Jussel: Broncos have fared well against good defenses this season
The Denver Broncos have not faced the National Football League’s best defensive team, the Seattle Seahawks, this season.
Bronco fans everywhere are quaking.
It’s OK to be nervous folks. After all, it is the Super Bowl we’re talking about. It’s the best offensive team, the Broncos, who averaged 37.9 points and 457 yards per game, facing a Seattle team that allowed only 14 points and 270 yards per game.
This won’t be the first good defensive team Denver has faced.
They faced the Houston Texans late in the season and hung up 37 points on the league’s seventh-best defense that allowed only 317 yards a game. In that one, Bronco QB and league surefire MVP Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and four TDs. Houston, known for J.J. Watt’s ferocity and super pass rush, had no sacks and all of two QB hurries.
In the first week of the season, Denver obliterated Baltimore, the 12th-best defense that allowed only 22 points per game. Manning threw seven TD passes and for 462 yards, leading to 49 points.
The next week on the road against brother Eli and the New York Giants, the eighth-ranked defense, Peyton had 307 passing yards and two TD passes before shutting it down early as the Broncos scored another 41 points.
Midway through the season, the Tennessee Titans, the 14th-ranked defense, arrived in Denver only to give up 51 points as Manning tossed for 397 yards and four TDs against a team that featured two of the league’s better cornerbacks.
That’s four good defensive teams Manning and the Broncos annihilated.
We haven’t talked about the Kansas City Chiefs, who came into New Mile High unbeaten and seemingly unable to be penetrated, only to lose 27-17. The Chiefs were renowned for their pass rush, yet Manning was not sacked and threw for 323 yards.
The Broncos scored 35 points in their second win over the Chiefs with Manning throwing for 403 yards and another five TDs. The Chiefs, despite a late-season defensive plunge that started with this game, allowed only 19 points per game on the season, fifth-best total in the league.
No, the Broncos haven’t faced the Seahawks, the latest incarnation of stonewall defensive units over the past several years. But they have faced decent defensive units and put up record-breaking offensive numbers against teams that are not much worse defensively than the Seahawks.
Seattle’s defense will present problems for Denver’s offense because it has the best defensive backfield in the league, led, of course, by the loquacious Richard Sherman, by reputation the best cover cornerback in existence. Sherman is ranked sixth by Pro Football Focus and leads the league in interceptions by a cornerback with eight.
The Seahawks also boast the 13th-rated corner in Byron Maxwell and the 31st-rated corner in Walter Thurman.
Making their secondary particularly nasty is All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, the eighth-rated safety, and Kam Chancellor, rated 12th.
This is the matchup that will decide the game: Denver’s best — Manning and his receivers — going against Seattle’s best — Sherman and his pals in the secondary.
Sherman, known for his in-your-face press coverage at the line of scrimmage, is big for a corner at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds.
He’s had his worst games of the season, however, against Houston’s Andre Johnson (nine catches for 110 yards) and San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin (six catches for 93 yards) during the regular season — two big, physical receivers who don’t take to being bumped too kindly.
Another player Sherman covered often, T.Y. Hilton of the Colts, not big, but hard to jam, had five catches for 140 yards and two TDs.
Yes, Sherman will likely get the primary assignment of covering Denver’s top receiver, 6-foot-3, 230-pound Demaryius Thomas, especially when Thomas lines up on Denver’s right side, where Sherman usually plays.
Look for some serious hand-to-hand combat from those two early in that matchup — and resulting penalty flags or no-calls.
The other key matchup that will be ongoing will be Chancellor going against Denver’s tight end matchup nightmare, Julius Thomas. Those two should be one-on-one throughout.
Yes, it will be strength against strength Sunday.
We’ll see if Mr. Manning has done his homework and can quickly pick up the mismatches.
He’s certainly done it before — and done it against a wide variety of tough defenses since 1999.
Don’t see much reason he won’t do it again.
Rick Jussel if a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.