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Plummer: Broncos will handle the moment

1/17/2014

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Somewhere, this week, in the expansive quiet that is northern Idaho, there was a man going through his own preparations as the clock winds down toward Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

"I've got to make sure we're all ready to go with the (satellite) dish, I don't want to miss a play," said one Jake Plummer.

Plummer, who was the Denver Broncos' honorary captain before last Sunday's divisional round win against the San Diego Chargers, just happens to be the last Broncos quarterback before Peyton Manning this past Sunday, to win a divisional round game and get to the AFC Championship Game. That 2005 Broncos team had stumbled into a home game for the conference championship when the Pittsburgh Steelers had upset Manning and the Indianapolis Colts the week before. Those Broncos certainly didn't make the most of it, the Steelers led 24-3 at halftime and went on to win, 34-17, on their way to a Super Bowl XL win.

Cornerback Champ Bailey is the only current Broncos player who played in that game.

For his part, Plummer has seen the Broncos plenty this season and having prepared to face New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick -- the Broncos defeated Belichick's Patriots in the divisional round following the 2005 season -- Plummer sees a few important items on the Broncos' to-do list.

Things like:

Get running back Knowshon Moreno going. Moreno had a career-best 224 yards rushing in the Broncos' Nov. 24 loss to the Patriots on a career-high 37 carries. The Broncos rushed for 280 yards overall, working almost exclusively out of a three-wide receiver set.

"I think at times Knowshon can quite possibly be the MVP of that offense in the kind of situations you get in the playoffs," Plummer said. "Peyton's going to throw it in the red zone, he's going to get his touchdowns, but Knowshon is huge for them to keep things going.

"Knowshon is so good in the passing game, as a blocker in there and as a receiver, but if they get Knowshon going, then they have play-action, it keeps the rush off Peyton and when Peyton has the option of play-action, defenses, man, they don't know what to do with that offense then. Because they can come at you in the same action up front, run or pass, and Peyton sees those guys on defense coming up, he's going over the top."

Be ready to adjust. While every coach before every game talks about taking away something the opponent wants to do, Plummer said Belichick is simply one of the best at doing it.

"He's just always focusing in on stopping what you do well and then see if you have anything else in your back pocket, he almost never lets you beat him with what you do best," Plummer said. "With his own guys, he takes players and finds their strengths, rather than just trying to jam everybody into a system ... he has a way of getting those guys where they need to be and knowing how to shut down what you do well and seeing if you've got anything else in your repertoire. There will come a time in the game when the Broncos have to have other people make those plays.

"If the Broncos open it up a little bit, like they like to do, I could see Belichick attacking Julius (Thomas) and Montee (Ball) in the passing game. That could give them a little bit of trouble. I could just see Belichick, in search of a matchup, shift some things around to force Julius and Montee in to a tough choice in pass protection, where they're 1-on-1 with a defensive end or a linebacker. Julius, man, that guy is a superstar waiting to happen, but right now he has some things blocking that need some work and if they get the chance Belichick will try to create an issue there so the Broncos will have to have an answer."

Manage the moment. Plummer's former teammate, Broncos Ring of Famer Rod Smith said Thursday he didn't think some of the Broncos handled that end of things in the loss to the Steelers eight Januarys ago.

"We didn't have to go to Indy, Pittsburgh had to come to us and everybody was excited about that," Smith said. "And I'm like 'no, you gotta go play.' It's not about being excited about playing at home, it has nothing to do with it. You've got a football game ... and honestly I kind of saw a lot of our younger guys got lost in the fact we had a home game instead of getting lost in the fact of getting in that playbook, getting focused in, being disciplined on the things we need to do as a team and we didn't play well and we lost."

But both Plummer and Smith see players, such as Manning and Bailey, as key in the effort to keep their teammates dialed in. Smith said last January's loss should still sting the Broncos players who lived it and Plummer said it's often the team that handles that early-game emotional swirl the best is the one that plays closest to the form that got it this deep into January in the first place.

"You're asking me like I'm a pro, I went once to the AFC Championship," Plummer said with a laugh. "But the whole thing changes. ...The pressure is huge, but you have to try to approach it like any other game, it is just a football game, it's the same thing you played in Week 1. There's just so much more riding on it. You're one game away from the game everybody starts the season wanting to get to. The pressure mounts. There's no way to not feel it, but the guys who stay calm and do what they do best that's the key. With Peyton back there I kind of feel like, whatever storm New England brings, they'll come out on top and move on to New York."