The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 1-14-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's been exactly six years since Denver last played in a divisional playoff game - Saturday, January 14th at 6pm Broncos Time, also against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels and the New England Patriots. Hopefully tonight will be just like that magical one:

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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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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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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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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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