Busts don’t break Broncos
Players realize better is needed to beat Patriots
Dropped passes, blown coverages and short-circuits in the red zone. That formula won’t cut it if the Broncos are to beat quarterback Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC championship game. The Broncos know it. “We had some busts today,” Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris said after the Broncos rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16 in the divisional playoffs Sunday. “It wasn’t really even communication issues. Guys just weren’t doing their jobs today. We know that we can’t do that next week or Tom Brady will make us pay.”
Despite playing with an injured throwing shoulder, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger completed 24-of-37 passes for 339 yards, with many of those yards coming after the Broncos left receivers wide open.
Defensive end Malik Jackson was proud his defense limited the Steelers to one touchdown, but knows it must be better next week.
“We have to fix those mistakes and just keep working,” Jackson said. “But I think this defense thrives under pressure, and the Patriots will sure pressure us.”
But Jackson said he was going to savor the victory over the Steelers for a few hours.
“We have one more game until the big show,” he said, thinking ahead a bit to Super Bowl 50. “I think everybody is going to go out and party (Sunday night) — but be mellow — then at 12:01 a.m. we start thinking about the Patriots.”
The AFC championship game will be billed as another heavyweight battle between Brady and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. In his 18th season, Manning will face Brady for the 17th time in his career. Manning is 5-11 in the first 16 games, but Manning’s Broncos prevailed in the 2013 title game at home, beating New England 26-16.
The cerebral Manning probably already is preparing the next game plan in his head, but he wasn’t ready to talk about the Patriots just yet on Sunday night.
“Obviously, we are excited to be in the (championship) game,” he said. “We knew we we’re going to have to beat a good team (Sunday) in order to get there.”
No matter what the game plan is, they can’t drop seven passes as they did Sunday if they want to beat Belichick’s Patriots.
“A couple of those were (because of) the wind, but as a receiver you should still make those plays,” wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “(Manning) was putting the ball right in the spot so we could make plays. It’s not an excuse for us dropping those balls. We can’t do that against our next opponent.”