By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots (10-3) travel to Colorado to take on the Denver Broncos (8-5) on Sunday afternoon for a nationally televised game that has taken on media hype that is bordering on the sublime.
While most of America is focusing on Tim Tebow’s religious beliefs and making the usual catchy phrases for the game, it remains a matter of football on the field and the team that performs better on Sunday in the rarified air in Denver will win.
Earlier this week we brought you our key matchups of the two teams and which team has the advantages in every area. That can be read here: However, from a Patriots perspective, here are four things to look for in order for New England to come away with a victory on Sunday.
Start Quickly and Take the Crowd Out:
Needless to say the crowd in Denver will be sky high for this game. The Broncos are relevant again and are leading their division with just 3 games to go in the season. They will be loud, very loud in this game as anyone who has ever been there can testify to. The easiest way to stop that is to get some quick three and outs on defense and for Tom Brady and the offense to score early. That has been a problem lately and this would be a perfect time to remedy this.
Spread Out the Defense:
Denver boasts a couple of outstanding pass rushers in Elvis Dummerville and rookie Von Miller. By spreading them out and getting the ball out quickly, Tom Brady can negate their pass rush, much like he did against the Eagles a few weeks ago. The only issue today will be the wildcard Chad Ochocinco. He has been virtually invisible all season, with Deion Branch sidelined with a bad groin, will Brady have to have confidence in Ocho making the right reads and being where he is throwing the ball? If he can do that, the Patriots should move the ball through the air well.
Read & React:
The vaunted Belichick catchphrase that I know irritates my friend and colleague Russ Goldman so much, this week it should be the Patriots mantra on defense. The best way to stop the powerful running game that the Broncos run out of their spread option attack is to maintain gap discipline and not give Tebow anywhere to run. Rather than attack upfield, the defenders, especially along the defensive line must keep their shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and not allow gaps where Tebow can cut back and make big gains. This was in evidence last week where the Bears seemingly had the play stopped many times but Tebow was able to make something out of nothing.
Keep Tebow in the Pocket:
This week I expect the Patriots to try to keep Tebow inside the pocket and by playing a zone to take away the deep ball, force Tebow to beat them on long time consuming drives. The knock against him is that he isn’t the most accurate passer and that by forcing him to make a lot of throws to score, that they can force him into mistakes. I would expect Belichick to disguise some of their coverages until the last minute to try to get Tebow to make a mistake and possibly throw into coverage.
Tune in tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. for our PatsFans podcast of Patriots Fourth and Two as we’ll go over the Broncos game and have a fun and always entertaining recap. As always it’s hosted by Russ Goldman and will also feature Pats Fans writers Derek Havens, Damien Jarratt and myself. You can find it by clicking here: