Today's question about the Broncos comes from Greg Pearce in Virginia Beach, Va.:
Q: I would like to bring the elephant in the room into question. If and when the Broncos play the Patriots in the postseason what would the keys to Denver's victory be? Would the Patriots have the same plan for a fast attack at a mile high?
A: Greg, the Broncos are one game away from playing the Patriots so they have some business to conduct before they get to that point.
But Patriots-Broncos, Tom Brady-Peyton Manning with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line would be a match-up plenty of network TV folks, fans and, frankly, a lot of people in the NFL would want to see.
But the Patriots certainly know the way to the Super Bowl with five trips — three wins — in Bill Belichick's tenure with Brady behind center. The Broncos are a young team with some veterans sprinkled in who have played in a Super Bowl (Manning, Brandon Stokley, Keith Brooking and Dan Koppen), so they'll have to show they're ready for the title chase.
Champ Bailey, for one, consistently references the Broncos cave-in in the AFC Championship Game to close out the 2005 season. The Broncos were a team that believed its road to the Super Bowl was clear before the team had actually won its way into the title game.
The Steelers came into Denver and dominated the Broncos on the way to a Super Bowl win as the AFC's No. 6 seed. So the Broncos are going to have to be mature enough to simply get the match-up with the Patriots.
Should that happen, the Patriots will not be able to run their offense at quite the pace they ran it earlier this season in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots ran 89 plays against the Broncos defense — by far the highest total of any Denver opponent this season.
Just three other teams topped 70 plays against the Broncos and nobody else topped 72 plays. Five teams ran 60 or fewer plays and two of the last four teams (Oakland and K.C.) didn't top 50.
But it's far more difficult to run the no-huddle on the road because of the noise. In Foxborough, the Patriots often used one-word play calls at the line to keep the pace moving.
That would far more difficult to do at Mile High because not all of the Patriots offensive players would be able to hear, especially if the Broncos home crowd arrived with the intention of making life difficult for the Patriots.
The Patriots, however, are still fairly adept at keeping things moving on the road. They topped 77 plays on the road once this season — 85 plays at Seattle, which is one of the loudest stadiums in the league. But the Seahawks allowed the Patriots offense just two trips inside the red zone in what was a 24-23 win for Seattle.
By contrast, the Patriots topped 77 plays three times at home, including the 89 against the Broncos, and a whopping 92 in the loss to the 49ers.
But, alas, for defenses facing somebody like Brady, it isn't always the quantity that gets you, it is the efficiency as well. The Patriots ran 60 plays on offense against the Rams earlier this season. They won that game 45-7 and scored touchdowns on six of seven trips into the red zone. The 66 plays accounted for their second-lowest output of the season.
The Patriots also ran 60 plays against the Colts — in Foxborough, their second-lowest total of the season — and scored a season-high 59 points. Brady was 24-of-35 passing in the game for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
So, fast or slow, the Broncos challenges with the Patriots will be to first play their way into the matchup and second, corralling Brady no matter how fast he's running plays.