NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Patriots' matchup with the Broncos and Tim Tebow.
Baldinger said Tebow present a real threat to all opposing defenses, and he doesn't expect him to hit a wall anytime soon.
"First of all, he's a great running back," Baldinger said. "If you just strip everything else aside, the guy's a 240-pound running back, and there's not that many of them in the league. And if you watch him against the Bears -- and I mean elite defenders in [Brian] Urlacher, [Lance] Briggs, [Julius] Peppers, [Charles] Tillman -- he either ran around them or through them last week. That was a great test for him, and he passed that test.
"Even though they only put up 13 points [and needed] overtime to get it, they still moved the ball throughout the game. And then when they were down 10-0 they said, 'OK, let's spread it out. We have to throw it.' And he spread the Bears out and he threw it, and he threw it pretty well. They had seven drops by wide receivers, but he extended plays, he played a style of offense that's difficult to defend. He breaks your defense down. It's more than a gimmick, it's more than a wildcat.
"But can he stay healthy taking as many hits? Because the Chicago Bears whacked him. For whatever reason, he just keeps getting up like nothing happened to him, like his armor is just made of steel. … He's indefatigable. You get to the fourth quarter, he's the only guy that looks fresh on the field. He never wears down."
Denver has the league's top ground game, and Baldinger said running back Willis McGahee has a lot to do with that.
"I've seen Willis McGahee run away from the Oakland Raiders and run away from a lot of defenders this year, where it looks like he'd got a new lease on life," Baldinger said. "Teams are having a tough time -- I don't care if it's the Chicago Bears or whatever good defense has been out there, teams have a hard time handling it.
"Not every running back in the NFL could adapt to the read option and what the reads are. … It's different. I'm not so sure every running back could adapt to it, the way that the plays break and what to look at. Willis McGahee, a lot of people thought that he was done and cooked, this is the best year he's had in years, maybe since he left Buffalo. It certainly has worked for him.
"Now, I do think there's going to be a time when it catches up to them, when they're not going to be able to run the ball, but I haven't seen it yet. They were very effective against the Bears, Not all game long, but in a lot of key spots where they were a difficult team to defend. I think the Patriots will have their hands full this week."
The Patriots come in with a high-powered offense led by Tom Brady, but Baldinger cautioned not to sell the Denver defense short.
"The Pats haven't seen two pass-rushers like [Elvis] Dumervil and Von Miller yet," he said. "If you put Nate Solder or Matt Light on a short corner and think you can just spread this team out and go find [Rob] Gronkowski or match up Aaron Hernandez or put Wes Welker against a rookie corner in Quinton Carter or somebody and just think that Brady can just stand there and deliver the ball, you're also crazy as well. These guys off the edge, you've got to have a game plan for these guys. You've got to put a tight end over there, you've got to put a back over there to slow these guys down.
"Even Von Miller with the cast on his hand, from a broken thumb, was incredibly effective last week. And if you look at some of the quarterbacks they've faced, including the Green Bay Packers and mighty Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers required to have his elite mobility and movement to escape a lot of rushes. Brady doesn't have that. He's got to beat them with speed and decision-making, as we know, and with the accuracy of the ball. That will be tested.
"I'd be surprised if the Patriots take the ball on the first three series and march down the field and score three touchdowns and really take Tim Tebow and Denver out of their offense completely. I don't think it's going to be that easy."
Following are more highlights from the conversation.
On the struggling Patriots defense: "They went to a 4-3 and that didn't work. Now they're back to running some 3-4 but they can't keep linebackers healthy to run it and they don't have good edge pass-rushers. So, they just keep constantly changing right now trying to see who's healthy and putting the right defense on the field to make it work. Meanwhile, guys that looked like they were going to be a cornerstone for the defense for a long time like Devin McCourty, here he is in Week 14, he doesn't have an interception and he's getting beat repeatedly, because he doesn't know who back there helping him over the top from the safety position. Suddenly, he doesn't look like a lockdown corner anymore and a guy that you can build with.
