NEW ARTICLE: MORSE: Game 5 Preview: Patriots vs Denver Broncos

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MORSE: Game 5 Preview: Patriots vs Denver Broncos
Mark Morse
Here's a quick rundown heading into Monday night's game.

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jmt57

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Somehow we never had a 'We Are On To The Broncos' thread this week, so I'll just use this thread for that theme.

First, what people in Colorado are saying about Monday's game:

Five of six writers at this SB Nation Broncos site pick the Patriots.
The Broncos barely had enough firepower to beat the lowly Jets. With injuries still plaguing the team, and a young QB with limited experience, it would be a huge shock to see the Broncos sneak a win. They have a shot with the poor QB play that will likely come from whichever backup Belichick employs, but in a case of backup vs backup, the home team with fewer injuries, and an evil genius head coach should be able to win.

Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien, assuming he starts for Drew Lock (right shoulder), is up next for the Patriots, who have won 22 of their last 23 games against first- or second-year quarterbacks.
Good luck, Brett.
“They do a great job disguising and they use a lot of (defensive backs), which makes it tough to identify in the run game and certain stuff in the passing game like where your 1-on-1s are,” Rypien said.
Two of the many bedrocks for a Belichick-coached defense: Disguising and changing the pressure plan.
Disguising is making man coverage look like zone coverage and vice versa in an effort to force the quarterback to wish the football had a string attached so he could pull back his throw.

Q&A from fans with a Denver sportswriter, starting off with a conspiracy theory about the postponement.

In the case of the Broncos, the lack of an acclimation period for rookies has been noticeable as Denver’s dealt with a long list of injuries through the first four games. That’s caused the Broncos’ rookie class to play 1,288 snaps so far, second-most in the league behind the Jaguars. ...

Cushenberry, selected in the 3rd round at No. 83 overall, was the lone rookie atop his respective positional depth chart heading into the regular season. There have been growing pains for Cushenberry — including giving up two sacks in a Week 3 domination by the Tampa Bay defensive front — but offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said the Broncos are “pleased with his development.” Per Denver Post game charting, Cushenberry has allowed nine disruptions (3½ sacks, 5½ knockdowns and no pressures) as well as 1½ bad run plays. He has not been penalized.

Sounds like the Denver coach is attempting to send a message to his team to 'ignore the noise' and just 'do your job'.
 

jmt57

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Offensively, Denver has had a hard time keeping their best players out of the trainer’s room. Wide Receiver, Cortland Sutton, was placed on IR in late September after tearing both his ACL and MCL in his left knee. Tim Patrick has moved up the depth chart because of this and has made an immediate impact. Patrick has 16 receptions so far this season for one touchdown. First-year receiver, Jerry Jeudy is fitting right into Denver’s offense. Running back, Phillip Lindsay is expected to return from his injury this week. Melvin Gordon is the main running back for Denver and is very difficult to tackle. Tight end Noah Fant is not expected to play though this Sunday, which is a huge loss for them if he can’t play. Fant is a top ten tight end when he’s healthy.

You know the NFL cliche: a productive running game is a young QB's best friend.
Fortunately for Denver, Phillip Lindsay is returning to the lineup after missing the last 14 quarters of play with a turf-toe injury. That means the Broncos are poised to get the two-headed rushing attack of Lindsay and Melvin Gordon for a full 60 minutes.
We still haven't seen offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's vision for Lindsay and Gordon take shape. This would be a prime week to unveil that vision.
. . .
Last week, Bradley Chubb kicked off what chunks of rust remained, tallying 10 QB pressures and notching 2.5 sacks. It was just what the doctor ordered.
Hopefully, that version of Chubb — which looked like a return to 2018 form — is here to stay for Denver. But even if it is, he can't do it alone.
Coach Fangio has had to overcome his traditional reticence to blitz in the wake of losing pass-rush prowess from Von Miller, Jurrell Casey, Dre'Mont Jones, and DeMarcus Walker. For a couple of weeks there, Fangio's blitzing was all-too-predictable but he mixed it up quite nicely last week at MetLife Stadium.

First, whatever Vic Fangio did to dial up the pass-rushing pressure against the Jets needs to continue. ...
The biggest key will be: Who is at quarterback? The team was mostly good with Rypien rippin’ them footballs, but then he basically imploded in the second half. Drew Lock is a better player and likely more steady. If Lock plays, Denver’s chances of winning improve quite a bit.

Jerry Jeudy is a plus route runner already, and he is only four games into his NFL career. Last week, he maximized only four targets and should be in line to get closer to his average of 7.
Additionally, The Patriots’ defense leaves something to be desired when it comes to yards per attempt. The Patriots give up some big plays, and with Stephon Gilmore out, the Broncos have a chance to get a few big plays.
Tim Patrick flat out balled out last week with 6 grabs for 118 yards and a TD. I would not be surprised if he does it again this week. The Patriots lack the size to defend him, so he has an advantage outside for either Rypien or Lock.
 

jmt57

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Even though Brett Rypien helped the Broncos win last Thursday night, a giant asterisk needs to be used in that he was facing the Jets, who you could argue have already checked out. It also should be pointed out that for all the numbers Rypien put up against New York (242 passing yards, 2 touchdowns) he also threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Even without Gilmore and the lack of preparation time, the Patriots' D is going to be a challenge for Rypien, who will be making just his second NFL start. Belichick is well known for coming up with a game plan that will focus on taking away a team's best weapon, whether that's running back Melvin Gordon III or wide receiver Jerry Jeudy for Denver.

Questionable
S Devin McCourty (non-injury related)
WR Julian Edelman (knee)
OG Shaq Mason (calf)
OT Isaiah Wynn (calf)
DL Adam Butler (shoulder)
BRONCOS
Out
TE Noah Fant (ankle)
WR KJ Hamler (hamstring)
OLB Jeremiah Attaochu (quad)
RB LeVante Bellamy (knee)
Questionable
QB Drew Lock (shoulder)
DT Mike Purcell (knee)
ILB Joseph Jones (knee)

The Broncos' woes trace to the fact that Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback and one of the greatest ever to lace them up, has been painfully bad at finding Manning’s replacement. The Broncos have started an NFL-high nine quarterbacks since the start of 2016, and have consistently struck out. ...
Elway has flopped since Manning retired. Not only has he consistently gotten it wrong at quarterback, but the Broncos have cycled through three coaches in five years and haven’t drafted well. ...
Elway’s other big mistake was changing Lock’s coach this year. Lock played well down the stretch in 2019, going 4-1 as a starter under offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. But the Broncos fired Scangarello after the season and replaced him with Pat Shurmur, and learning a new coach and new system may have stunted Lock’s development in 2020.
“Scangarello and Lock meshed well together,” Stokley said. “Drew played really good football, you’re 4-1 with him, you’d think they’d want to keep that consistency there.”
 

jmt57

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Hat Tip to @BaconGrundleCandy for the chart below, from the excellent Words on things I watched, read & heard thread.

Take a look at where Denver is - awful.



 
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