NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, lionized by some, scorned by many (incidentally, count me among those who think he’s doing a great job overall), has helped shape a league wherein parity rules the day and teams, regardless of how elite they may be are in danger of losing any given week.
Much to the consternation of Denver Broncos fans, last Thursday, their beloved squad found themselves on the wrong end of a 27-20 loss to the 7-7 San Diego Chargers who are still mathematically alive for the sixth and final wild card sport in the AFC playoffs, but presently on the outside looking in.
As I have perused Twitter this NFL season, as well as listened to various radio shows in such markets as San Diego, Vancouver, B.C., and Philadelphia, there has been significant discussion as to how to best stymie this prolific Broncos offense.
The Chargers’ methodology was sound, but a lot has to go right for said opponent. Last Thursday, Philip Rivers had to attempt only 20 passes, but he averaged a healthy 8.3 yards per attempt and the running game amassed 177 yards, significant because on the season, Denver only surrenders 105.3 yards on the ground per game.
Furthermore, San Diego controlled the clock for 38:49 and when defensive coordinator John Pagano unveiled a game plan which stymied Peyton Manning, the Broncos found themselves forced to play perfect football, an achievement they failed to reach, punctuated by a Thomas Keiser interception of Manning in the 4th Quarter when Denver was down 24-17.
Nevertheless, because the Miami Dolphins kept their playoff hopes alive in downing the New England Patriots, 24-20 Sunday, Denver was able to retain home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs so long as they take care of business against the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders the next two weeks.
Because of lingering injuries to defensive linemen Derek Wolfe, the Broncos reportedly have brought in Jeremy Mincey Tuesday, a former Jacksonville Jaguar who defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio coached when he was the head coach in Jacksonville.
Mincey technically played 5.5 seasons with Jacksonville posting 20 sacks, an interception, six forced fumbles, 119 tackles and 11 passes defended and has always proven to be a solid rotational player for traditionally strong Jaguars defenses.
Despite a pedestrian night by his standards, Peyton Manning continues to excel as presently he completes 67.8 percent of his passes for 47 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a career-best 4,811 yards with two games left, while averaging 343.6 yards per game, also a career-best.
In short, all that needs to be done for the Broncos, moving forward, is to take care of business, if they defeat the Texans and Raiders, Sports Authority Field at Mile High will once again be the home of the AFC’s top seed with another chance to exorcise demons of the past.
Before I close this post, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Andre Caldwell, who in the absence of Wes Welker, suffering from a concussion, who had half of his receptions (6) as a Bronco, scoring two touchdown on receptions and amassing 59 yards.
Caldwell, when given the opportunity, has made big plays, as has Jacob Tamme, with 14 receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown, in 2013.
If the Broncos do end up hoisting the Lombardi trophy the first Sunday of February at Met Life Stadium, it will be because of contributions from the likes of Caldwell and Tamme, stepping up in a pinch when their services were needed the most in the ultimate team game.