The Daily Lard 1-13-12

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! It's going to be a cold one in Foxborough tomorrow night, with a gametime temperature of 22º F and a feel of 13º F when factoring in wind chill. As the game goes on, the temperature is expected to drop a few degrees (by both measures).

Along those lines, Brian Burke expanded upon his look into how weather affects game play, and there are some rays of hope for the Broncos which may be conducive to Foxball. Burke finds that extreme (for the NFL) temperatures tend to reduce both passing efficiency and the number of plays run on offense. And, we all know by now how difficult it is to contain the Patriots passing offense, so obviously the Broncos will appreciate any help from Mother Nature. Let's all pray hope for cold and wind!

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The Daily Lard 1-12-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his analysis of the Denver/New England matchup, Andy Benoit thinks Tim Tebow will again be given enough time to make some throws against the Pats' Cover 3 defense. As for the running game, Benoit thinks the key will be how well J.D. Walton holds up in his one-on-one matchups with Vince Wilfork, against whom Walton thrived in their Week 15 meeting.

On the other side, Benoit thinks the Broncos will again have trouble covering both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez; his guess is they'll place Chris Harris on Hernandez duty and again utilize D.J. Williams and Wesley Woodyard to disrupt Gronkoski's release at the LOS. Benoit says New England's likely response of putting Gronkowski in the slot and forcing a matchup with someone like Jonathan Wilhite could cause serious issues for Denver.

Meanwhile, Pat Kirwan thinks this rematch will be closer than the first meeting was, and that the Pats' lack of playmakers like Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu and James Harrison may allow Denver to put up a bunch of points. On defense, Kirwan figures the Broncos will have a tougher time rushing Tom Brady than they did against Big Ben, and he strangely thinks the Broncos have more distractions despite having nothing to lose and New England's coaching changes.

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Wednesday Musings: Studying the O-line’s play on Sunday, more on Ayers

As the incandescence of the Broncos victory fades to a warming glow, I wanted to take some time to talk about the OL’s performance in the Pittsburgh game. Simply put - it was remarkable. You have to keep in mind that by some fairly sophisticated measures, this is the ‘worst’ offensive line in the NFL. If you keep cumulative stats, it’s fair to say that their average ranking in some important categories was fairly poor. They were asked to learn an offense which is different from last year’s, then to throw that out and run an offense that some of the players had never run before. They capped off their season to date by shutting down the pass rush of a very good Pittsburgh team. I’ve said it before and will again here - I wish that Pittsburgh had been healthier, because on that day, I don’t think they could have beaten the Broncos. Denver was too focused, too tired of losing and too tired of hearing that they didn’t have a chance. There are times when being the underdog is the way to find the inner fire that can consume the other team, leaving only the taste of ashes in its wake.

Without the performance of the OL - in both the running and passing games - having picked up both systems, including a right tackle who topped off his rookie newness by taking on a position that he’d never played before, but who stepped into his first playoff game like a seasoned pro - neither the outcome of this game nor that of the season that preceded it. It’s true that there were some rough games for the OL. It’s just as true that there were a lot more good ones - enough to get a somewhat shaky ship into the advanced harbor of the playoffs. The harbor may be mined, but Denver negotiated the first leg of it well. The line played a big role in that.

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Today is the 25th anniversary of The Drive

The Daily Lard 1-11-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It was a big day on the coaching carousel yesterday, with the most significant move being Oakland's firing of Huebris* Jackson. As Monte Poole details, it appears the Raiders will finally be operating the way most other sports franchises do: with a clear hierarchy, and with new GM Reggie McKenzie's handpicked coach able to hire/fire his own staff and even call plays without keeping one ear open for a call from Big Al.

But thankfully, a couple of Raiders trademarks will endure: firstly, their locational uncertainty continues, as owner Mark Davis says the team is considering either a move back to LA, shacking up with the Niners, or a new stadium in Oaktown. Secondly, it appears Davis has the potential to someday sport a look as caricature-like as his late father did: his hairdo appears to be an amalgam of those belonging to Lloyd Christmas and Ishmael.

More good news for Denver arrives from Jacksonville, where the Jaguars have hired Mark Mike Mularkey, meaning Mike McCoy is out of the running for that gig. Guess the Broncos are stuck with his terrible playcalling, huh?

Elsewhere, Chargers OC Clarence Shelmon is retiring, and the Jets have replaced Brian Schottenheimer with Tony Sparano (where else could he land but a few miles from the Bada Bing?).

* This one belongs to TJ

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Raiders fire Hue Jackson

Adam Schefter is reporting that the Raiders have fired coach Hue Jackson after just one season. Speculation had grown in recent days that new Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie was considering bringing in a handpicked head coach. It's certainly understandable, especially considering the exceptional amount of power Jackson had wielded in recent months.

