W2W4 in the AFC Championship Game: New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos

Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /
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When the Patriots Run the Ball:

New England Patriots
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New England lost a weapon in the running game when Dion Lewis went out for the season with a knee injury. Since then, the Patriots have had to lean on LeGarrette Blount before he ended up on injured reserve as well. Since then the Patriots brought Steven Jackson out of retirement to be the short yardage back. He will have a tough test against the underrated Broncos front seven.

Denver’s defense gets credit for their ferocious pass rush duo of Von Miller and Demarcus Ware and their spectacular secondary. However, the Broncos defensive line and interior linebackers have been outstanding in 2015. Opposing teams simply do not carve out big games on the ground against the Broncos.

Sylvester Williams–once thought as a bust–has seamlessly replaced Terrance Knighton in the middle of the defensive line.  He is big, strong at the point of attack, and can push the pocket and penetrate somewhat. He is joined by defensive ends Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson. Wolfe and Jackson do not get a lot of national press, but they do their job and do it well inside–particularly against the run.

New England Patriots
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Inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall are also two of the best 3-4 interior linebackers in the league. Marshall burst upon the scene in Denver last year in his third NFL season and has performed at a Pro Bowl level against the run and in coverage this season.

Trevathan is a smaller linebacker but quick and aggressive. He was a surprise starter in 2013 when Denver made it to the Super Bowl but injuries derailed his season last year and he barely got the field. This season he has bounced back and been a pest all over the field. Both will likely be spending more time in coverage rather than defending the run.

The Patriots will have a hard time moving Williams, Wolfe and Jackson to give Jackson space to run. If they do succeed in doing that, Trevathan and Marshall are filling gaps and taking down the running back. This is not a matchup to try and run the ball for the Patriots. Sticking with the short passing game will be much more effective than trying to run the ball.


Next: When the Patriots Pass the Ball