- Keep Brady Quinn out of the game
- Eliminate the mistakes
- Return to a winning tradition
As it tends to work in the NFL playoffs, what happened last week means almost nothing going into the next.
Each week in the postseason effectively erases the one before, and a new season begins every weekend.
This time the Broncos face their biggest challenge yet. They need to travel to Gillette Stadium in an effort to take out a team that gave them their first loss after a six-game winning streak earlier this year.
A similar regimen is in order for Tebow and the Broncos this week.
With the addition of former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, the Patriots continue to add sharp edges to their advantage over Denver.
Denver will require every element of its arsenal to work together toward the ultimate goal of victory and a trip to the AFC Championship Game the following week.
Keep the Mistakes at a Minimum
Denver did well to minimize the mistakes in its game against the Steelers—Willis McGahee fumbled twice, losing the ball once.
On the other hand, the Broncos did exactly the opposite against the Patriots in Week 15.
After getting out to a great start against New England, Denver put the ball on the ground three times within its own 30-yard line—all within the second quarter of the game.
The Patriots quickly turned these slip-ups and blunders into 13 points and pulled away from Denver. They would never again relinquish the lead in that game.
Denver's main focus this week needs to be ball security.
As the team learned in Week 15, there is no way to give Tom Brady that many great opportunities and still hope to come away with a win.
If Denver would have eliminated those fumbles and made, at the very least, some modest drives out of the chances it had, the score could have swung in the other direction greatly.
It's Hard to Beat a Team Twice
Denver would do best to learn its lessons well from Week 15.
NFL teams have an amazing amount of resources at their disposal when planning for big games.
Denver and New England have a huge advantage this week because they can study tape from their matchup only four weeks ago.
The difference is that New England doesn't have much to adjust.
The Patriots played their game almost perfectly.
Brady saw every mismatch and every blown coverage. Double-teams and double-coverage were ineffective as he checked down consistently to find his open receivers.
The Patriots defense did its part by limiting Tebow's passing game—even with the 31st-ranked passing yards per game defense—and forcing big turnovers.
Denver has the advantage here because it has plenty of things it can adjust to give New England a different look this week.
Not to say that the Patriots won't make adjustments, but it's hard to mess with success. What worked four weeks ago should most likely work again.
It's up to Denver to change its plans to exploit the weaknesses of New England's game.
In Week 15 the Broncos stuck with the run game that had gotten them that far, rather than try to exploit the weak New England secondary.
The Wild Card Round of the playoffs showed everybody that this quarterback and receiving corps does have the potential to be deadly—this will be especially true when facing such a low-caliber passing defense.
Tebow managed to put up 316 yards against the No. 1 pass defense (based on yards per game). He should have another terrific game against the Pats if the game plan is right.
Pressure, Pressure and More Pressure
Every team in the NFL knows how to beat the Bradys and Mannings behind center.
The trouble is finding a way to get it done.
The trouble is getting to the guy consistently without limiting your defense's pass coverage.
The trouble is not allowing him to exploit a quick dump-off pass after picking up your blitz.
The trouble is Tom Brady is an offensive genius and it's just almost impossible to stifle his passing prowess.
How does Denver change this?
Who knows for sure?
Elvis Dumvervil proved in Week 15 that he had the ability to reach Brady in the backfield. But he only managed to do it once.
Denver needs to develop a scheme that would enable it to consistently pressure Brady in the pocket without giving him a shot at winning the lottery on every slant and screen.
The Denver defense faces a quarterback this week that, while not being as big and powerful, is much more mobile than Ben Roethlisberger and his injured ankle.
Head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen need to find an answer to Brady and his high-flying offense if they plan on keeping their squad in the mix for the Lombardi Trophy.
Execution is Key
As John Fox stated earlier this week, the Broncos did nothing differently against Pittsburgh other than to execute when they needed to.
The big plays worked as planned, the receivers caught the ball when they were supposed to, and Tebow delivered the football accurately and on time.
Just like the plan to pressure Brady, this may be one of the easiest things to plan and the hardest to actually get done.
Trust the starters to play the way they're paid to, and hope that everything falls in the order it's designed.
Execution will be Denver's biggest key to victory in Foxboro, just as it was last week at home.
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