The Denver Broncos shocked many people with their overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs.
In all likelihood, the only fans happier than those in Denver, resided in New England. The Patriots had major issues against the Steelers earlier in the season as Dick LeBeau had the perfect gameplan to shut down the Patriots' offense, unlike last night against the Broncos.
Going against Denver, many fans will already have their tickets booked for the championship game.
Those fans need to simply look back to last season's playoff exit to the New York Jets. The Patriots routed the Jets in the regular season last year, as they did the Broncos this year, before being sent packing in Foxboro at the same stage last year.
While Tim Tebow is receiving a huge amount of praise for his efforts, and rightfully so, Demaryius Thomas is the real worry for the Patriots.
Thomas destroyed Ike Taylor in the first round of the playoffs. Taylor had an amazing regular season giving up just two touchdowns on the year and having similar coverage statistics to Darrelle Revis. The Steelers trusted Taylor to take care of Thomas without much help.
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-----------------That is not something the Patriots can even attempt to do if they are to win the game.
Devin McCourty has struggled for the most part during his sophomore year in the NFL. His greatest weakness is his upper body strength. McCourty cannot cover receivers with a strong upper body. Players like Vincent Jackson, Stevie Johnson as well as Thomas himself already put up big numbers against McCourty.
Thomas put up 204 yards against Taylor including the game winning touchdown pass in overtime. Playing against predominantly man coverage, he averaged 51 yards on four receptions. After a college career at Georgia Tech where he specialized in the deep ball as part of an option offense, Thomas doesn't run that many routes.
The Patriots need to simply focus on not allowing Thomas to get deep. He has the speed and strength to get down the field and beat defenders for position on the ball. He followed Calvin Johnson at Georgia Tech and possesses similar strengths to Johnson.
Countering Thomas is the same as countering Tebow.
Tebow struggles with accuracy and cannot pick apart zone defenses with medium or short completions. Thomas struggles to run routes consistently and find soft spots in zones. Fortunately for the Patriots, the Steelers laid out the perfect gameplan for the Patriots to beat the Broncos last week by doing the total opposite of what was needed.
While the world may be overlooking Demaryius Thomas in favor of Tebowmania, it's a safe bet that Bill Belichick's first priority defensively will be to shut down the talented receiver.