Broncos have what it takes to beat Pats

It was Dec. 18 in Denver and on hand was big bad Bill Belichick, Hall of Fame to-be quarterback Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots.

The Broncos were riding a six-game winning streak, the Patriots were at five and counting.

Much had been made prior to the game of the rather meteoric rise of young Denver QB Tim Tebow and the magic that seemingly followed wherever he strode. Brady and the Pats had been under the radar thanks to the Tebow storyline, as well as the Herculean performances of other QBs in the league like Aaron Rogers and Drew Brees.

The magic that had surrounded Tebow and his mates continued that December day — for one quarter.

With Tebow and Willis McGahee leading the way, the Broncos scored two touchdowns and a field goal on their first three possessions for a 16-7 lead. In the first quarter alone, the Broncos rushed for 167 yards.

Then the bubble burst.

The Patriots scored 20 points in the second quarter, thanks to Broncos bearing gifts. Running back Lance Ball fumbled on the Denver 19, Tebow fumbled on the Denver 40 and return man Quan Cosby muffed a punt inside the 20 with only three seconds remaining in the half, handing the Pats a 34-yard field goal and a 27-16 lead.

That 10-minute series of blunders forced the Broncos to ditch their rushing attack and forced Tebow to stand in the pocket and fire away — something he obviously was not comfortable with at the time.

The Broncos had a difficult time with the no-huddle, had a difficult time stopping the Patriots rushing game (141 yards), lost the three fumbles and committed seven penalties.

Not exactly the way to beat the Patriots.

The confounding continued last week when the Broncos snapped out of their doldrums against, despite the well-documented injury situation, a very good Pittsburgh team.

I found myself yelling “run!” as Demaryius Thomas straight-armed, then sprinted away from Ike Taylor for the winning touchdown, crossing the goal line only 11 seconds into overtime.

To me, that was a fitting end to a game that featured blown call after blown call, among them three face mask violations on the Steelers that were out in the open for everyone but the officials to see and the backward pass that was recovered by the Broncos but somehow blown dead before the ball even hit the ground. Had that play been called correctly, there would have been no need for overtime.

But Tebow, who did indeed throw for 316 yards, and his buddies overcame.

There will be much more to overcome today.

Win this one and the Broncos will be the leading story on every TV, radio, newspaper and magazine for the next week.

Can it happen?

Stranger things have happened — just not very many.

Denver can win this game. The plot is already written.

Take that 16-7 lead and don’t fumble it away.

The Patriots can be physically manhandled by Denver’s running game. And, as he showed last week, Tebow can hit the long, play-action pass, something that did not come into play in the last meeting because once the Pats went up by 11 points, all they did was sit back in a two-deep zone and dare Tebow to hit the tight end over the middle — something he’s not good at doing.

The Broncos have to slow Brady & Co., and they won’t do that if the Pats have the ball. Denver has to keep a firm grip on it, no fumbles, no INTs; first down after first down.

That could happen. It has to happen.

This isn’t the Denver team of the previous three, four years. This is a team that has an attitude.

I’ll take my now-sub-.500 record picking with or against the Broncos and hope my perfect reverse-barometer streak continues. The Pats win it, but not without a fight: New England 28, Denver 24.

Rick Jussel is the former sports editor of The Daily Sentinel. Email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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