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Colts vs. Broncos: Breaking Down Denver's Playoff Game Plan

Published by Bleacher Report on Thu, 08 Jan 2015

The Denver Broncos earned a much-need bye in the opening round of the playoffs. While the Indianapolis Colts were working through the Cincinnati Bengals for the right to play the Broncos in the divisional round, the Broncos were getting rest.Now, the two teams meet for the second time this year. With their time off, the Broncos should be fresh in this rematch with the Colts.In Week 1 of the regular season, the Broncos were able to hold off a fourth-quarter charge by the Colts to win 31-24. This week, the Broncos will try to beat the Colts again.Andrew Luck is going to have to carry the offense if the Colts want to advance this week. The Colts offense flows through Luck and the passing game, and they will use multiple weapons to attack the Broncos through the air.Broncos head coach John Fox has a healthy respect for the Colts quarterback.Hes a tremendous young quarterback. Hes accomplished as much, I think, as any young quarterback ever has. He has good strength, he has good size, he can make all the throws. Fox continued, Hes a fine young man to be around. So it doesnt shock me that hes had the success hes had and itll be a great challenge for us.How will the Denver Broncos attack the Indianapolis Colts on both sides of the ball' Lets take a look.When the Broncos Run the BallWhat a find C.J. Anderson was this year. The second-year pro emerged as the teams starter after Ronnie Hillman was injured in Week 10 against the Oakland Raiders. Anderson took over and never looked back.Even though the Broncos have been run-heavy over the last several weeks, they are trying to achieve balance on offense. They want to use Anderson to soften up opponents, but they also want to attack through the air when need be.Anderson knows how important balance is for a team in the postseason.Its always important. You dont want to be one-dimensional in the NFL. These coaches, they spend countless hours trying to gameplan and shut you down and slow you down. Anderson summarized, If you can be balanced, it can make it tough on defensive coordinators.In Week 1 against the Colts, former Broncos starter Montee Ball ran the ball 23 times for 67 yards. Its logical to assume that Anderson would have much more success if hes given the ball 23 times in the divisional round.When Anderson needs a breather, the Broncos will turn to Hillman. He suffered a foot sprain in Week 10, but he was able to return to the field in Week 17. The Broncos gave him more carries than Anderson last week as they looked to get Hillman back into game shape.Hes not built for a starters workload, but Hillman works well as a change-of-pace back behind Anderson. The Broncos have a dangerous one-two punch with Andersons power and Hillmans speed.The Broncos let the Colts come back in the second half of their Week 1 contest because they werent successful running the ball to eat up the game clock. With Anderson leading the way and Hillman providing big-play ability, the Broncos should do a better job of controlling the time of possession in the divisional round.When the Broncos Pass the BallThe Broncos have become more of a run-heavy team over the final six weeks of the regular season. However, in the postseason we could see them open things up in the passing game more than some expect.Peyton Manning is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the game today. as long as the offensive line gives him time (and most importantly space) to throw, Manning should be able to pick the Colts' secondary apart. He's been beat up this year and needed the time off during the bye week.Manning feels good about his current health status.Yeah, I feel pretty good physically. Like all players, Ive battled through some injuries. I think the bye week came at a good time for us to give some guys a chance to get healthy.Wes Welker didnt play in the first game against the Colts. He was serving the first game of what was a four-game suspension for violating the leagues policy on performance enhancing substances. Now, Welker is back in the slot and gives Manning yet another weapon to throw to.Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for more than 200 catches this year. Both are big-play threats for the Broncos, and they can attack opponents with varying routes.One weapon Manning should have back near full strength is tight end Julius Thomas. He suffered an ankle injury in Week 11 against the St. Louis Rams, and Thomas hasnt been the same since then. His struggles have impacted Mannings passing numbers in the red zone specifically, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:Peyton Manning in the red zone: Weeks 1-12: 78% completion (1st), 97 Total QBR (1st) Weeks 13-17: 39% completion (30th); 18 Total QBR (22nd) ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 7, 2015Like all the Broncos, Thomas got to rest during the bye week. If he looks more like his normal self, it will greatly benefit the Denver offense. The last time these two teams played, Thomas had over 100 yards receiving and three touchdowns.When the Colts Run the BallThe Colts now have a backfield featuring Dan Herron. In Week 1, Trent Richardson was the starter and the lead back for the Colts, but hes struggled with injury and consistency so much the team moved on to Herron.Broncos linebacker Von Miller respects the new formula the Colts have with their rushing attack.Its just a good mixture. Richardson, hes a good, strong, powerful runner, and Herron, he just mixes it up. They do a great job over there in the run game and the pass game.The Broncos have the second-best rush defense in the league. They only allow an average of 79.8 rushing yards per game, so dont expect Herron and Richardson to have much success on the ground.When the Colts Pass the BallThe Colts success will come down to Luck. If Denver shuts down the Colts' running game, then Luck will have to come through with his arm.Luck's mostly known as a passer, and he is coming off a career-high 40 touchdown passes in 2014. However, he can scramble to pick up yards if needed, and these types of quarterbacks have given the Broncos fits historically.Miller knows they must get after the quarterback.You want to affect the quarterback. You just dont want to have it seven on seven. We have great cornerbacksprobably the best cornerbacks in the leaguebut if you have them out there covering all day, somebody can slip open.Miller continued, So our job is to pressure him. Weve got great cornerbacks that are going to do their job out there and weve just got to do our job of trying to pressure those guys and make them throw some passes sooner than he really wants to.Luck may utilize a lot of screen passes to help slow down the Denver pass rush. This means Herron could be the Colt with the most receptions on Sunday. He caught 10 passes against the Bengals in the Wild Card Game, and he may have a similar number of receptions against the Broncos this week.The Broncos have a strong secondary, so finding open spots for guys like Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks or T.Y. Hilton may be difficult. Rookie Donte Moncrief could pose a problem for the Broncos, especially in the red zone where he can use his size and leaping ability to make plays.SummaryThe Broncos have the upper hand in this contest.They have a better running game with Anderson toting the rock. His power can wear down a defense, especially when the Broncos use tempo to their advantage.Anderson knows that defenders are getting tired when the Broncos run the ball and use a hurry-up offense. "Ive seen defensive linemen put their hands on their head, and Ive seen people on the sideline trying to come in but were getting to the ball so fast, theyve got to hold them back so they dont get penalized. So its been working.The Broncos have a better passing game because the weapons around the quarterback are better in Denver. Manning likes the way the Broncos can win in different ways.Weve tried to find different ways to win football games and hopefully that prepares us well when you get into these playoff games and anything can go on. Different games take on different identities. You never know what its going to be but I think weve proven we can win games differently and hopefully that serves us well potentially on Sunday.Defensively, the Broncos should be able to slow down the Colts on the ground. If Denver is able to build a lead, the Colts will become a one-dimensional offense.If the Colts have to rely on their passing game more than normal, this would create an advantage for the Broncos' pass-rushers like Miller and DeMarcus Ware. If these two can get pressure on Luck, the Colts are in for a long afternoon.Denver is looking to march back to the Super Bowl. The first step is getting past the Colts on Sunday.All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos unless otherwise noted. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.
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