By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Tebow time in New England? Hardly.
The Patriots have not won a playoff game since the 2007 season, when they went 16-0 in the regular season and won two playoff games before they were upset by the Giants 17-14in Super Bowl XLII. It’s been a long postseason hangover for New England, but unless they freak out at the sight of Tim Tebow, they should at least advance to the AFC Championship next week.
The Patriots are 13 1/2-point favorites and there appears to be no way that the Broncos can go to Foxboro and compete for 60 minutes. The Patriots are an offensive machine with Tom Brady throwing the ball over the lot to Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, and the rest of the crew. They are relentless on the offensive side and won’t slow down. The numbers will just keep adding up as the game moves along and the Denver deficit will continue to grow.
Bears fans can only dream of having an offense like New England’s.
Broncos head coach John Fox knows that trouble is ahead. “The fact that there are more than one or two names makes it hard for any defensive coach to defend the New England offense,’’ said Fox. “You just try to mix it up and win some of those matchups. Brady’s as good as anybody at finding those matchups, and it will come down to that again this time, I’m sure.’’
The Broncos will counter with Tebow, who engineered a major upset over the Steelers last week. Tebow went downfield to speed receiver Demaryius Thomas against the vaunted Steeler defense. Tebow had the best game of his professional career in the 23-17 overtime win over Pittsburgh, as he hit big plays of 80, 58 and 51 yards and three other passing plays of 20 yards or more. It all added up to 316 passing yards for a quarterback who often has a hard time finding his receiver on an 8-yard pass.
If he could do that to the Steeler defense, what can he do against the Patriots who allow yards and big plays in bunches and allowed 293.9 yards per game through the air, which is 31st in the league?
That’s just what the Patriots are hoping Fox, Tebow and the Broncos are thinking. Despite the performance against the Steelers, the Broncos averaged 152.1 passing yards per game this season. They are not going to be able to match points with New England. Many of the experts on the NFL network and the four-letter network say the Patriots don’t want to make the same mistake the Steelers made by challenging the Broncos to throw the ball. In fact, that’s exactly what they want to do.
Belichick knows that even if the Broncos were to hit one or two big plays, the ball will be back in Brady’s hands and he will be able to attack with fervor. He wants to get into a scoring contest and could care less if the Broncos get a touchdown or two.
In his heart of hearts, Belichick may not be able to conceive of any way his team can lose to the Broncos other than turning the ball over 5 times or more.
It may be reminiscent of a game the Patriots were involved in more than 25 years ago when they met the Bears in Super Bowl XX.
Prior to that game, the Patriots went on a miracle run in the AFC playoffs, beating the Jets, Raiders and Dolphins on the road before meeting the overpowering Bears in New Orleans. During the regular season, the Bears had played one of their most lifeless game of the season in a Week Two 20-7 win over the Patriots in which New England’s offense was completely shut down until the final minute of the fourth quarter.
In the Super Bowl buildup, the Bears played the PR game and said they respected the Patriots for their accomplishments and declared them a worthy opponent. The truth of the matter was that they knew they would overwhelm the Pats from start to finish and that New England had no chance of moving the ball on the best defense to ever play the game. If the Patriots had found a way to defeat the Bears, it would have been the biggest upset since the Jets beat the Colts in Super Bowl III. Not in terms of point spread – the Bears were 11-point favorites – but in terms of the relative strengths of the two teams.
This matchup between the Broncos and the Patriots is comparable. The Patriots can do whatever they want on the offensive end and the Broncos can’t hope to match them. It will take a near-miracle – or a blizzard – to allow the Broncos to compete with the Pats. If not, it could be a beating of biblical proportions.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.