The AFC Championship is upon us!
Come, gather 'round and hear tell of Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran's three keys for the Patriots in the AFC Championship.
Get Peyton Manning off his spot
Manning will never be confused for one of these new hybrid 'I own the pocket, but can still break a 60-yard run' quarterbacks.
He likes the pocket. It's been good to him. It helped him set all kinds of new NFL passing records.
He's never been good at scrambling and throwing on the run.
"If you can get a rush on Manning and make him move and drift, he will throw the ball with very little velocity," says Curran.
Stick with Broncos receivers in red zone
Denver was very good inside the 20 this year, probably because they have so many weapons from which to choose.
The Broncos like to run a lot of rubs, picks and cross routes and they figure to get their fair share of opportunities. When they do get into the red zone, the Patriots must force the Broncos to come away with field goals (or ideally zero points) instead of touchdowns. The key to that is sticking with the Broncos receivers.
"They're deadly because they use those quick crosses and they get so much confusion for the defense that it's like stealing," says Curran.
Use run game to establish balanced offense
The Patriots have recently demonstrated that the run game is the core of their offense. For them to advance to NY/NJ they will need to establish the run early and often. It's particularly important for the backs to put the offense in manageable second and third down situations.
The Patriots don't have size on the outside so it will be important for those outside receivers to get separation and to get it quickly on third down.
Effective running will open up play-action passes that have a great chance for success against a vulnerable Denver secondary.