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Gray Matter Mailbag: Patriots Week

Posted Nov 22, 2013

In the newest edition of the Gray Matter fan mailbag, Gray Caldwell answers questions on Von Miller, the run game and the injury report.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Another week, another matchup on Sunday Night Football. Including this week's game, the Broncos will have played four times on the NBC broadcast -- including the Thursday night NFL Kickoff Game, broadcast by NBC's Sunday Night Football crew.

This week, it's the New England Patriots on the schedule, a matchup that's come to be known as Manning-Brady XIV.

Thanks as always for your submissions -- you can tweet them to me throughout the week @GrayCaldwell using the hashtag #GrayMatter.

Let's get to this week's questions.

Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio thinks so. On Monday, he said he doesn't believe Miller has been "quite as impactful as he's capable of being" since returning from his six-game suspension.

Miller has 14 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble in his four games played. The third-year linebacker agreed with his coach's assessment, calling himself "a work in progress."

“I definitely think I can be more impactful," Miller said. "I definitely think I can make more plays (and) be more productive. If I went out there and got six sacks I think that I could be more productive. That’s just me. I hold myself to a higher standard than any of my teammates and my coaches. Myself is the easiest thing that I can fix. I’m going to take it one day at a time and I’m positive that I can get there.”

Miller said it starts in practice if he wants to resume the level of play that earned him a Pro Bowl berth in each of his first two seasons -- and 30 sacks in those campaigns.

Even with that type of production, Del Rio said on Monday that Miller's best football is in front of him.

"That’s one of the reasons why I really believe as we continue through this second half of the year that we should get a surge from him returning to top form," Del Rio said. "Certainly we would welcome that."

Regardless of the matchup, expect Denver to run the ball more down the stretch. Peyton Manning said it will be a point of emphasis for the rest of the season for two reasons -- as the weather gets colder it's more ideal to run than throw all over the field and because the balance on the offense keeps opposing defenses from focusing too much on the pass.

That was the strategy the Broncos took into Kansas City in last week's win.

“We tried to do that last week a little more," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. "There was an emphasis in running the ball more, especially with that team we just faced—with those rushers. That kind of helps our pass protection out."

In terms of this specific matchup, New England has allowed nearly 126 rushing yards per game so far this season. But last week, the Patriots shut down the Panthers' running back trio of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert to the tune of 41 total yards. It was Cam Newton's 61 rushing yards that gave Carolina more than 100 on the ground.

Rushing success is not guaranteed, but it's clear that the Broncos will look to get Knowshon Moreno and company involved early and often.

"It’s got to be a big emphasis because the weather is only going to get worse and we have to be able to move the ball in the running game,” Gase said.

Officially, he's questionable, which by definition means he has a 50-50 shot to play. The fact that he participated in both Thursday and Friday's practices is promising, but the fact that he was limited in both leaves some doubt. He's started all 10 games so far this season, and that includes two weeks of being listed on the injury report. However, his final status was probable on both previous occasions. This is his first week with "questionable" game status.

After Friday's practice, Del Rio addressed whether Thomas will play.

“He was limited again today," he said. "He’s questionable going in and we’ll just have to make a determination. We don’t play today, we’ve got a couple more days, but he was limited in what he could do today.”

In other injury report news, Champ Bailey is also listed as questionable and the cornerback said he will "pretty much" be a game-time decision.

The remainder of the Broncos' report is listed as probable, including Peyton Manning and Wes Welker.

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