The Vikings return home this weekend to finish up the AFC West portion of their schedule by welcoming the Denver Broncos to Mall of America Field. The game was originally scheduled for a 3:05 p.m. kickoff with CBS handling the television broadcast, but the game has been change to a 12:00 p.m. CT kickoff with broadcast responsibilities being handled by FOX.
The Broncos, who are under the direction of Head Coach John Fox and Executive VP of Football Operations John Elway, will enter Sunday’s matchup as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. They’ve won won five of their last six games and sit just 1 game behind the Oakland Raiders in the AFC West standings. The Vikings, meanwhile, are looking to end a three-game losing streak and defend their home turf.
There are two big storylines currently surrounding the Broncos and their sudden surge over the past month or so. The first is QB Tim Tebow, a polarizing figure in the NFL and the man largely responsible for Denver’s turnaround this season. We won’t delve into the details of why Tebow is a polarizing figure, but we will get into how he’s impacted the Broncos.
Tebow took over as the team’s starter in Week 7 and he has a 5-1 record since then. More than the 5 wins, though, is how he’s led the Broncos to those wins. There have been comebacks, late-game heroics and tough road victories.
The Broncos trailed 15-0 in the 4th quarter at Miami in Tebow’s first start, and the former Florida Gator guided his team to a comeback victory that included two TD passes and a 2-point conversion (on a Tebow rush) late in the game and then a FG in overtime. Denver lost big to Detroit the next week, but then Tebow-mania was in full force again against the Raiders, as the QB led Denver to victory after trailing 24-14 late in the 3rd quarter. In Week 10 Tebow led Denver to a road victory at Kansas City, and then the following week in the prime-time spotlight, Tebow drove the Broncos 95 yards in 12 plays – capped by Tebow’s 20-yard TD run – to stun the NY Jets and collect a 17-13 win. Last week against the Chargers, Tebow did it again by rallying his team from a 10-0 2nd-quarter deficit to push the game into overtime and eventually come away with another road win.
Critics question Tebow’s passing ability (45.5% completion rate) and his passing mechanics. They also doubt that Denver’s run heavy approach (249-135 rush-pass ratio since Tebow became starter) will yield successful results for the long-term. But there’s no questioning Tebow’s ability as a rusher, as he averages 5.8 yards per carry and the Broncos are averaging 208.0 rushing yards per game since he was named the starter. And in my opinion, there’s also no questioning his leadership ability, as he’s guided a team that was dead in the water 7 weeks ago into the playoff picture.
The second big storyline surrounding the Broncos is their defense, which has actually been led by a rookie. The Broncos selected LB Von Miller with the 2nd overall pick last April, and he’s been the best defensive rookie in the NFL this season. Miller, who plays outside LB in Denver’s 4-3 scheme, already has 10.5 sacks and he’s added 3 forced fumbles as well. While Tebow led Denver on an epic march at the end of their victory over the Jets a couple weeks ago, it was really Miller the defense that kept Denver in that game; Miller had 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a pass defensed and a forced fumble in the ballgame.
Denver doesn’t boast impressive rankings in any defensive category, but if you look back at their past 6 games, it’s a different story. The defense has played better, thanks in large part to Miller, and they’ve allowed just 1 rushing TD. Also, Denver has allowed just 15.0 points per game in their last 5 victories.
There’s much, much more to talk about in this matchup, and we’ll be sure to cover it all here on vikings.com over the next several days leading up to Sunday’s showdown between the Vikings and Broncos.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 17 Comments »