The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 1-9-12

GOOD MORNING, Broncos fans! Your Denver Broncos notched their first playoff win in six years yesterday with a 29-23 overtime victory over the defending AFC champion Steelers, setting up a rematch with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and now, Josh McDaniels - this time in Foxborough on Saturday night at 8PM ET.

So, what was it this time? Score on defense? Uh uh. Score on a special teams return? Negative. Win the turnover battle? No. Opponent gifts/brain farts? Nope. Foxball? Nah. Tebow Time? Not the kind we've seen before. Instead, Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas connected on a slew of big plays, none bigger than an 80-yard catch and run on the lone play of overtime. Tebow produced 366 yards of offense and three scores on 10 pass completions and 10 rushes, and his fellow 2010 first-rounder caught four passes for 204 yards and the game-winner.

A week ago against KC, Denver's longest play from scrimmage was a 17-yard catch and run by Thomas. Yesterday, Tebow had pass completions of 80, 58, 51, and 15 yards to Thomas; 40 and 17 yards to Daniel Fells; 30, 13 and 9 yards to Eddie Royal (the 30-yarder opened Denver's scoring on what was probably Tim's finest pass yet as a pro); and a 6-yarder to Lance Ball. Plus, Tim ran for three first downs, two of them crucial gains which led to Matt Prater's fourth-quarter FG.

Put simply, Tebow was fabulous.

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The Daily Lard 1-8-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Here we are - it's been six years, but the Broncos are back in the playoffs, and they're facing the same franchise that beat them last time and prevented them from whipping facing the Seahawks in SB 40. Of course, these Broncos bear little resemblance to that eariier version, with only Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams remaining; of course, Champ made the key play the week prior to help the Broncos halt the Patriots' quest for a threepeat championship. It will probably take something similar today (multiple takeaways, not necessarily of the 100-yard return variety) to send the Broncos to a matchup with the Patriots in Foxborough next week.

What would be more poetic than a rematch of Tim Tebow and Tom Brady's Week 15 duel, and a faceoff between the Broncos and Josh McDaniels, their last head coach and new (again) OC of the Patriots? Not much, obviously. But first things first...

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The Daily Lard 1-7-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Yesterday was a strange one in terms of Broncos/Steelers news, as a bunch of football reporters posted dueling and conflicting entries about practices none of them witnessed with their own eyes and something that hasn't even happened yet.

By now you've probably seen the back-and-forth as expertly chronicled by TJ yesterday; add Mike Klis and Jeff Legwold to those contradicting Mike Florio's claim that Brady Quinn took roughly half the first-team snaps in practice this week. Of course, none of Florio, Klis, Legwold, Darlington, or Mason actually saw more than 10 minutes of Denver's practice on any given day this week, so they're all reporting whatever information they've been given by players, coaches and sources within the team. In other words, it's all hearsay, and if Florio turns out to be right, they can all simply admit after the fact that the Broncos did a mostly good job of protecting state secrets. Even better, Tim Tebow can play the entire game and Florio can still claim that Quinn took half the practice snaps.

Either the Broncos want the Steelers to be unsure of who will be playing QB tomorrow and thus someone is feeding Florio misinformation, or Florio is correct and there are some loose lips at Dove Valley.

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The Daily Lard 1-6-12

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.

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The Daily Lard 1-5-12

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...

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The Daily Lard 1-3-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his latest mailbag, Mike Klis naturally fields a bunch of questions blaming Sunday's loss on the coaching staff, namely Mike McCoy. Yet as he notes, Tim Tebow attempted 51 passes over the past two weeks, and he completed just 19 of them. Somehow that's the coaches' fault? Oh, brother.

Meanwhile, Dave Krieger raises an interesting point - will sneaking into the playoffs the way they did (by winning a tiebreaker over one slightly underachieving 8-8 team and a fellow craptastic one*) serve to set the franchise back in the longer term? Will they commit to building around this offensive offense they've been running?

