Blog Post by: Dan Wiederer
- December 1, 2011 - 9:15 AM
As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s game with Denver at Mall of America Field, we asked Mike Klis, the Broncos beat writer for the Denver Post, to give us his up-close-and-personal scouting report. Here are four things you need to know …
1) Just to bring you up to speed – in case you went to Mars for Thanksgiving weekend – Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is now 5-1 as a starter, continues to lead late-game scoring drives, and the hype surrounding his success continues to mushroom.
Klis continues to marvel not just at Tebow’s poise in the clutch but also the national fascination that has erupted.
“It’s not just the mania around Tebow,” Klis said. “There’s also a mania around the mania.”
Remember those two seasons of Brett Favre craziness in the Twin Cities?
“Tebow’s not nearly the player as Favre but what he’s got going is unbelievable,” Klis said. “He can’t pass. But suddenly he’s become the best final-minute drive quarterback in football.”
Denver currently leads the NFL in rushing, averaging 159.7 yards per game with what Klis calls “a run and chuck offense.”
“They either run or they chuck it deep. There are not too many mid-range passes.”
Somehow, it’s been a winning formula with the Broncos' adopting a conservative game plan designed to reduce turnovers, control clock and keep the game close into the fourth quarter.
The Vikings best stay patient. Not just in their discipline against Tebow on the run but also in understanding that Denver’s grinding, mistake-free, clock-control style is designed to reduce the number of possessions per game.
“People talk about how few points the Broncos are scoring to win these games,” Klis said. “But when you’re controlling the clock the way they have, 20 points is enough, 17 is enough.”
In many ways, this has become a numbers game in Denver.
“When you have the quarterback involved in the running game so often, you have yourself an extra blocker,” Klis said. “It’s 11-on-11, not 11-on-10 like you normally have in NFL running games.”
Klis dug up a few other eye-opening statistics this week
, dissecting Denver’s current four-game winning streak. In that span, the Broncos are averaging 219 rushing yards per game, have committed only one turnover and are allowing 15 points per game.
"There has not been that combination, that trifecta, in a four-game winning streak since the 1971 Miami Dolphins," Klis said. "Who of course became the '72 undefeated Dolphins."
3) We shouldn’t forget about the recent surge of the Broncos’ defense, playing with an obvious edge. And yes, Tebow, does indeed deserve partial credit for that too.
Tebow’s fearless and physical running style?
“He brings a gladiator mentality to the quarterback position,” Klis noted. “And the defensive guys eat that up. Every time he takes off and breaks a tackle, the defensive players jump on the bench. They go nuts. What we have learned is that the most underrated component of a good defense is how well the offense plays.”
Still, it would be silly to overlook the defense’s improvement and the awakening of end Elvis Dumervil.
Dumervil had an NFL-best 17 sacks in 2009 but missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. Early this season, he was dealing with a shoulder injury and not back at peak form. Now, he’s recorded 5.5 sacks in the past four games. Rookie linebacker Von Miller also added 4.5 sacks in November and has 10.5 sacks for the year.
“You can’t double-team them both,” Klis said.
With the Broncos bringing the heat
and veteran cornerback Champ Bailey still playing well, the defense has had no problem keeping Denver in games until “Tebow Time.”
Heck, you don’t even need to rewind to 2010 to find evidence of Fox under fire. When the Broncos began the season with losses in four of the first five games, Fox’s desire to keep Kyle Orton as his starting quarterback aggravated much of Denver. Fox was considered too stubborn. Now he’s being stamped with the “genius” tag for overhauling the offense and finding a winning formula.
“If they start 1-4,” Klis said, “yet somehow use this option offense to make the playoffs for the first time in six years, who else can top him for Coach of the Year?”