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For The Denver Broncos, Failure Is Not An Option Against New England

With the Patriots in town, it's do or die for the Broncos.

Back in January of 2015, GM John Elway wasn't happy with the direction the Broncos were headed under John Fox. In the biggest games, with the pressure on, Fox's teams would wilt. Coming off an embarrassing home loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, wherein the Broncos completely seemed to mail it in, Elway was aghast and ready to clean house. 

Denver's top football executive went looking for a coach who personified the "kicking and screaming" attitude that had been absent under Fox. It's safe to say that in Gary Kubiak, he found the right coach to fit that mentality. 

Kubiak was a great hire — I'm convinced of that — but when Elway made the decision to hire his former training camp roommate, he also received the collateral benefit of getting Wade Phillips (Elway's former head coach) and defensive line coach Bill Kollar

This group of coaches, along with offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, took an uber-talented, but underachieving roster, and elevated them to Super Bowl Champions in the span of a season. And then five-time NFL MVP quarterback Peyton Manning hung up his cleats, with a shiny new piece of hardware on his ring finger, and rode off into the sunset of retirement.

No problem, right? The Broncos had heir-apparent Brock Osweiler to carry the torch. Wrong. Fearful of playing in the shadow of Elway and Manning, and still simmering over being benched in Week 17, Osweiler took the biggest contract offer he could get on the open market and hit the road.

Elway went back to the well, selecting Memphis gunslinger Paxton Lynch in the first round of the NFL Draft. Little did the Broncos know, their starting QB was already on the roster when Manning retired and Osweiler defected.

Trevor Siemian battled and won the starting job in training camp over the veteran Mark Sanchez and the hype-filled rookie. A second-year, first-time starter and former seventh round pick of the Broncos, Siemian has led Denver to a 7-4 mark as the starter.

Will The Broncos Beat The Patriots? SOUND OFF IN THE FORUMS!

Siemian has been a part of some gritty victories this year and some close, disappointing losses. He's learned a lot, and has borne the pressure of being the Broncos starting quarterback, even as Defending Champions, remarkably well.

I would posit that Siemian fits Elway's "kicking and screaming" mantra just as well as Kubiak and Phillips do. Siemian was around last year, learning at the feet of Manning, sitting in those meetings, and breaking down the film when the Broncos played host to the undefeated New England Patriots in Week 12. 

Osweiler started the game, but was largely ineffective until the fourth quarter, when he made some very clutch throws to come from behind and take the contest to overtime. C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman served as the tip of the spear, accounting for 172 yards on the ground and three of Denver's four touchdowns. And it was Anderson who iced the game with his 48-yard victory romp in overtime. 

Siemian was there. He celebrated with Osweiler and his teammates and reveled in the victory. The same could be said for the AFC Championship Game, when the Manning-led Broncos beat the Patriots to advance to Super Bowl 50. 

Trevor Siemian is a better quarterback than Brock Osweiler, and good enough to beat the Patriots. But it will take an inspired game-plan by Kubiak and a gritty collective effort by the Broncos offense. On the other side of the ball, Von Miller and Derek Wolfe have had some of their best games as pros against Tom Brady and the Patriots. 

But the Broncos defense has to execute their brand of defense. As Miller told me earlier this week, of all the games the defense needs to raise their level of play, it's this one. By virtue of their five losses, the do-or-die mentality of playoff football has begun three weeks early for the Broncos. They can't afford to drop a single game moving forward. Looking at it from a mile high, the obstacle Denver faces looks impossible. 

But in playoff football, a team never overlooks their immediate opponent, or focuses on who they could be playing next. It's a game-to-game proposition and the Broncos have thrived in that arena. 

The one-seed and likely the Division Crown are out of reach for the Broncos. But they still control their playoff destiny. 

If the Broncos want the opportunity to defend their World Championship in the playoff tournament, it all starts with beating the Patriots. And failure is not an option.

Granted, it's a tall order. But the Broncos will take the same approach they would if they were being tasked with eating an entire elephant. 

One fork at a time. 

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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