Staggered Broncos out to avoid another beatdown
AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos are still smarting from their beatdown at Baltimore and they’re pledging not to let themselves get pummeled by Pittsburgh.
The main message when coach Josh McDaniels installed his game plan Wednesday was that the Broncos need to get back to the basics of winning the physical matchups. It’s what they did during their 6-0 start, a stretch that came to a crashing halt in a 30-7 blowout loss at Baltimore last week.
“Yeah, they beat us up pretty good, no question about it,” Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton said. “We feel like we’ve got a physical football team and certainly Pittsburgh prides themselves on that, too. So, it’ll be a hard-hitting game and whoever can win that battle is going to have a good chance to win.”
The Broncos were the NFL’s biggest surprise when they took an unblemished record into November. Under the brash, 33-year-old McDaniels, they proved well-coached, disciplined and physical. And they quieted any remaining doubters by beating Dallas, New England and San Diego is successive weeks in October.
Then came the blowout at Baltimore, and now the league will learn if they have a bounce-back in them that’s anywhere near as impressive as their stunning start.
They figure the ricochet begins with being the ones to deliver most of the punishment.
Physicality can be a nebulous notion in the NFL. What constitutes being more physical than one’s opponent? Is it mostly about size, strength, speed, matchups, gumption?
“It’s about everything,” Orton said. “It’s about practice. You can’t just practice soft for three or four days and expect to go out and play a physical game.”
Linebacker Andra Davis said being physical is almost all mental.
“You know that next day you will be hurting. So just accept the fact, go in there and bang, throw your body around and try to knock your guy back,” Davis said. “It will be an all-day effort. You have to go in there and bang, bang, bang.”
McDaniels disputes the perception that the Broncos lost the physical battle last week because they were overmatched in any area.
“We didn’t play the way that we’re capable of playing. And that’s not an excuse. Baltimore forced us to play the way we played and they deserve credit,” McDaniels said. “We’ve got to do better. But it’s not about matchups. We have enough players out there that can match up physically with anybody in this league.”
That would come in handy because Pittsburgh presents the same sort of challenge Baltimore did with a fast, controlled style of play piloted by stars such as Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward on offense and James Harrison and Troy Polamalu on defense.
“Absolutely, it’s a very physical team in every phase,” McDaniels said. “And to me, that’s where it starts with the Steelers. If you’re going to get ‘out-physicaled’ offensively, defensively, in the kicking game, you’re going to have a hard time winning. And they are definitely going to challenge you in every area.”
There’s simply no soft underbelly to the defending Super Bowl champs.
“Every one of their players plays like that. I don’t care if it’s the kickoff returner, the kicker, the tight ends, the lines, whomever it is, Roethlisberger. They’re all physical players that play tough and are going to present that challenge to us individually and as a team collectively,” McDaniels said.
The Steelers (5-2) have been throwing the ball a lot more this season, but the Broncos feel that’s a trap.
“Pittsburgh is going to pound the ball,” defensive lineman Kenny Peterson said. “They have a physical offensive line. Their mentality has been the same for decades, which is physical play.”
A big step toward regaining their swagger would be for the Broncos to start fast Monday night. They’ve been outscored 39-24 in the first quarter while outscoring opponents 116-57 after that.
“We’re going to try to address it every day that we’re here,” McDaniels said. “It’s been a multitude of different reasons, whether it be execution of a simple thing or a decision being made, a bad call on our part, something. A mistake here or there changes the beginning of the game.”
And a shift on the physicality front could very well change the outcome, too.