Broncos ride Tebow for yet another week
The thrill of an overtime win for the Broncos, the
first playoff win in six years for the franchise and just the second
since Super Bowl XXXIII, didn't last too long.
The reward for the 29-23 win is a trip to New
England to face the Patriots, the top seed in the AFC. When the Broncos
faced New England on Dec. 18 in Denver, the Patriots pounded them 41-23.
"We played them a month ago. It didn't go very
well," coach John Fox said. "I think it will be a huge test. It is a
well-coached great football team, great organization. It will be at
their place, so it will be a huge challenge. It is one we look forward
After the Broncos' improbable season, and an
improbable wild-card playoff victory against the defending AFC champion
Steelers, it's tough to dismiss their chances entirely.
Quarterback Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards and a
pair of touchdowns against Pittsburgh, one of the toughest defenses in
the NFL, and seemed impervious to the pressure of his first playoff
start. He'll need to have a near-perfect game next week against the
Patriots, but he is going up against a porous pass defense. He threw
for 194 yards and rushed for 93 more against the Patriots in the first
meeting. He'll have to perform without Eric Decker, one of Denver's top
receivers who suffered a significant knee injury against the Steelers.
Decker will probably miss some time.
The Broncos' defense needs to find some answers
for the Patriots, who were rarely slowed down in Denver. Tom Brady
threw for 320 yards and had an easy day. The Broncos focused on taking
away Rob Gronkowski, but Aaron Hernandez torched them for 129 yards and
The Broncos will be significant underdogs, but
they're used to that. They used the skepticism as motivation before the
win against the Steelers.
"It's crazy because I was watching NFL Network
Friday night and they were at this roundtable," running back Willis McGahee said. "They didn't think we were going to be in the game and
Pittsburgh's got this hands down. I just told the guys what people
thought of us and that we had to go out and play with a chip on our
TRENDING: The Broncos were conservative in their
final regular-season game against the Chiefs, although Tim Tebow's
struggles in that game played a part in the play-calling. Against the
Steelers, Denver opened things up and it paid off. Demaryius Thomas had
204 yards on four catches, including a great 80-yard touchdown in
overtime to beat Pittsburgh. Thomas looks healthy and explosive, and he
should be able to use his size advantage against New England's
secondary to make some plays downfield.
LINEUP WATCH: Wide receiver Eddie Royal had a
quiet year as a receiver, with just 155 yards and a touchdown. But with
Eric Decker likely out for a while, Royal has a chance to be a much
bigger part of the offense. He did catch a 30-yard touchdown from Tebow
in the Broncos' win over the Steelers. The Broncos don't throw often
but like to take shots downfield, so Royal's speed could be an asset
against New England.
--RB Willis McGahee was bottled up against
Pittsburgh, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. He has an easier
matchup in round two against New England. He had 70 yards on seven
carries against the Patriots last month.
--TE Daniel Fells caught two passes for 57 yards
against Pittsburgh, and by default could become a bigger target for the
Broncos. With Eric Decker likely out with a knee injury, the Broncos
could use more multiple tight end looks, and Fells could play a larger
role in the passing game.
--OT Ryan Harris, signed after guard Chris Kuper
suffered a season-ending leg injury, was inactive for the Broncos'
first playoff game.
--FB Spencer Larsen was out against Pittsburgh
with a knee injury, and if he can return against the Patriots, that
would help Denver's inside running game, which didn't get much going
against Pittsburgh. Denver's longest run against the Steelers was 11
--LB Von Miller has been struggling ever since
having thumb surgery, but he did have a sack and three tackles against
the Steelers. The Broncos need him to be effective against Tom Brady,
who had way too much time to throw in the first meeting between the
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Tebow Makes Things Happen
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