The Denver Broncos face a struggling Miami Dolphins team this Sunday, and are looking themselves to get back on track after two weeks off. The Broncos season officially went into "rebuilding" mode when head coach John Fox made the switch at quarterback to Tim Tebow and then traded their best wide receiver, Brandon Lloyd for a late round draft pick.
However, all is not lost for the Broncos, as they face a beatable Miami Dolphins team who haven't won a game and face great uncertainty all over.
These are the keys to the game for the Broncos in Week 7.
Champ Bailey has the same task that Darrelle Revis had on Monday Night Football when the New York Jets took on the Miami Dolphins: Brandon Marshall. A former Denver Bronco receiver, Brandon Marshall had an above average game, eclipsing the 100-yard mark against Revis, however, a crucial drop in the end zone by Marshall changed the complexion of the game, giving Revis the “win” in the matchup.
Revis covered Marshall tightly all game, and his efforts were rewarded when he picked off two balls by Matt Moore, one of which was returned for a 100-yard pick six.
Bailey shutdown the Chargers marquee receiver Vincent Jackson last week, limiting him to just three receptions for 34 yards. Jackson was targeted six times but only made three catches. Bailey needs to cover Marshall tightly, as the inexperienced Moore is still struggling to regain his accuracy and some errant passes could make for great field position if Bailey can get an interception or two.
The other key for the Broncos on defense will be pressure.
This is an easy one. The Broncos have to keep Matt Moore out of a rhythm and on the ground. They need to hurry his passes and force him to make errors or take sacks. The Dolphins do a good job keeping their quarterback upright, however, the Jets found a way to get to Moore, picking up four sacks and recording eleven hits on the quarterback.
Elvis Dumervil is reportedly feeling much better than he did at the start of the season, and the Broncos will need him to generate pressure on Moore, or at least occupy the entire right side of the defense to allow others to get to the quarterback. Robert Ayers has finally started to get a grasp of defense in the NFL, as he had a strip sack against Philip Rivers and the Chargers in Week 5. The dazzling No. 2 overall pick, Von Miller needs to harass Moore and pick up a sack or two also.
Tim Tebow is a dynamic leader, has a charismatic spirit, and can inspire the rest of the Broncos to greatness that they didn’t realize they had.
However, the key for Tebow this week is a victory. The Dolphins are winless through the first six weeks of the season, and John Fox and Co. brought Tebow in to win. Orton couldn’t get it done, so the Broncos are rolling with Tebow.
The key to this game for Tebow will be to run the football. Like many of the teams in the NFL, the Dolphins, defensively, are unprepared for an unpredictable quarterback like Tebow who can pass on you, or make defenders miss running the ball. Tebow needs to be able to punch the ball in in the red zone with his wheels. A running quarterback keeps the defense honest, but more importantly, it puts them back on their heels in expectation for Tebow to pull up make a play on the ground.
This is going to take away from some of the Dolphins aggressiveness on defense. They will have to keep in the back of their minds the fact that Tebow can beat them with his feet just as easily as he can beat them with his arm.
The Denver Broncos are expected to get their rookie tight end, Julius Thomas, back this week against the Miami Dolphins. Thomas is a big, physical tight end and former basketball star built in the mold of Antonio Gates. Tebow, as he looks to find his rhythm and make some passes, needs to look to Thomas early and often. Daniel Fells, a versatile blocking and receiving tight end, should also see plenty of balls come his way.
The tight end position is another unpredictable, dynamic weapon that has evolved in the past ten years or so, creating mismatches for defenses and headaches for coordinators. Thomas has seen limited action in his two previous games, but when the Broncos traded away Brandon Lloyd to the Rams for a sixth-round draft pick earlier this week, he has been thrust into the spotlight more as the rest of the receiving corps will be asked to step up.
The tight end offers short outlets for Tebow who will look to gain confidence passing the ball early on. These big targets with good hands provide that for Tebow. He must prove to his coaches, and himself, that he can make NFL passes and move the ball by trusting his team around him, not trying to carry the team on his back. Relying on his teammates to make plays too, will be the difference between a W and just coming up short.
Knowshon Moreno was brought in to Denver to be the next 1000-yard rusher when he was drafted by Josh McDaniels in 2009. Moreno hasn’t worked out to be that guy.
However, despite Moreno’s lack of ability to pound the ball, the Broncos do have a dynamic receiving running back out of the back field who can make people miss and outrun defenders when given the space.
Moreno is becoming one of the latest trends in the NFL of small, speedy running back-receivers who can make dynamic plays off of screens, swing passes and the like. Tebow has, in Moreno, a valuable asset who can take some of the pressure off his shoulders. The offense has to create plays which utilize Moreno’s skills out of the backfield to create mismatches in the defense’s second and third levels.
One of the main key differences between Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow is their clutch play. When the game is close in the 4th quarter, the two quarterbacks vastly differ.
ESPN.com ran the numbers between Tebow and Orton for the Total QBR, a metric developed by ESPN to improve the traditional quarterback rating, which depends heavily on stats and ignores the circumstances of the stats.
The Total QBR measures the “clutchness” of a quarterback based on “action” plays and plays that could be scoring opportunities. ESPN.com’s AFC West blogger, Bill Williamson, breaks down the difference between Tebow and Orton’s Total QBR during the 4th quarter: “Tebow has been better than Orton when it counts. In his NFL career, Tebow’s QBR in the fourth quarter is 68.1. Orton’s QBR late in games, however, is not strong. His fourth quarter QBR since the start of the 2010 season is 37.7.”
This is where the Broncos need to win. The fourth quarter for the Broncos have been where the game has been decided in the four games decided by five points or less for the Broncos. In those four games, the Broncos only have one victory.
Tebow has to find a way to win games in the 4th quarter, close is good, but winning is much better. If Tebow wants to prove to the front office and his many “haters” that he isn’t just a stop gap, sideshow, he needs to prove he is a winner in the NFL.