I would not say "huge" just yet, but he is better. The difference is in the awareness each player has of the world beyond their one-on-one matchup. The type of play I cite as the difference between the two is from Super Bowl XLVIII, when Rodgers-Cromartie was slow to turn around and notice that Percy Harvin ran a jet sweep to his side of the field. Thirty yards later, the Seahawks were in field-goal range after just two offensive snaps. Talib has much greater vision of the world beyond his duel. His deflection of the pass that Chris Harris Jr. intercepted last Sunday was a classic sucker play. And he also can defuse players of different styles and sizes (wide receivers, tight ends) in one-on-one coverage.
Yes, he got beat for a touchdown last week. He got beat by a perfect throw. It happens sometimes.
I'd like to think fans know better than to overlook a team that has won in six of its last nine trips to Denver, and that has the most vital element necessary for contention: an elite quarterback. (Who, by the way, has a 10-7 mark against the Broncos and a 5-5 record against Peyton Manning-led teams.) It can be argued that the Chargers are one of the top three teams in the AFC, perhaps better than New England and Indianapolis.
I would prefer not to answer a question with questions. However …
What week is this? What month is this? And was it Aaron Rodgers or Frankie Goes to Hollywood who said, "Relax"?
The Broncos just went 2-1 against teams that were a combined 35-13 last year, and the loss was in overtime, on the road. They weren't going to finish 19-0. No one is going to be consistent against a series of quality opponents, especially with different or position-shifted starters at 15 of 22 positions relative to the Super Bowl XLVIII lineup.
Chill. Almost every team would trade its "inconsistent" product with the Broncos in the average time it takes for Peyton Manning to release the football.
It can, but don't think of it in rigid pass/run terms. At their essence, some passes are run plays in which the ball gets outside the hashmarks quicker. They stretch the defense in a horizontal fashion, but do not require the safeties to cover more of the field length-wise. Their intent is possession. This goes back to the 1970's, when then-Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Walsh instituted what would eventually be known as the West Coast Offense: controlled passes that functioned as runs.
If you want the pass to set up the run, you want deep shots that pull the safeties back and force the linebackers into deeper coverage responsibilities. This opens the second level. At this point, running success becomes a matter of opening lanes at the line of scrimmage and not allowing the penetration into the backfield that has been such a problem for the Broncos this month.
Neil Paine of the superb FiveThirtyEight.com site wrote this week about the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams did exactly what you suggest: use the pass to set up the run. Paine made the salient point that the Rams led the league in fourth-quarter runs in 1999, as they built their leads through the air and used Marshall Faulk to provide the final, knockout punch to fatigued defenses. What was unusual then is typical now.
In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the only occasions on which the Broncos kneeled at the end of the half came when they took possession with less than 20 seconds remaining. At that point, a higher-risk play is the best shot of creating a realistic field-goal chance, and is that worth the potential of a pick-six, or a strip-sack-fumble?
The Broncos had the football at some point in the last minute of the first half 20 times. They kneeled in six games, and only when they had less than 20 seconds on the clock. They scored eight times: three touchdowns and five field goals, and had three more drives in scoring range ended on downs, an end-zone interception and a missed field goal. And the Broncos scored 50 percent of the time when they took over possession with between one minute and 20 seconds remaining in the half (the two failed drives saw nothing but passes).
I wouldn't call that a "lack of aggression."
None that top yours.
You picked a great time to ask this.
The NFL's point man on international games, Mark Waller, told NFL.com's Albert Breer this week that Brazil is a market that is under consideration. For NFL fans in Brazil, that glimmer capped a terrific month that began with Cairo Santos becoming the first Brazilian-born player to score in an NFL regular-season game.
But that being said, the NFL's antenna is pointed toward London and western Europe for now. I would expect that if the league goes beyond London, that sites such as Edinburgh, Manchester, Frankfurt, Berlin and Düsseldorf are possibilities.
I am not in favor of expansion beyond 16 regular-season games, but if it were to happen -- in conjunction with the reduction of the preseason by two weeks -- I would propose that the 17th game involve each team going overseas every year, with the "International Series" expanded to 16 games. In the unlikely event of that happening, I'd expect Brazil to be a part of it. But like many of my fanciful ideas involving international play, the restoration of a minor league, and the elimination of regular-season overtime ("What's so bad about a tie?" I ask, but remember -- I love soccer), I expect my suggestion will never see the light of day … at least not beyond this mailbag.
Time and again. The tailgate begins all too early Saturday morning (11 a.m. kickoffs are the spawn of Satan). The diet starts Monday.