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Three Keys Unlocked: Broncos at Giants

Posted Sep 15, 2013

Independent Analyst Andrew Mason takes a look back at his three keys to the game.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It would be cliche' to say the ball bounced the Broncos' way Sunday. It would also be accurate, given that Knowshon Moreno prevented one giveaway and Chris Harris sealed one takeaway by cleanly fielding a football that bounced off the turf or, in Harris' case, deflected off Tony Carter's leg.

But there's another cliche' about luck being where preparation meets opportunity. Moreno was alert and prepared enough to hustle to the area where, ideally, he would have been in position to block for Thomas. Harris and Carter were both in the area of the football, as was often the case for all Broncos defensive backs.

There's something to be said for being in the right place at the right time, but the “right place” part of it isn't simply blind luck; on defense, the Broncos swarmed; on offense, they attacked. That's how the three keys brought up Saturday helped lead to a 41–23 win here Sunday.

1. Control yardage after the catch and after contact.

It was telling that Victor Cruz's biggest play came when he ran a post route for a 51–yard gain on the Giants' first offensive snap. Harris was beaten by a step to the pass, but didn't let Cruz turn it into an 80–yard touchdown. You never want to get beat, but on a play where Harris was on his own and didn't have any safety assistance, he minimized the damage; the Giants could only pick up one more first down from there and settled for a field goal — the origin of a theme that would run through the first half and help define the Giants' blue Sunday.

The Broncos didn't always do this well; Brandon Myers broke loose for a 27–yard reception in the second quarter after a missed tackle and was only stopped by tripping over the turf in the open field, and Wesley Woodyard allowed Hakeem Nicks to get 10 extra yards on a 34–yard catch-and-run after hitting him high and going for the big hit, rather than wrapping them up. Neither play cost the Broncos in the end, but these will surely be discussed when the tape is dissected.

2. Don't force balance; take what's there.

Offensive coordinator Adam Gase got more balance, but he didn't force it; it came organically, with the Broncos softening up the Giants defense with short passes and a deep 36–yard pass to Andre Caldwell up the left sideline on the game's first series. No other Peyton Manning pass covered more than 20 yards, and after Caldwell's catch, the longest plays of the game were Knowshon Moreno runs to the right side for 20– and 25–yard touchdowns, which were made possible thanks to the blocking of Orlando Franklin and Virgil Green, respectively.

The Broncos ran on 40.3 percent of their snaps, which was close to in line with the league norms for Week 1 and last season. On their first 20 plays after halftime, they ran 10 times — perfect balance, but done to capitalize on what the Giants were willing to concede.

3. Pounce when the chance arises.

The Giants had four turnovers, but only two came when the game within one score and in serious doubt, so those are the focus. The Broncos didn't score off their first takeaway, but that was only because of the timing; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's pick of Eli Manning's harried heave for the back right corner of the end zone came just nine seconds before halftime; it didn't lead to a score, but it prevented at least three points and preserved the Broncos' lead after halftime. The pressure the Broncos mounted on that play galvanized the defense, which led to a Danny Trevathan sack on the first play of the second half and an eventual three-and-out that set the Broncos up for a touchdown drive that pushed their lead to eight points.

The second takeaway was the knockdown blow; Harris' alert interception was immediately followed by two Moreno runs for 23 yards; three plays after that, Manning hit Julius Thomas for an 11–yard touchdown. Two turnovers in the competitive phase of the game led to three points snatched from the Giants and seven for the Broncos; this is how good teams win.

“We knew from watching the Cowboys (game against the Giants in Week 1) — look how many interceptions and \[fumble recoveries\] the Cowboys had off tips and overthrows,” said Harris, referring to the Giants' six-giveaway performance seven days earlier. “That's what he (Eli Manning) does. There's a lot of tips and overthrows. We were ready for that.”

And they were ready to assure that momentum wasn't a fleeting concept, but one that turned a close game into a romp.

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