Bron­cos will have mo­ti­va­tion down Pats

The Denver Post - - NFL SUNDAY - MARK KISZLA

For the Bron­cos, this is Super Bowl LI. Let that be a friendly warn­ing to Tom Brady, Coach Hoodie and the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots.

Den­ver isn’t win­ning the cham­pi­onship. Not this sea­son. The Bron­cos are too in­ex­pe­ri­enced at quar­ter­back, too soft against the run, too messed up by a patch­work of­fen­sive line. It’s pre­pos­ter­ous to think they can make it all the way back to Super Bowl LI in Fe­bru­ary and de­fend their NFL crown.

So bring it, New Eng­land. The Bron­cos are ready to go down swing­ing. This is a bro­ken and bleed­ing champ’s last hur­rah. In front of a home crowd, against the one for­mi­da­ble foe that de­fen­sive line­man Derek Wolfe and ev­ery­body else in Den­ver love to hate, the Bron­cos have more than a puncher’s chance to put a big hurt on Hand­some Tom and the Pats one more time.

New Eng­land is the bet­ter football team. No doubt. Den­ver, how­ever, is the more des­per­ate football team.

It’s time to sep­a­rate the boys from the lit­tle kids, as DeMar­cus Ware might say.

With an 8-5 record, Den­ver’s mar­gin of er­ror to make the play­offs is next to zero. So I asked Ware if he be­lieves a back-against-the-wall men­tal­ity can make the Bron­cos more dan­ger­ous.

“It’s one of those games that are those must-win type of games. You’ve got to give it all you got,” Ware said. “It’s a play­off-type at­mos­phere. Be­cause, now, you’re sep­a­rat­ing the boys

from the lit­tle kids.”

Snort­ing smoke, an­gry Bill Belichick will wade into a sea of or­ange on a frigid af­ter­noon in Colorado. The No-Fly Zone takes on the great­est quar­ter­back of his gen­er­a­tion. Now that’s the def­i­ni­tion of big-boy football. Yes, the Pa­tri­ots are three-point favorites, as well they should be. But how has that worked out for New Eng­land in re­cent trips to Den­ver? Do the scores 30-24 and 20-18 ring a bell?

Yes, I would tell you New Eng­land is the way to bet. Wolfe, how­ever, in­sists there’s noth­ing quite like the thrill of toss­ing Brady on the ground. Den­ver quar­ter­back Trevor Siemian has al­ready won matchups against Cam New­ton and An­drew Luck. And line­backer Von Miller warns doubters like me that it’s too early to bury the Bron­cos yet.

“We still have long time to be talk­ing about not mak­ing the play­offs. We still have three re­ally big games against three play­off teams,” said Miller, who doesn’t need to be re­minded that the three foes re­main­ing on Den­ver’s sched­ule have a com­bined record of 31-8. “I’ve never re­ally been a fan of down-the-road stuff. … I don’t want to get started on the Chiefs or Raiders. We have our plates full with the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots.”

New Eng­land wears ar­ro­gance well. Un­easy rests the crown in Den­ver. Brady can throw for 350 yards with a football in­flated as big as a weather bal­loon, in his sleep, while wear­ing Uggs. Heck, around here, three-and-out has be­come stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure on of­fense. Gary Ku­biak coaches a team that doesn’t do pretty, can’t stand pros­per­ity and craves dis­re­spect. Well, now. From top of the NFL world to third place in the AFC West, the Bron­cos may fi­nally be in a spot where they feel com­fort­able.

“We have al­ways been the un­der­dog, since last year. Be­fore we won the Super Bowl, every sin­gle team that we played, we were the un­der­dog,” Ware said. He rel­ishes the vic­to­ries against Pitts­burgh, New Eng­land and Carolina that gave Den­ver the Vince Lom­bardi Tro­phy in Super Bowl 50.

Ware loves the haters. He em­braces ev­ery­body itch­ing to throw dirt on Den­ver as a team that was lucky to win it all. He knows what peo­ple are say­ing about the Bron­cos.

“It’s the same thing now,” Ware said. “It’s like: ‘De­nounce your throne!’ ” The king ain’t dead. He’s mad. Real mad. Wel­come to the or­ange madness, Mr. Brady. So good to see you again.

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