|Scouting the Broncos|
This Sunday at 4:25 PM EDT on CBS as well as Sirius XM, the Cowboys will host the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium. Dallas has a 5-6-0 all time record versus the Broncos being one of the few teams with that distinction. The Cowboys are 2-2 at home and 2-4 at Mile High which makes sense as the altitude is a great equalizer. As always, a shout out to MCubed.net for historical stats.
Both teams are in first place in their division and both have hundred million dollar QB’s. The similarities just ended. The Broncos are sitting atop the NFL in general with a 4-0 record born of successive dominating victories. Denver’s QB has a ring (you know what kind) and is the best QB in football and in the conversation for best ever. We are all painfully aware of the flip sides of those coins that Dallas represents with the Cowboys limping in with a 2-2 record and Romo having only one playoff victory (not a Super Bowl). Well Goliath got his and nothing is impossible. Understanding that the Broncos go as Peyton Manning goes, let’s scout out the most important aspects Denver by unit.
QB – Peyton Manning: Son of Archie, brother to Eli and soon to be sainted, this guy is the full package. To put it simply you don’t try to stop Manning, you try and beat him. If he gets an interception it motivates him, if he makes a bad throw he will make up for it. You have to apply pressure, lots of it and be ready to play sixty minutes because he will not stop. He is a champion, a future Hall of Fame inductee. If I am a Dallas Cowboys defender I am jacked up to the nth degree. This is why you play the game, to play the best. This is your chance to measure yourself like no other. Can Carr show his savvy? Can Scandrick continue his incredible play? Can Claiborne get his mojo back? Are Church and Wilcox going to continue to get better in leaps and bounds? Can Hatcher take his play to the next level? Can Ware put his stingers behind him? Can Selvie step up? We find out this Sunday.
WR/TE – WR1 Demaryius Thomas, WR2 Wes Welker, WR3 Trindon Holliday along with TE Julius Thomas comprise the receiving corps for Peyton Manning. They are fast. Holliday is small and could blow the doors off a cheetah. Demaryius is big and can run like a gazelle. Decker is injured leaving Wes Welker as the ultimate possession WR2. TE Thomas is a talent and is becoming a reliable target. All of them are learning the ways of Peyton and are learning fast. Demaryius especially has improved over last year and is becoming a savvy route runner. The Cowboys safeties will have to bring their A game to keep the lid on this group. Claiborne’s speed and confidence will be required at CB3.
RB – RB1 Knowshon Moreno is backed up by Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball. Protect Manning is the mantra. Blitz pickups are the number one task of the RB even if they are running the ball. Ok, not that bad, but close. Woe betide the man who misses a man that lands a glove on the sainted one. Former first round pick Moreno was slated to be replaced by a running back committee but his improved play has changed all that and he is now the primary. A running and receiving threat he is an all purpose back who can score.
OL – LT Chris Clark, LG Zane Beadles, C Manny Ramirez, RG Louis Vasquez and RT Orlando Franklin have one job and they know what it is. Keep Peyton Manning’s jersey clean. They want it spotless, a post Tide, stain-free extravaganza. In their eyes you can hold, scratch, claw, trip, bite, throw dirt and cast hoo-doo spells as long as Manning is healthy at the end of the game. Oh yea, they have some push in the running game as well. Combined with Mannings incredible instinct to sense pressure and get rid of the ball, the Cowboys depleted defensive line rotation has a tough task trying to create pressure versus this group.
Defensive Backfield – FS Rahim Moore, SS Duke Ihenacho, RCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, LCB Champ Bailey and CB3 Chris Harris are backed up by veteran Quentin Jammer. As a group, they have not played well. Bailey is not the shut down corner of yesteryear, but he will jump on mistakes. Rodgers-Cromartie is not having a great season but can torch you for a pick six at any moment. Moore is solid over the top with Ihenacho better in the box. Chris Harris is a steady CB3 but this unit has not jelled. Lack of pressure up front is the main culprit but teams are usually behind against the Broncos and this group gives up big chunks of yardage. Williams is the key for the Cowboys. Can he get his head back in the game? This will help set Dez free and the passing game should be a weapon for the Cowboys. Romo needs to go deep on this crew and any Dallas TE should be able to get open against the LB corps.
