Gut Reaction: AFC Championship - Broncos vs Patriots

The smile on Champ Bailey’s face said it all.

A grin as wide as his Hall of Fame career has been long.

And now, thanks to a little Peyton Manning pixie dust (via the legend John Elway), Bailey is going to play in his first Super Bowl and biggest game of his career.

Elway, for his part, did say he was going to restore greatness to the Broncos.

But did anyone really think it would take him so little time?

Even more, did anyone think he’d do it with the greatest offense in the history of the NFL?

Sure, there’s still two weeks and a game to go, but right now, the world seems as though it just woke up from a fifteen-year-long dream. And the Broncos are exactly where they ought to be.

The Positives

  1. The Peyton Manning narrative—you know, the one in which he doesn’t play big in big games—went to the grave today. Manning had a typical day at the office. How’s 400 yards passing and a QB rating of 118.4?
  2. Little tip for you budding offensive coordinators out there (or Madden addicts): beating Cover 2, press man coverage is often as simple as running crossing routes.
  3. Champ Bailey wasn’t targeted much today, but I think he had an excellent game. He played trail coverage today like he was—well, like he was Champ Bailey.
  4. We all questioned how Tony Carter could be labeled as a great cover corner last year by both John Fox and Jack Del Rio and then turn around and sit the pine this year. Today did nothing to quell such questions. And Carter can tackle, too. You still have to wonder why Carter wasn’t out there in place of Quentin Jammer throughout the year.
  5. You have to give the nod to both Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno for their big runs today, but we also need to admit those holes in the middle of the Patriots defense were long and wide. That’s a testament to Manny Ramirez, Zane Beadles, and Louis Vasquez sealing off defenders to the outside.
  6. Once Aqib Talib left the game, Demaryius Thomas began really beasting over the deep middle, but as Phil Simms pointed out during the broadcast (did I just write that?), the Broncos found out in their film study from the first meeting that the Patriots’ safeties were cheating up and giving the Broncos that opportunity. That’s all Adam Gase and Peyton Manning.
  7. Terrance Knighton is who we thought he was—one bad dude against the run. Not only can he take on a double team, he can throw a single blocker out of the way like he’s a practice dummy. Apparently, though, we’ve been overlooking his catlike swim move on crucial fourth downs.
  8. Robert Ayers may have singlehandedly saved the Broncos four points with his glorious sack in the second quarter. It was a perfect time to take advantage of the tackle’s leverage to the outside.
  9. Paris Lenon got most of the love from Phil Simms, but it was actually Danny Trevathan that deserves a ton of the credit for stopping the Patriots running game (aside from Knighton).
  10. Shaun Motherfu#$ing Phillips! Thanks, San Diego.
  11. The fans at SAF@MH were ear-popping loud. Elway's said they are the greatest fans in the world. It’s hard to argue.

The Negatives

  1. After the first half, the game seemed way too close, and I’m not just pointing that out because I’m a biased Broncos fan. The Broncos had 270 yards total yards (214 through the air) and were 5-8 on third down. 13-3 could easily have been 24-3.
  2. The Patriots caught a huge break from the god of randomness with their first punt of the game. They were lucky the Broncos didn’t get the ball near midfield. That ball must have bounced twenty-five yards. In other words, the Broncos should have had points. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t spin according to those rules.
  3. How Devin McCourty wasn’t called for pass interference on Julius Thomas is beyond conspiracy.
  4. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s misjudgment of a short route was a bad play, to be sure, but if Tom Brady doesn’t throw that ball perfectly, it’s 10-0 in favor of the Broncos (how it ended up anyway, but still, you get the idea).
  5. Don’t know about you, but don’t you just hate it when your team gets up by ten points only to give up a huge play on defense on first down?
  6. You knew you’d see this here: John Fox should have gone for it on fourth down to end the half instead of kicking the field goal. The decision is very debatable, but IAOFM always errs on the side of an uppercut. Again, to be fair, it’s very debatable. That’s because the usual strategy (and the corresponding stats) about maximizing points goes out the window with less than a minute to play.
  7. I also think Fox should have gone for it on fourth down when he kicked the field goal to make it 23-3. Throw the stats aside for a moment—strategically, I don’t know how 20 points gets you much more than 17 given the strategy that New England would have to employ for the remainder of the game. Brian Dawkins agreed.
  8. Defensive and offensive pass interference on the same play? Right. The last time I saw that, I was watching a Raiders intrasquad practice.
  9. Duke Ihenacho played much better in this game, but he still needs to wrap up when he’s delivering one of those hard tackles. Shoulders won’t get it done.
  10. Penalties will kill any drive, even when you’re crushing your opponent. Even then, it took a blatant drop by Julius Thomas (who incidentally also had a holding penalty on the drive) to keep the Broncos to three points to start the fourth quarter.

The Who The Heck Knows

  1. I’m not saying Peyton Manning reads IAOFM, but we’ll claim his “Fat Man” audible nonetheless.
  2. I know this is quite subjective, but I don’t like the move to not let Trindon Holliday return punts. You essentially negate the potential for big plays. Of course, fumbling isn’t on the table either, but there really was little wind in this game.
  3. Chandler Jones talking shit to Peyton Manning in the first quarter was a good way to ensure an ass kickin’, which is exactly what the Patriots proceeded to get after Jones ran his mouth.
  4. It’s never a good thing when injuries decide a game, but are there two more critical guys to both teams than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aqib Talib? Luckily for the Broncos, DRC’s injury allowed him back in the game, while the Patriots had no such luck.
  5. Phil Simms says the answer to being held is to be more physical. And to that I say, “Someone find me a roll of tape and get physical with Simms.”
  6. Peyton Manning’s timeout on the Broncos’ first drive of the second half was a good one. The Broncos were facing a third-and-three and the play was the difference between going up 16-3 or 20-3. That’s a big freakin’ difference.
  7. This doesn’t mean much, but it’s great to see Brock Osweiler out there studying stills right next to Manning.
  8. Brady should have been called for intentional grounding with 11 minutes to play. A play later, he should have been picked off. A few plays later, the Patriots scored a touchdown.
  9. I know Chris Harris didn’t play in this game, but I’ve yet to say anything about his contribution to the Broncos this year. Let’s put it this way: if the Broncos win it all, Chris Harris will have been a big reason.
  10. Seahawks? 49ers? Who cares at this point, right? The Broncos are so high right now, they could take them both on.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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