EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's been five years since the Broncos visited the Garden State, and eight since they came here to face the Giants.
So long ago was that last game against Big Blue here that the Giants' current stadium didn't exist, and that only one Bronco is left on the roster from that 24-23 loss on Oct. 23, 2005 -- and he isn't going to play Sunday. Little is the same from that day, and most of that is on the Giants' side of the field: their quarterback (Eli Manning), their head coach (Tom Coughlin), four other players and a handful of assistant coaches.
One coach who was there then and remains on the Giants sideline is Kevin Gilbride, then the quarterbacks coach and, since 2007, their offensive coordinator. That continuity helped Eli Manning settle in as their quarterback, in a similar fashion to how Peyton Manning's years with Tom Moore in Indianapolis helped assist his progress to the game's elite. The supporting cast changed, but the philosophy remained the same.
Sometimes it's worked -- as it did in 2005. Other times, like a 26-6 Broncos rout of the Giants in Denver on Thanksgiving night 2009, it hasn't. But the Giants have been patient, have ridden the inevitable peaks and valleys, and are one of two teams with a pair of Super Bowl wins since 2005, Pittsburgh being the other.
The Giants' patience is one model the Broncos have tried to emulate in their post-2010 rebuilding. From hiring a former Giants assistant in John Fox to John Elway's decision to pick the brain of former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi for advice, the Broncos' respect for the Giants organization is palpable. The next step is getting where the Giants have been as recently as February 2012: a world championship.
A good performance Sunday would be a solid step in that direction.
1. Control yardage after the catch and after contact.
Like the Broncos, the Giants' passing game can feast when Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle elude the defender covering each of them and turn a 15-yard gain into a 30-yard touchdown. This might require more conservative coverage from the Broncos' cornerbacks, who will be without Champ Bailey for a second consecutive week; they will need to keep the receivers in front of them. Forcing turnovers can remain a priority if Denver's cornerbacks lay back a few yards and don't try and jump routes, but then the focus would be on stripping the football, whether by the cornerback on his own or holding up the receiver until a safety or linebacker arrives. That can be the Broncos' way of getting takeaways in the passing game, while also minimizing the risk of being victimized by the quick strike that the Giants use so effectively.
2. Don't force balance; take what's there.
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase pointed out Thursday that while he wants a better balance between the run and the pass, it can't be forced, and the Broncos must take what the Giants defense concedes. If that's the run, then the Broncos will adapt their play-calling accordingly, but it might instead be that the Giants try to take away the run and deep plays down the seam, while leaving some open lanes underneath, which would essentially make quick outs, ins or drags to Wes Welker into de facto running plays in regards to methodically moving the chains and chewing the clock. Or the Giants try to neutralize Wes Welker on short underneath routes, but leave Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker open up the sideline. What makes the Broncos offense so potent is that in all likelihood, one of these options will be there, and the Broncos' best bet is to take whatever comes, and hope that balance comes over the course of the game as the Giants adjust and re-adjust, which would likely leave lanes open for the running backs at some point.
3. Pounce when the chance arises.
The Giants proved last week that under a bit of pressure, they could be overly generous in terms of turnovers. But giveaways mean nothing if they can't be converted into points, and the Broncos were only 50 percent at scoring off the Ravens' turnovers last week, thanks to Danny Trevathan's premature celebration. If the game is close and the Broncos force even one turnover and follow that with a quick touchdown, this could devastate the Giants emotionally and make them skittish and prone to even more giveaways later in the game.