The Seahawks play the Broncos again this week so for the latest on what's changed for the Seahawks' Super Bowl opponents, I chatted with Mile High Report's Kyle Montgomery. Huge thanks to Kyle for taking the time to answer my questions. This should be a great game - hold on to your butts.
My questions in bold, his responses follow.
1. Who is better? Peyton Manning or Tom Brady (haha) (he asked me the Russell Wilson - Andrew Luck question first).
Well I asked for this one. I've never found much joy in this debate, and everyone knows I'm going to pick Peyton Manning. Even though this is only Year 3 for Manning in a Broncos uniform, and even though this year or any of the next few years could be his last, Manning's reign in Denver feels like a lot more than just a "late career rental" to Broncos fans. We love the guy.
As for Manning vs. Brady, both are just so impressive. I could say Manning has the stats, and a Brady proponent would point out 2007 or 2011 to me. I could say Manning has more recently been to a Super Bowl, but a Brady proponent would make a joke about three rings with a "43-8" dig in there too, for good measure. It's amazing, looking at their careers, how they are so consistently dominant. 4000+ yards, 30+ TDs, less than 20 INTs, seemingly every single year. So my fallback determining factor will have to be, "To whom would I rather give a high five?," and Manning wins in a landslide.
2. What happened in the 2nd half of last week's game against the Chiefs? How was KC able to come back and make it a close game? Anything that is concerning for the outlook this season?
The fact that this happened two weeks in a row is concerning, although the cause for each game was different. Specifically against the Chiefs, the Broncos defense was not able to get off the field. Alex Smith repeatedly burned the Broncos on 3rd and long, and the Broncos burned themselves too, committing five defensive offsides penalties, many of them on third down.
Manning only had two drives the entire second half, not counting the kneeldown series at the end. It was a "keep the ball away from Manning" gameplan executed to near perfection by the Chiefs, except they didn't come away with points when they needed to. They had three long drives in the second half, all going deep into Denver territory, but only came away with 7 total points (one missed field goal, one touchdown, one turnover on downs).
The Chiefs exploited Denver's prevent looks in a lot of these 3rd and longs, taking short and mid-ranged throws against linebackers and nickel and dime backs rather than challenging Aqib Talib or Chris Harris. It worked, and you've got to credit Alex Smith for many well-executed passes.
Against the Colts, I attribute Denver's second-half struggles to rust, "needing to gel", and all of those good Week One staples of NFL players everywhere. The bright side to these nailbiting games for Broncos fans is that we're still 2-0, and the defense made the necessary stops when it mattered.
3. In your opinion, will the Broncos try an different game-plan than what they rolled out in the Super Bowl, or will they simply just stick to their guns, play their game, and just make sure to execute it better?
I would be amazed if Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase went into this game thinking, "Well we'll just do what we did last time, and play our game." I think Broncos fans much more acutely recognize the formidability of Seattle's defense since the Super Bowl, and I would presume Gase more clearly recognizes it as a game that requires special gameplanning.
Still, the Broncos aren't going to change their offensive identity in one week, so I think the realization that it's Seahawks week means the Broncos will be all the more focused on executing.
It is interesting that the Broncos have shown more two tight end looks this season than a year ago, perhaps due to Wes Welker's suspension. Even though Welker is expected back, it's a look I wouldn't mind the Broncos continuing, considering the way Seattle's pass rush dominated Denver's o-line in the Super Bowl.
4. The Broncos have quite a few new faces since the two teams met in the Super Bowl. How have the new additions looked thus far this season and what kind of impact could they make this week?
I've been encouraged by the new faces the Broncos brought in. DeMarcus Ware has a knack for big plays and almost sealed the game for the Broncos early last Sunday; instead, his 4th quarter strip sack was reviewed and ruled an incomplete pass. He has 1.5 sacks on the year and has just been generally impressive.
Cornerback Aqib Talib has been nothing short of phenomenal. He's PFF's top-rated cornerback in the AFC in 2014 so far, if you're into that sort of thing. Safety T.J. Ward hasn't made a big play yet, but he's a big upgrade over Duke Ihenacho, who let the Seahawks run over him in the Super Bowl.
On offense, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had his first 100-yard game last Sunday (meaning, the first 100-yard game of his career). The kid is fast and adds a Percy Harvin-like element to Denver's offense. He and Manning have found a rhythm since the two connected for 100+ in one game in the preseason.
5. How is Denver's injury situation looking -- do they head into Week 3 relatively healthy, or are there problem spots to worry about?
The Broncos are relatively healthy. Starting weakside linebacker Danny Trevathan is out for at least one more week following an injury he suffered in the preseason, replaced by Brandon Marshall, who has had good moments and bad.
Linebacker Lerentee McCray, who sees time in a lot of Denver's sub packages when Von Miller comes out, will also be out.
And, Von Miller is still on a bit of a snap count while he gets fully, fully healed from his ACL tear a year ago (playing about 70% of snaps), so it's safe to say there are some health and depth concerns at linebacker, but all on the periphery and not too alarming.
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