, Woody - because signing veteran runners to megacontracts is always the sensible thing to do...
Defense Had Big Role in Rise of the Broncos
After spending the previous two weeks refusing to use the injury as an excuse, Miller on Wednesday acknowledged the problems it has caused.“I’m coming off the ball playing on the defensive line,” he said. “The first thing you strike is your hand. I still feel like I can get it done; it’s just that there’s a lot more thinking involved in how I place it.”
“Like other young players, he makes mistakes,” Coach John Fox said. “Von played two-thirds of the game. He’s doing fine; we have others who can play, too.”
Miller handled the de-emphasis without complaint. “I don’t think it’s a re-proving or anything like that,” he said. “They know what type of player I am and know what type of player I can be. Unfortunately, I haven’t been the same-type player. I don’t like to make excuses; I still feel like I can go out there and make those plays, but we’ve got to do what’s best for the team.”
Von Miller is playing through an injury and putting the team first. A fair number of high-profile rookies would be bitching and complaining.
The Broncos got the right guy.