To many fans’ disappointment, the revival of the Manning-Brady rivalry, which takes place Sunday when the Denver Broncos visit the New England Patriots, may be decided by ground attacks. Although the game will certainly feature at least one touchdown pass, the really crucial stats might be racked up by running the football.
The Patriots are closer to the 9-1 Broncos than their 7-3 record suggests. If two game ending calls had gone their way the Patriots could easily be atop the AFC at 9-1 as well. However, one glaring hole in New England’s game is their run defense. Don’t think, even for a second, that Peyton Manning is not fully aware of that.
Not only is New England’s run defense currently 27th in the league, giving up 125.7 yards per game, but the Denver Broncos have shown more and more over the past few weeks that their offense can achieve success by running the football.
However, running the football against New England could back fire against the Broncos. Fumbles have been a problem for Denver ever since last year. New England fans know this only too well, because the last time the two teams met Denver practically handed Tom Brady the win by turning over the football throughout the game.
On the other side of the football New England is more confident. Their running game has been effective all year long; they average almost 127 yards on the ground. They will be facing a strong Denver defense however, who is currently fourth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. If these ground attacks prove effective the game could be decided through ground attacks and not by the Manning Brady rivalry.
When these two great quarter backs do decide to drop back in the pocket and throw the ball do not expect anything short of offensive domination. Obviously, this game is being built on the arms of these two Hall of Famers, but it is more than that. Denver’s receivers have been unbelievable this year, turning even short passes from Manning into touchdowns. When you add the fact that New England’s secondary is injured right now there is no reason to not suspect Denver to be able to move the ball through the air.
The same could be said about the Patriots, however. New England still has Tom Brady which means that they will have a potent passing attack on Sunday. Couple that with the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski and put them up against a Broncos secondary that is one of the worst in the entire NFL and you can expect to see Brady match whatever Manning does on Sunday in New England.
So, if the passing games seem even, then turn your eyes to the ground game this Sunday. The highlights will probably come from Manning and Brady, but you might be watching a turning point in the contest if you see the Broncos begin to move the ball effortlessly across the ground, racking up first downs, or if you see them cough up some timely turnover to a pesky New England defense.
This Sunday’s contest between Denver and New England could very well turn into the Manning vs. Brady rivalry that was not written by the quarterbacks, but by what happened when their teams turned to their ground attacks.
By Nick Manai