Defensive Front Seven – Playing a 4-3 are LDE Derek Wolfe, DT Kevin Vickerson, NT Terrance Knighton and RDE Shaun Phillips backed up by SLB Nate Irving, MLB Wesley Woodyard and WLB Danny Trevathan. This entire group is responsible for protecting Manning while on defense and they do a good job of that allowing no sacks or pressures on the year. Fortunately for the Cowboys, with Von Miller out they are middle of the road at creating pass pressure with 11 sacks on the year. They can be blocked on passing downs and run on for yardagae. But when your down by 21 points in the second quarter because Manning has gone 12 for 13 and 3 touch downs it doesn’t really matter and most running games are scrapped by the second half. If the Cowboys can keep it close into the second half, Murray could be the man.
Special Teams – P Britton Colquitt, K Matt Prater and PR/KR Trindon Holliday are the group that is responsible for making certain that Peyton Manning is not injured while any Special Teams play is happening. Other than that Holliday has enough speed to leave anyone the Cowboys have on the field in his rear view mirror. He is that fast. Cowboys Special Teams will have to have an extremely disciplined game.
Injury Report – DNP – WR Eric Decker. LP CB Champ Bailey, LB Danny Trevathan.
Overview – So yea, Manning is what makes the Broncos run and directly or indirectly affects every aspect of the Broncos team. He is the league MVP in that he is more important to his team than any other one player. That is an achilles heel to Denver as it is extremely difficult for a QB to be that good over a full NFL season.
Found a nifty stat anomaly at NFL.com that gives one pause. The Broncos lead the Cowboys in Total Yards Per Game (483-341), Passing (363-238) and Running (119-102). But here’s the thing. The Cowboys also barely lose in Rush Yards Per Game Allowed at (77-74) but lead in Total Yards Per Game Allowed (382-390), Passing Yards Per Game Allowed (304-316), Third Down Conversion % Allowed (32-36) and the all important Points Per Game Allowed (21-22). Wait a moment, this is hinting that statistically it can be done. I dig deeper.
I found that Peyton Manning is only 2-2 versus the Cowboys all time with seven TD’s and seven INT’s to go along with an 85.4 QB Rating. Visions of Sean Lee picking Manning in OT is flashing in my brain. Every team, every player has a nemesis who for whatever reason can get under your skin. The Cowboys will take any edge they can get, but bottom line if the Cowboys play lights out they can take Manning and the Broncos.
Garrett needs to dig out and listen to the old Jimmy Johnson speech that goes along these lines: “When your in a fight with a gorilla what do you hit him with? Everything you got!”. Jimmy gave that line in a post game speech after the 1991 pre-Thanksgiving Day game against 11-0 Washington that the Cowboys won 24-21. Troy opened up with a pick six putting the Cowboys down 0-7. Michael Irvin took over with huge catches and physical play down the field. Emmitt Smith busted a big scoring run and the first half ended on a Hail Mary to Alvin Harper draped with Redskins in the end zone. Aikman got hurt in the second half and Steve Beuerlein had to bring home the victory. They didn’t leave any tricks in the bag nor any energy on the field. They spent it all and took home the victory.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how. Control the ball and the clock, go one for one in a shoot out, get a rash of turnovers or have the other team make mental mistakes, the method is not relevant. The Cowboys have to score more points than the Broncos to win the game. Do that and Dallas will accomplish three things, send both Mannings home with a loss by Sunday night, bring a serious smile to every fan’s face and set themselves up for another chance to string two victories together instead of two losses. That is a result I can live with.