the Broncos have to do on Sunday
An Insiders perspective from New England
By Jon Scott, PatriotsInsider.com
things the Broncos have to do on Sunday from the New England perspective:
1) Run, run and run some more.
The first few games of the season opposing teams have had success with the run against the Patriots defense. Pittsburgh and Atlanta gave up on it too early. Atlanta was forced to play catchup, which is one reason they couldn't do more damage on the ground, but Pittsburgh never seemed to get on track.
The Patriots have one of the least effective run defenses in the league giving up 114 yards per game (20th in the league). Teams that use the run to setup the pass have figured out how to beat the defending Super Bowl champions. With Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson Rodney Harrison and Keith Traylor gone, the Patriots have become soft in the middle. Last season those players helped New England hold down the sixth best rush defense in the league surrendering only 98 yards per game.
If Denver can use it's second ranked ground game to pound the ball, they will be able to setup send or third and short, greatly improving their ability to control the clock. If Denver finds the ground game rough going, and cannot open things up, the Patriots have a much better chance to win.
2) Hit the long ball.
The Patriots defense has so many issues, it wouldn't matter if Denver ran or passed on first down. The key for the Broncos will be to hit a deep pass against the young, inexperienced and injury depleted secondary. The Patriots have given up more long pass completions this season already than they did all of last year.
The Patriots have been giving space to receivers other than the opponent's number one, allowing these secondary options to have big receiving days. If Denver cannot get Rod Smith on track, they should be able to find Ashlee Lelie open for the long game. The deep middle of the field has been one area successfully targeted. This is more of a reflection of the absence of Rodney Harrison and the inconsistent play coming from second year safety Guss Scott.
New England has 15 players on the injury report, most of who have been downgraded from probable to questionable. The Friday report might be part of Bill Belichick's intention to send a message to the league about their inaction against Atlanta's head Coach Jim Mora, who apparently played games with Michael Vick's injury. What is accurate about the report is virtually every Patriot's starting defensive back has either been listed as questionable on the report, or is still on it. A healthy Denver receiving corp will have the added benefit of going up against players who are not fully healthy.
3) Keep the Ball out of Tom Brady's hands late in the game.
This goes without saying most of the time; yet opposing coaches still make the mistake of giving the ball back to the Patriots late in a close game, with too much time on the clock. The Patriots have engineered two fourth quarter victories won by a last minute field goal already this season.
In a close game, the Patriots seem to play better knowing what's at stake. With Adam Vinatieri and Tom Brady working together, the team just assumes they'll be able to stage a late comeback. The receivers work harder to pick up yardage, the line appears to block better, and the entire team takes on the mentality of having been there and done that. If Denver has the ball late in the game, and they're tied or ahead, head coach Mike Shanahan better call running plays to eat up the clock, or Brady and Vinatieri will improve their mark of 20 games in which they've marched down the field to kick the wining field goal.
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