Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Broncos: more 77, 09 comparisons

I've been making comparisons between the 1977 and the 2009 Broncos since training camp. What struck me this week is how similar many of the coaches and players are between these two teams.

Coaching staff

77 Red Miller/09 Josh McDaniels - Many of the similarities I already wrote about: first nfl head coaching job, both replaced the most successful coach in Bronco history up until that time (77 Ralston, 09 Shanahan), both were New England Patriots offensive coordinators before coming to the Broncos. Now add both got off to a 6-0 start in their first Bronco season!

77 Joel Collier/09 Mike Nolan - These two were both known to be among the best defensive coordinators in the game, but both failed as a head coach (Collier with Buffalo, Nolan with San Francisco). After the head coaching failure each man came to the Broncos to once again to be a defensive coordinator, with spectacular success.


QB 77 Craig Morton/09 Kyle Orton - Veteran quarterbacks who were given up by their former teams (Morton - Giants, Orton - Bears)

RB 77 Rob Lytle/09 Knowshon Moreno - Rookie early round draft picks who played an important part of the Broncos running back by committee. Each had a bit of a fumbling problem (ask Al Davis about Rob Lytle).

RB 77 Otis Armstrong/09 Correll Buckhalter - veteran running backs considered past their prime yet excelling in the Broncos running back by committee.

RB 77 Jon Keyworth/09 Peyton Hillis - big running backs used in short yardage with good receiving skills

WR 77 Haven Moses/09 Brandon Marshall - each was the "go to" man for his bronco qb. Each used his size to get an advantage on smaller cornerbacks.

WR 77 Rick Upchurch/09 Eddie Royal - speedy wide receivers who also had a big impact in the kick return game

WR 77 Jack Dolbin/09 Brandon Stokely - white man can run! Deceptively fast receivers with good hands

TE 77 Riley Odoms/09 Daniel Graham - veteran tight ends winding down their careers but still with something left to give the Broncos

Center 77 Mike Montler/09 Casey Wiegmann - nfl veteran centers from other teams whose careers were revived with the Broncos


LB 77 Tom Jackson/09 Elvis Dumervil - young impact linebackers who graduated from LOUISVILLE

DB 77 Billy Thompson/09 Brian Dawkins - Grandfathers of the defense. Veteran safeties that stabilized their defenses.

DB 77 Louis Wright/09 Champ Bailey - All pro "shutdown" corners.

DB 77 Bernard Jackson/09 Renaldo Hill - veteran safeties acquired from other NFL teams. 77 was Jackson's first year with the Broncos, 09 was Hill's first year with the Broncos.


Will the 2009 Broncos reach the Super Bowl like the 1977 team? Time will tell but after this week's win at San Diego I think they have a legitimate shot. The 2009 team is more balanced than the 77 team (better offense than 77 team, very good defense but not quite as good as the 77 Orange Crush D).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wow! Broncos pass rush the great equalizer

The Broncos are 6-0! I thought the Chargers pass game would do the Broncos in tonight. What I didn't count on was the Broncos great pass rush against a shaky San Diego offensive line. A great pass rush negates a great passing attack every time!

The offense is coming around, too. Good to see Tony Scheffler more involved tonight and Kyle Orton had another solid game. The team has so many weapons. In this game Scheffler and Eddie Royal were the stars, while the heroes of the New England game (Brandon Marshall and Knowshon Moreno) were relatively quiet.

This team has great balance between the offense and defense, and finds new ways to win each week. And I think the best is yet to come!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rivers Won't Miss

As I was watching last week's Denver Broncos/New England Patriots game from the North Stands at Invesco Field, I was reminded of the January 2006 playoff game between the two teams.

In that playoff game Patriots QB Tom Brady was off, missing open receivers throughout the game in the Denver secondary. I noticed the same thing last Sunday - Brady had open receivers, he just wasn't hitting them.

In 2006 after that Denver playoff win the following week Pittsburgh came to town. Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger also had open receivers all game and he didn't miss - Pittsburgh came away with a 34-17 upset win over the Broncos.