Jackson had become the de facto GM following the death of Al Davis, and it had been Jackson's curious decision to trade away two high picks for QB Carson Palmer. Under McKenzie, Jackson would have been taking a step backwards within the organization (even if it was called for), and of course the new GM has his own legacy to forge with the organization. Why do so with a coach who outranks you in terms of seniority, and who just got used to calling all the shots?

Larsen to IR; Broncos promote WR Goodwin

The Broncos have placed FB Spencer Larsen on IR; Larsen injured his knee against KC in Week 17 and along with FB Austin Sylvester did not dress for Sunday's victory over Pittsburgh. To take Larsen's roster spot and play Saturday should Eric Decker's own knee injury keep him out, the Broncos promoted rookie D'Andre Goodwin from the practice squad.

Denver also added WR Tim Toone to the PS to take the spot vacated by Goodwin's promotion. Toone was 2010's Mr. Irrelevant, as the Lions selected him with the final pick in that year's draft; he most recently was a member of the Bills. He also happens to have a head of hair which makes him look like Michael Bolton, except for the dreadlocks.

Striking the right tone

So, um, yeah.  How about them Broncos?  I’ve been thinking for the last few days about how to strike the right tone with regards to Tim Tebow.  As most know, I’ve been saying that the guy will win Super Bowls in the NFL since he was a sophomore in college, long before he was ever drafted by the Broncos.  Having now seen Tebow play great in his first NFL playoff game, I feel like I should revisit that.  I don't want to be a gloater, and I definitely don't want to call out anybody personally who has disagreed with me.

Despite being both a longtime Florida Gators and Denver Broncos fan, I’m not emotionally invested in Tebow’s success.  I made an evaluation of the guy years ago, have basically stuck to it, and I still think I’m right.  Honestly, the Kansas City game made me wonder if the guy wasn’t as fearless as I’d always thought.  Maybe I’d misevaluated that – it happens, right?  If a QB is afraid to throw to a small window against tight coverage, he can’t play in the NFL.  With more evidence of that deficiency, I’d have completely supported a change.

I’ve said this before, but I don’t care about whether I was correct in the past, I care about being correct right now.  Being a good analyst is kind of like playing Cornerback; you have to forget the times you got burned, and be ready to dominate on the next snap.  I'm right a lot more often than I'm wrong, and I have years of archives to back that up.  As they say, tape don't lie.

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The Daily Lard 1-10-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In FO's Audibles column, Tom Gower points out the Broncos had an illegal formation (only six on the LOS) for their game-winning play. Did I say something yesterday about the breaks going against Denver? Here's a story on the same from the DP, including a screenshot.

Of course, this is a rather nitpicky point, and it pales in comparison to the blown lateral call which had the very real potential of costing Denver the game. To think, that mistake (and subsequent Pittsburgh TD) in concert with a different result on the OT coin toss, and we instead could all be rightfully bitching for the next several months over how the Broncos got jobbed. Or, the officials could have called back the touchdown, Denver could have lost, and again we'd be stuck focusing on the lateral non-call. Just another reminder that it usually often comes down to a little bit of luck.

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Monday Musings: Denver, Robert Ayers and value

They did it. They shocked me, and I’ve got a lot of company. It might not have been a great passing performance, but it was a very good one with multiple long receptions. The Steelers were down to their starting QB limping and their starting RB out as well as some line problems, and that’s a shame, because I think that on that day, Denver would have beaten them, healthy or not. The whole team talked about it all week long - this isn’t about some QB. This is the Denver Broncos, they were at home in the playoffs, they earned it, and ending the regular season with three losses wasn’t making anyone in that locker room happy. The team came out of the runway and ran straight into history. I can’t imagine anyone complaining about the pass protection - the OL gave Tim Tebow lots of time, and while he didn’t complete for a high percentage, he threw big passes. Sometime I think he likes it that way. Beating Pittsburgh, at home, after the last time Denver faced them in the playoffs, was special. Winning in overtime at home is even more so.

One thing that I really liked (and there were many) was David Bruton’s performance. He kept his gap discipline on the Pittsburgh 17-yard run in the fourth quarter:  the run was not directly inside his gap, but two or three three techniques over. He immediately saw that there was no defender, took off from a full stop and built speed quickly: he took a good angle to make the tackle, downfield or not, and with his speed, he kept it out of the endzone. He had a half-dozen good plays over the course of the day. I’ve always believed that Bruton has what it takes to make it as a starting safety. Yesterday suggested the same thing.

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