Sports: Rick Jussel Column October 19, 2008
Defense has to stop the pass to beat Pats
Tom Brady must be kicking himself right now.
If the All-World quarterback from New England wasn’t feeling bad enough about missing the season because of a knee injury on opening day, he certainly will be feeling down in the dumps about missing Monday night’s contest against the Denver Broncos.
All Brady has done over the past several years is throw for roughly 300 yards per game, add three or four TD passes and complete three out of every four of his passes.
Imagine what a healthy Brady would do against the Broncos.
The best quarterback in the NFL this season, Drew Brees of New Orleans, went 39 of 48 for more than 400 yards against Denver.
Another of the league’s top passers, Philip Rivers of the Chargers, went 21 of 33 for almost 400 yards against the Broncos.
Those are the really good QBs Denver has faced.
Consider these as well: David Garrard of Jacksonville, 25 of 34; Brian Griese and Jeff Garcia of Tampa Bay, 26 of 36.
And, for goodness sakes, these: Damon Huard of the Chiefs, 21 of 28; and JaMarcus Russell of the Raiders, 17 of 26.
Damon Huard? JaMarcus Russell?
Yes, even those bottom feeders have completed nearly three-quarters of their passes against Denver.
This season, the Broncos have allowed opponents to complete 72.7 percent of their pass attempts, the worst in football.
Denver has allowed 1,533 yards in the air, good for 255.5 yards per game, the worst figures in the AFC.For comparison’s sake, Baltimore has given up 772 air yards, Pittsburgh 824 and Tennessee 860.
Brady, who had the best season any quarterback ever mustered up just last year, can probably be found in some New England gutter today, unshaven, destitute and face down, muttering “If only I could play against the Broncos” over and over again.
That brings us to the $64,000 Question: Will Denver’s gawd-awful pass defense turn Matt Cassel,
Brady’s backup who never started a game in his college career at Southern Cal where he was backup to Matt Leinart, into a Brady clone?
Even with Brady out, the Patriots have not gone conservative and tried to rely on the run. They are still putting it up 30 times a game — but Cassel has not been effective.
He has completed 64.8 percent of his passes, but for only 910 yards, 182 yards per game, and 6.4 yards per attempt — a far cry from the 8.5 yards per attempt Brady averaged last year on 578 passes, 48 of which resulted in TDs.
The Patriots should not be able to beat the Broncos with Cassel throwing short passes and no Maurice Jones-Drew type to run the ball.
This is the perfect opportunity for Denver’s defense to shine.
Put Champ Bailey on Randy Moss one-on-one, and let the rest of the defenders chase Cassel. The Patriots gave up 21 sacks last season. They have given up 20 already this season.
If ever the Broncos were to put pressure on the passer, this is the time.
It also wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Broncos to hang onto the football.
The Broncos lost to the Chiefs, thanks in large part to three turnovers.
The Broncos also lost to the Jags last week. They turned it over three times in that one as well.
That’s the task Monday: Chase Cassel and hold onto the football.
It is indeed asking a lot, trying to beat the great Bill Belichick and his Pats in New England, but the reward will be great. With a win, the Broncos would be 5-2 with the bye week to follow.
I’ll take my 4-2 record picking with or against Denver (3-2-1 against the spread), and say the Broncos, a 31/2-point underdog, cover the spread and win the game.
Miami waltzed into Foxboro and blasted the Pats 38-13. There is no reason the Broncos can’t do something similar — unless, of course, Cassel goes all Brady on us.
Make it Denver 32, New England 18.