|Former Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey takes a knee during Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)|
|Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball (28) carries the ball against the San Diego Chargers during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Jan. 12 in Denver. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)|
|Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson walks off the field after Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on Sunday in East Rutherford, NJ. The Seahawks beat the Broncos 43-8. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)|
Duke Ihenacho said on No BS #Broncos Post Game Show "We have to redefine who we want to be as a team."— Cecil Lammey (@cecillammey) February 3, 2014
|Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey takes a knee during Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium Sunday in East Rutherford,NJ. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)|
|Auburn defensive end Dee Ford (30) of the South team works against Virginia offensive lineman Morgan Moses (78) during a Senior Bowl practice session at Fairhope Stadium on Jan. 20 in Fairhope, Ala. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)|
|DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 8: The Denver Broncos offense huddles around Peyton Manning #18 at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on December 8, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)|
The Denver Broncos enter the postseason once again as the number one seed in the AFC. This team has been quite vocal about winning the Super Bowl this year. Everyone on the roster knows the season is a disappointment if they don’t hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.
Navigating through the playoffs the Broncos should run across some familiar adversaries.
It’s likely the Broncos could face two of the three teams that beat them in the regular season. The Colts, Patriots and Chargers all made the postseason this year. They may wind up playing Denver again, this time at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Broncos will be ready for any challenge they’ll face in the postseason. One of those challenges may be facing teams who want to have a run-heavy offense against the Broncos.
In both games against the Chargers this strategy was employed by San Diego. They controlled the time of possession by a nearly two-to-one ratio. This is essentially playing “defense” by keeping Peyton Manning and the Broncos high-powered offense on the sidelines.
I talked to John Fox on Monday out at Dove Valley, and I asked him about facing teams who want to run the ball early and often against the Broncos in the playoffs.
“We have a saying: ‘With their ball they can do whatever they want.’” Fox continued, “I can’t predict what the other team is going to do. I know when you get into this time of year weather can be a little hectic. So I think you have to have balance—something we strived all year for. I think [Offensive Coordinator] Adam Gase and the offensive staff have done a terrific job in that area. So much of what you do in football is what the defense gives or takes away. I don’t think that is going to change dramatically once the playoffs begin.”
I also talked one-on-one with Broncos veteran safety David Bruton. I asked him the same question about facing more run-heavy teams in the postseason.
“I feel like teams are going to stick with what they’re good at. If a team’s good at running, they’re going to run the ball. They’re going to stick with the mindset [of running the ball] and stick with their game plan. Why would they change that, when that’s what got them to the playoffs?” Bruton continued “Every team has a norm, so I don’t think they’ll break far away from that. We’ll have an idea of what the team wants to do, what they like to do. There’s going to be wrinkles here and there. It’s playoff football, and you’re not going to be able to prepare for everything. At the end of the day it’s about discipline and technique. We just gotta go out there and execute.”
Facing the Colts in the playoffs could mean a heavy dose of backs like Donald Brown and Trent Richardson. Brown, like Knowshon Moreno, has finally started playing up to his potential in 2013. He’s a versatile weapon who can contribute as a runner or receiver out of the backfield. Richardson has disappointed since the Colts traded away a 2014 first-round pick for him earlier this year. He’s still a power runner who can make his living between the tackles or as a receiver.
If the Broncos play the Chargers, then they’ll once again see a big workload from Ryan Mathews. Like Brown and Moreno, Mathews has also played up to his full potential for the first time in 2013. He’s played 16 games for the first time in his career, and Mathews has been the engine to the Chargers offense late in the season. Danny Woodhead would also be used to attack the linebackers in coverage on wheel routes and screen passes.
If the Broncos face the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game then it will be a three-headed backfield they’ll have to contend with.
Shane Vereen is the team’s most dangerous weapon at the running back position. He’s an electric playmaker who can eat up yards quickly with his speed and moves in the open field. The Patriots would use Vereen to go after the Broncos linebackers in coverage.
Stevan Ridley is the leading rusher for the Patriots. He’s your classic banger between the tackles, and Ridley can wear down a defense with his punishing style.
LeGarrette Blount’s style is so punishing that he makes Ridley look like a scatback. He’s rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season once in his career, during his rookie season with the Buccaneers. Blount is a huge back who runs like a locomotive. He’s essentially a battering ram for the Patriots offense. However, he can make big plays too. During his rookie season Blount compiled more plays over 20 yards than Moreno has in his entire career.
The Broncos are ready for the challenge. They are built to win the Super Bowl this year, and that is their ultimate goal. In order to get there (and win) they’ll have to face offenses that want to run it down their throat.
|Denver Broncos head coach John Fox smiles and claps after his team scored from the one yard line against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on Dec. 30, 2012 in Denver. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)|
|KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 01: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos passes during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)|
Peyton Manning Passing 15 or more Yards Downfield, Last Four Games:
Yards Per Attempt