ENGLEWOOD -- Bill Belichick knows defense like Picasso knows painting.
He develops a scheme suited for high IQ players in niche roles. They can frustrate and confuse, forcing a team to play left-handed. And not like Randy Johnson or Sandy Koufax.
The Patriots lost Monday night with quarterback Cam Newton sidelined by coronavirus, but they made Patrick Mahomes look ordinary. That is a chilling thought for a Broncos offense likely to be led by Brett Rypien in his second career start.
Will Belichick decide to load the box to stop the run, forcing Rypien to beat them? New England used six defensive backs and dropped seven into coverage against the Chiefs with decent results. They could flip that script and attack the run this week.
Even so, Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay need to play well, capitalizing when holes appear to ease the burden on Rypien.
"We’ve just got to go off momentum and build off our momentum. They do a great job of taking out the best player. They’re a great defense, bend don’t break sort of speak. I’ve been watching them very closely," Gordon said. "James White is one of my close friends, so I’ve paid a lot of attention to the Patriots. They’ve got a great defense and do a good job of knocking the ball out, so if they give us an opportunity, we’ve got to make the best of it because they probably won’t give many.”
Gordon ranks eighth in the NFL in rushing with 281 yards. As a team, however, the Broncos average 92.5 yards per game, which sits 29th overall. The return of Lindsay should complement Gordon, and provide an avenue for the Broncos to become more dynamic.
My advice: Use the pair together, line up Lindsay in the slot -- with K.J. Hamler out with a hamstring injury and DaeSean Hamilton providing no production -- and be creative.
Offensive boss Pat Shurmur showed a willingness to go deep against the Jets, but the Patriots rarely get beat over the top. This game will be won with medium slices of turf. The two backs have combined for 12 catches for 56 yards. They need more Sunday.
"We both bring different things to the table. Obviously, Phil wasn’t playing so I don’t think teams will have enough film to game plan against that. We’ll really be able to see how that goes for us and I hope it goes well. We bring different elements, and Phil’s speed is top class, so that’s something they’ll have to deal with," Gordon said. "I’m pretty well balanced myself, so when you put both of us out there you’ve got to pick and choose who you want to stop. It’s just another playmaker out there that can help us win so I’m excited to see how it goes, hopefully it goes well, and we can go out there and make plays and help the Broncos win.”
Nose tackle Mike Purcell, who was playing in the AAF football league in 2019, received validation of his career renaissance Monday. The Broncos awarded the nose tackle with a three-year extension with $6.8 million guaranteed. It was surreal for the former Highlands Ranch prep star, who considered retiring a year ago to become a firefighter or coach after bouncing around the NFL.
"It’s amazing. It’s a complete blessing, that’s for sure," Purcell said. "The journey has been up and down, and there have been multiple times when I’ve thought about hanging it up and saying, ‘Maybe it’s time to move on and start a real career.’ To be home -- home here with the Denver Broncos -- my family and I are super excited.”
Linebacker Josey Jewell delivered the best game of his career against the Jets, posting 10 tackles with two sacks. The Broncos blitzed with frequency not seen before in a Fangio-led Denver defense. Jewell hopes the Broncos can build off the aggression.
"It can be a booster," Jewell said. "And now we need to start getting more turnovers."
Broncos defense has produced two takeaways, tied for 29th. The Patriots have produced eight, tied for second. There is no way Broncos can pull off the upset without winning the turnover battle at New England.
Quarterback Drew Luck watched practice Tuesday, another indication he is unlikely to play Sunday. A more realistic return date is the following week against Miami, a month removed from suffering a strained rotator cuff on his throwing shoulder. ...
Tight end Noah Fant (high ankle sprain) and cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder) were not working on the side with trainers, making their appearance Sunday doubtful. ...
Those players working on the side with trainers were: Receiver K.J. Hamler, Jeremiah Attaouchu, Mike Purcell, DeMarcus Walker, Austin Calitro and Dre'Mont Jones. ...
Belichick said he continues to evaluate the Patriots' quarterback situation. There remains a chance that Newton is cleared to play.
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