Everyone is talking about Tim Tebow. Some people are talking about Tebow overshadowing the defense. I'm here to actually tell you about the Denver defense, because that is the only significant thing with which the Steelers will have to contend.
This is Elvis Dumervil sacking the shit out of Tom Brady.
It is easily my favorite play of the year, because of the rarity of it. Tom Brady isn't supposed to be taken off his feet and drilled into the ground. At least that's been the wisdom for some time now, and it is true: his line is excellent at picking up the pass rush.
So what happened?
Denver sets up with a three down-linemen. Two of them are fatties, and the one off to the right is Elvis Dumervil, this LB/DE hybrid. Dumervil is only 5'11 and all of his weight is in his lower body; he uses his size much the way James Harrison and Dwight Freeney do, taking on the much larger offensive linemen at a low center of gravity where he has the advantage.
In this play, Dumervil is aided by a linebacker and a defensive back.
The guy who starts off at the bottom of the screen is #58 Von Miller. He is a rookie and he is unbelievably good at his job. As a LB in a traditional 4-3 defense, Miller wouldn't be asked to pass rush as much as he does; but Denver's nickel and dime packages look more like a 3-4 attack, and so he gets plenty of opportunities to come out of coverage.
If you notice the guy lined up outside Dumervil, across from the slot receiver, that's Quinton Carter, another rookie. He's in as the dime back on this play, but Denver gives him the blitz call. This is just enough to catch the eye of New England's right tackle, who picks him up leaves Dumervil free.
With both Dumervil and Miller penetrating, New England can only pick up one of them; in this case it's Miller who gets blocked and Dumervil who gets the sack. Combined, these two have a cool 20 sacks on the year, which is 2 more than our tandem of Harrison and Woodley.
I don't know that this particular play is characteristic of Denver's defense, but as I said, they are a 4-3 team that isn't afraid to go to an unbalance 3-man front in their sub packages. The trick to beating that is to keep help in the backfield. We've been using Heath (too much) as a pass blocker lately, and we'll definitely need Redman to get into the act as the sidecar. I have serious doubts about Denver's big men, and if they're going to leave a hole in the line like they do here (note the giant gap between Dumervil and the NT), then I run the draw out of the shotgun.
In all frankness, I think there's cause for some concern. Ben is a big meathead with a gimpy leg. Max Starks is capable as a "push-and-apologize" blocker, but Von Miller requires more of a "good" blocker to really shut him down. Legursky is fine as fake Mike Pouncey, but that's when he's playing next to real Maurkice Pouncey. Real Maurkice Pouncey is effectively dead this Sunday. I don't even know who is on the right side of the line, but I'm rooting for them to put in Hines Ward at RG as the first milestone tribute of 2012.
Look their pass rush can be sweet. Our line and our QB are icky. We're going to have to be smart, which isn't our forte, though it is possible.
What else is going on in Bronco land?
Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey are both drawing on social security. Ron Paul will put a stop to that.
The running game is anchored by 30 year old Willis McGahee. This happened the last time Willis McGahee played us in the playoffs.
We all know what happened the last time Ryan Clark played in Denver.
Man, head hits and sickle cell disorders are terrible!
There's not too much more to the Broncos. They pass rush very well, and that creates pressure situations which create the potential for turnovers. If we don't take care of the ball we give them a chance to win. If we take care of our business on offense, it's extraordinarily unlikely that Denver's offense can beat us.
My guess is that we'll see a pretty shitty game, with a lot of incompletes. Ben will shake his head in disbelief a lot, Tebow will keep his chin up because he's a moron. That will be your football afternoon.