I'm afraid the same thing is going to happen this Monday night. San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers has a great receiving corp and he's not going to miss open wideouts like Tom Brady did.

Yes I predict the Broncos first loss Monday night. The 77 team got off to a 6-0 start before losing at home to division rival Oakland 24-14 in week 7. Like that 77 team a loss Monday night will be a temporary setback and I still think the Broncos will make the playoffs this year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Broncos/Patriots: 20-17 41 years later

On this Monday I'm enjoying the Broncos at 5-0 after a thrilling win over the New England Patriots yesterday. More of my thoughts on the Broncos later in the week.

At the game I bought a game program for the first time in years - a "legacy" program pictured to the right above. When I was a kid growing up in Denver I used to save Bronco programs. I went back into my Bronco program collection today and found the program pictured to the left - from September 29, 1968.

41 years ago this 1968 Broncos/Pats game was my first home game as a season ticket holder. I sat in the South Stands as a 12 year old excited for the new season. The program says "Stadium Dedication Day" - that's because the upper deck on the West Side of the old Bears Stadium (later renamed Mile Hi Stadium) had been completed in the offseason, increasing the capacity to an NFL acceptable 50,000. Later expansions would bring the stadium's seating capacity to 75,000.

In that game 41 years ago the score was the same as yesterday's - except the Patriot's won. Yes, 41 years ago the final score was Boston 20, Denver 17. As the box score indicates, the winning margin was on a SEVEN yard field goal by the Patriot's Gino Cappelletti. Cappelletti was at yesterday's game, too, as part of the Patriots broadcast team.

How do you kick a seven yard field goal? And the goal posts back then were on the goal line, not in the back of the end zone. I think I could have made that kick!

Over my 41 years as a season ticket holder I've seen many Broncos/Patriots games after that first disappointment in 1968. Yesterday's game, and the January 2006 Broncos playoff win, were definitely the best!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Time to wear the old bronco stocking cap

Sunday is Legacy Day for the Denver Broncos as players will wear throwback uniforms resembling the ones worn in 1960. I'll do my part and wear my Broncos stocking cap (with temperatures projected to be in the 30's I'll need it!). I don't remember exactly when I bought this cap - I think it was as a teen in the late 60's or early 70's.

I still wear the cap when shoveling snow and (of course) when attending cold Bronco games. Last time I wore it to a game I was going for refreshments and suddenly felt a slap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a guy in his 70's missing a few teeth. "Hey!" he said in a raspy voice as he pointed to a cap just like mine on his head, "I haven't seen another one of these in years!"

I must be getting old.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

McDaniels meets with the Bronco Quarterback Club

Tonight was my first chance to see Josh McDaniels up close. I along with other members of the Bronco Quarterback Club were invited to watch the taping of Channel 4's Josh McDaniels Show at the Broncos Conditioning Center in Dove Valley. McDaniels answered questions from club members afterwards.

McDaniels walked right by my chair at the start of the meeting and my first reaction was "who is this kid?" He looked so young and he's not very big. I figured he must know what he's doing to command respect from much larger (and in some cases) much older NFL players. McDaniels was wearing his signature "hoodie".

Below I'll paraphrase some of the comments McDaniels made.

McDaniels saw someone in the audience wearing a yellow Bronco "throwback" jersey. "We're going to wear the yellow jerseys in practice on Friday to get over the initial shock" of playing in these unusual looking jerseys. McDaniels joked he was going to wear "an old school hoodie" on Sunday.

When asked how it feels to be 4-0 McDaniels said he was pleased but he's "a long way from being satisfied." He said the team has had a long and tough week of preparation for the Patriots. This team is definitely not resting on its laurels.

McDaniels talked about the Patriots. He said they like to run from the shotgun formation (and illustrated that by showing a scoring run from Sammy Morris last Sunday). Their offensive line is experienced and quick hitting. Bill Belichick does a great job of designing pressure to get to the quarterback - you'll never see the Patriots run past the quarterback. They rush to a spot.

A play was shown where Baltimore blitzed the Patriots in the red zone. McDaniels pointed out how Tom Brady immediately recognized this and threw to Randy Moss who had drawn 1 to 1 coverage. Very few cornerbacks can cover Moss 1 to 1 and the play resulted in an easy touchdown.