* I know, you are what your record says you are, right? And the Broncos must be better than the Chargers and Raiders because the rules say they are, right? Not quite. Thanks to our friendly Pythagorean wins, we can divulge that the Broncos and Raiders were 8-8 teams that more closely resembled 6-10 teams, while the Chargers were more like a 9-7 team. Blech.

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The Daily Lard 1-2-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Believe it or not, your Denver Broncos are the 2011 AFC West Champions and the AFC's fourth seed; they will host the Pittsburgh Steelers (the fifth seed) in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday at 4:30PM ET on CBS; Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will again be excusing every Tim Tebow misstep calling the game.

As for how they got there, the Broncos may have redefined the term "backing into the playoffs" as they lost a 7-3 stinker to the Chiefs which was characterized by the same brand of inept offensive Foxball they've played for most of the past eleven weeks. It was the team's third straight loss and included two more turnovers by Tim Tebow, but San Diego's 38-26 victory over Oakland enabled the Broncos to take the division title via common opponents tiebreaker over both the Raiders and Chargers, who also finished at 8-8.

On a day when the scoreboards at SAFaMH did not display the score of the Oakland/San Diego game, the Broncos and Tebow were playing what they knew to be a must-win game, and what they came up with amounted to three gifted points (after taking over on the KC 20 following a muffed punt by Javier Arenas) and 266 yards of offense on 71 plays. On 11 of its 12 possessions, Denver failed to move the ball more than 36 yards, and the one time they did so (a 70-yard march to start off the second quarter), yet another fumble by Tebow (his 13th of the season) during a rare would-be third-down conversion snuffed out what was an almost guaranteed three points and perhaps even seven.

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The Daily Lard 1-1-12

Happy New Year, Broncos fans! 

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The Daily Lard 12-31-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Chris Benson previews tomorrow's game for PFF, and he's expecting the Broncos to utilize a more conventional rushing attack since KC will presumably will be better prepared for the read option than they were last time. On defense, Benson figures that although Von Miller's struggles since he injured his thumb have been well chronicled, he should impact the game matching up against Barry Richardson - the worst right tackle in the game according to PFF's grading.

For PFF's latest Scramble column, Benson writes that the turning point for Denver's season may have been Chris Harris' interception of Carson Palmer and subsequent 60-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee. It was a remarkable sequence of events, one that should not be underestimated. I think people look back at the 38-24 final score and recall the game as a thumping by Denver, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The first half was all Oakland, and the Broncos running game didn't really dominate until that McGahee run to end the third quarter. Denver was 2-5 at that point, and here we are eight weeks later and they've got a chance to win the division tomorrow. Incredible.

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The Daily Lard 12-30-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Bucky Brooks dug into the film of Denver's last three games, and within them he sees a blueprint for stopping Tim Tebow and the Broncos offense. He says that in response to Denver's success running against sub packages, both the Bears and Bills decided not to allow the Broncos to dictate personnel. A Jets coach raised this point with Brooks, and the numbers appear to support the strategy - even more so than Brooks cites. Against the Jets, Bears and Bills, the Broncos averaged 127.3 rushing yards per game, while in the other seven games since Tebow took over, Denver ran for a staggering 217.9 yards per game. Of course, the last time these two teams faced off, Denver ripped off 244 rushing yards against Romeo Crennel's defense, and two weeks ago the Broncos ran for 252 against Bill Belichick's guys.

As for the passing game, Brooks points to teams' use of man coverage on Denver's wideouts (and a heavy reliance upon Cover-1), with the Bills focusing on locking up Tebow's primary read, and he says teams are relying upon a four-man rush to contain Tim within the pocket, rather than blitzing and risking an open lane for Tebow to escape through. The question, of course, is whether Tim will be able to start beating this one-on-one coverage with his arm, and whether the Broncos will have some viable wrinkles to get the running game going against what may be a solid game plan for stopping them.

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