Can we push past this whole Kansas City debacle already? I'm not sure about you guys but I can't put that thing in the rear view mirror fast enough - I swear, after watching it I think I forgot how to watch an actual football game. Oh well though.
So this week we're putting the finishing touches on this AFC West diversion by hoping to finish 2-2 against this division, as we head to Mile High Stadium for what would have been Jay Cutler's homecoming against his former team - only now instead of missing just Jay, the Bears will also be without Matt Forte for this one. Oh joy.
Follow me past the jump and let's take a look at the Broncos...
What They Did Last Year: Finished 4-12, in last place in the AFC West behind general real-life-fantasy-football-team-building-nutcase Josh McDaniels.
Where Are They Now: They've already surpassed last year's win total and currently sit in first place of the AFC West at 7-5, winners of six of their last seven.
When Last We Met: The last time these two teams met was in 2007, when the Bears defeated the Broncos 37-34 in overtime. The two teams traded points all throughout the game, then trailing by two touchdowns, Adrian Peterson ran for a touchdown and Bernard Berrian caught one from Rex Grossman to send the game to overtime, where Robbie Gould punched the game-winner through the posts. Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler (where've I heard that name before...) went 17-31 for 302 yards, 2 TDs and a pick.
So Jay Cutler has not played a regular season game against his old team, and won't play this week.
Right now the best way to describe the Broncos' offense is as a Wildcat/college option hybrid punctuated by speed, misdirection, an effective running attack with hard-to-bring-down running backs, and a just-decent-enough passing game that catches opponents by surprise. Tim Tebow might "just win", but the numbers actually do show a decent offensive player. The Broncos are a team that runs hard between the 20s, will pass when it's there, and will throw for touchdowns and try to take care of the ball. Tebow's second on the team in rushing with an excellent 5.7 Yards-per-carry and 3 touchdowns, only throws for about 105 yards per game, but has 10 passing TDs to 1 INT. Ten. To. One. It may be a small sample size, but those are some impressive numbers right there - the passing yardage just doesn't do him justice. He'll never be a pocket passer no matter how much he wants to be, but give him some space and an open receiver and he can still gash a defense.
As far as the Broncos' other weapons, Eric Decker is a favorite red-zone target with 8 of the team's 18 touchdown receptions and Willis McGahee leads the team in rushing with 886 yards and 4 TDs. The team's got some decent run-after-catch skills with the running threat Tebow and McGahee provide, as Tebow's 14.1 yards-per-completion even outclasses Kyle Orton's 10.8 as a Bronco.
Defensively, the Broncos love to rush the passer. Exhibit A, Von Miller, A.K.A. A Grown-Ass Man. Through eleven games, Miller has 10.5 sacks, 4 deflections, 3 fumbles forced and 58 total tackles on a defense with 33 sacks. Then there's defensive end Elvis Dumervil with 6.5 sacks, Ryan McBean with 4, and you start to see they get a lot of sacks from a number of guys. Against the pass, they won't light up the interception column (only 9 interceptions and 46 passes deflected) and they allow plenty of touchdowns (22 reception touchdowns scored, ranked 28th-worst in the league), but due to the gap-blitzing they employ, they're very stout against the run in the red zone - they've given up only five rushing touchdowns on the season, the third fewest in the NFL.
If the Bears do this...
Remember everything you did against Kansas City? Do the opposite of that. Seriously. That means no getting Hanie sacked seven times, no dropping opportunities for touchdown passes even if you're just trying to knock the ball down, no missing field goals. Reducing the number of Hanie's required reads should help quicken his decision making and, thus, help him get the damn ball out faster, which should help him play better before the fourth quarter. Roll him out, get him away from the pass rush, and get him throwing downfield to a couple of guys.
If the Broncos do this...
Step one, locate Tebow. Step two, be fast enough to disrupt the play. One of the things that helps the Bears' defense is their speed, which should counter what makes the option work in college - being more athletic than the guys who aren't going to make football their career. Unlike the college option though, Tebow can actually throw a little bit on the move, even if the pass sucks, so the cornerbacks have to stick to Decker et al, even when Tebow's out of the pocket. Tebow may not make many mistakes, but the Bears have to keep him contained behind the line of scrimmage.