McDaniels stressed you can't play one defense against the Patriots. You have to disguise your defensive schemes throughout the game.

McDaniels then answered some questions from members of the quarterback club.

Why did Dallas go after Champ 2 plays in a row at the end of the game on Sunday?

I don't know. Champ was in great position on those 2 plays. He played slightly off the receiver, read which way the receiver was going to cut, then quickly moved up to knock down the ball.

Why did you go for it on 4th and 1?

The wind was a factor in the game. From the pregame warmups I figured the maximum field goal into the wind was 48 yards and that's how long the field goal attempt would have been. I wanted to show the players I had confidence in them to go for it, and they were excited about it. We didn't like the result (not making the 1st down) but I felt it was the right call to go for it.

Do you know what Tom Brady's weaknesses are?

Yes but he doesn't have many. We need to keep changing things up. When Brady gets comfortable and gets in a rhythm that's when he plays the best. I do know certain things about that offense and we'll try to keep Brady off balance.

I've only competed against Brady twice. Once when I was on the Michigan State staff and we were playing Michigan - I won. Then another time we played each other in a round of golf - I won. I hope Sunday is the 3rd time.

Will you assign 1 guy (champ) to cover Randy Moss?

No, we want to change it up. Champ is comfortable on the left side and Andre Goodman is comfortable on the right side. We're not going to change our corners position on the field just to put 1 guy on Moss.

You won in the 4th quarter on Sunday vs Dallas. How important was conditioning and how important was the half time adjustments?

Both were important. We are a well conditioned team. In camp we practiced in pads for all but 2 days. We run alot in practice and our players have volunteered to run even when not asked. As for adjustments at half time, we have alot of smart players. Smart players can take a 2 or 3 minute plan we draw up at half time and then run it in the second half.

What did you say to Brandon Marshall after his big touchdown catch?

(McDaniels asked the crowd not to share what he told Marshall - then he told us. I won't spill the beans but will say this: McDaniels said he and Marshall have a great relationship. The hug was an inside joke between the two - Marshall said something funny and McDaniels hugged him in response)


Overall I was very impressed with McDaniels. He has a quiet confidence about him and he showed a good sense of humor. He concluded by saying "many of you have been fans since before I was born - thanks for your support." If there was any doubts in the minds of the longtime fans of the Bronco QB Club on whether McDaniels was the right man for the job, Josh quieted those concerns tonight. He was knowledgeable, funny, and very personable.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Broncos: Chance to Thrive in Week 5 Just Like '77

The Broncos are 4-0 and are the surprise of the NFL so far. This summer, before training camp began, I saw this as a possibility and made comparisons to the miracle season of the 1977 Broncos. Even I didn't expect the defense to play as well as it has!

Just like that 77 team, the early season schedule is setting up for a franchise defining game in week 5. That 77 team was 4-0, too, but they weren't taken too seriously. "The Broncos are off to a nice start but they've had an easy schedule" was heard about the 77 team as they headed into a week 5 showdown against the defending Super Bowl Champs and hated rivals Oakland Raiders. The Raiders entered that contest at the top of their game. Veteran NBC Broadcaster Charlie Jones, when promoting the Broncos/Raiders battle of the unbeatens in 77, said "I don't think anybody can beat the Raiders"

Longtime Bronco fans know what happened next. The 77 Broncos stunned the Raiders 30-7 in Oakland and were off to a 12-2 season and a berth in the Super Bowl. I still have the newspaper describing that great win (photo above)

The 2009 Broncos defining game, their toughest test to date, will be this Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Patriots have won 3 Super Bowls this decade and came within minutes of another Super Bowl victory and an undefeated season only two seasons ago. I say a win against the Patriots this Sunday will propel the Broncos to a magical season, better than anyone expected (even me). Yes the schedule gets much tougher after the Patriots game (road games against the Chargers and Ravens among others) and the team will stumble a few times but the positive momentum of a 5-0 start will carry the Broncos to the playoffs!