Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
For three quarters in the divisional round, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like a better team than the Denver Broncos.
Then came the run by the Steelers’ Fitzgerald Toussaint, the forced fumble by Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby and the recovery by linebacker DeMarcus Ware. What followed was a 13-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that took up six minutes, 52 seconds of the clock. The end result would be a 23-16 victory by a Denver team that is preparing to host the New England Patriots in the AFC title game for the second time in three years.
Gary Kubiak’s team must exercise the same kind of patience it did against the Steelers. Controlling the football via the running game is vital. Error-free football from veteran quarterback Peyton Manning (which he has done in terms of turnovers since returning to the lineup in Week 17) is imperative.
Getting Tom Brady and the Pats to turn over the football won't be easy. Getting to Brady could be the key to forcing a mistake or two. Of course, in 17 total outings this season, the Patriots have only coughed up the football 14 times.
Then again, no team was better at getting to opposing quarterbacks this season than the Broncos, who totaled an NFL-high 52 sacks in the regular season and three more in the divisional-round win over the Steelers.
It may take some time, as was the case when the Broncos rallied back in November from that 21-7 deficit, but don’t be surprised if a play by the defense in the fourth quarter opens the door for a return to the Super Bowl.