"Injuries have played a part, changing the schemes have played a part. But the basic foundation is they don't have good safeties, which are hard to find in this league, and they don't have good pass-rushers. I don't care what scheme you put in or who's coaching it, you're going to break down at key points of any game."
On if the offense can carry the Patriots to the Super Bowl if the defense doesn't improve: "I don't think so. We saw it when we go back to 2007 with the Giants. If you're asking Tom Brady just to be Superman every single week -- you saw the frustration last week on the sidelines. You saw the frustration against the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo this year when he threw four interceptions. If he's got to be pinpoint throws all game long to put the score into the 30s and sometimes into he 40s to win, that's a lot of pressure on anybody. ...
"If your quarterback has to do it all and cover all of your flaws the way Peyton Manning had to do in Indianapolis, then I think eventually it catches up to you. Because every single step that you go in the food chain through the playoffs, you're running into a less and less flawed team, and your flaws get more and more exposed. That's what happened, in my mind, to the Patriots here in the playoffs over the last few years."
We check in on the Patriots off-season with ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss. Mike updates us on Revis, McCourty, Wilfork and more.
Price calls Butch to discuss the March 2nd deadline for franchise tags, free agency and the Pats' plans going forward.
Shortly after the NFLRA released its statement demanding an apology from ESPN, Jim Quirk, the NFLRA's Executive Director, joined Mut to talk about the statement
Flannery joins Mut to break down the Isaiah Thomas trade to Boston and what it means for the Celtics this season and in the future. Paul also chats with Mut about the other deals that happened at the NBA's trading deadline
We talk to Chris Mannix from SI to break down the C's acquisition of Isaiah Thomas and the crazy trade deadline in the rest of the NBA.
Jessica Camerato of basketballinsiders.com joins the show to talk about Marcus Smart, the starting lineup, and trade deadline.
The one and only Rob Bradford calls Butch to discuss his early thoughts on this Red Sox team, the potential in the rotation, how the outfield will shake out and more.
David Ortiz takes a few minutes to talk with Mut, Bradford, and Tomase about some of his new teammates, who Pablo Sandoval reminds him of, and the rules aimed at speeding up the game of baseball.
Mut, Bradford, and Tomase are talking Red Sox spring training. and talk with Red Sox DH David Ortiz about the rules aimed at speeding up the pace of the game
In the second of Sunday Skate, DJ and Joe discuss the approaching NHL trade deadline and what the B's will do. They get into the Boychuk move at the beginning of the season and Boychuk's brother venting on Twitter this morning about complaining B's fans. There is more discussion on the 3rd and 4th lines, their playoff chances and then they are joined by ESPN's Scott Burnside.
Another edition of Sunday Skate is upon us and DJ and Joe get into the B's big win over Arizona last night and the improvement of Ryan Spooner. They get into the Blackhawks giving up a 1st round pick for C Antoine Vermette - someone the B's could certainly use but weren't willing to give up the steep price of a 1st rounder. DJ and Joe also get into Claude's willingness to switch up lines as well as the performance of the 3rd and 4th lines. Finally, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sits down with the boys.
Scott Burnside joins the boys to discuss the Bruins and the NHL trade deadline.
A look back at Dennis and Callahan's 2015 trip to spring training. They visited with Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington, Xander Bogaerts, John Farrell, Mookie Betts, Joe Kelly, Curt Schilling and Dustin Pedroia.
Dino, Gerry and Kirk are joined by Rob Bradford, Gordon Edes and Steve Buckley to forecast the 2015 campaign.
Pedroia joins the guys in Fort Myers to look at the upcoming season and his health entering the spring.
Brick joined the show to talk about the couple players that the B's added. He noted that the lack of subtractions means that the front office trusts the core group.
The Red Sox entire team wore the number 3 to honor Pete Frates. The HS team that was suspended for trying to bring awareness to breast cancer have been allowed to play. Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley are bad at karaoke, but not as bad as Joey and Christian.
With the Patriots focusing on CB Darrelle Revis, it's likely that the team will lose safety Devin McCourty or Brandon Browner. Or both.
We talk Boston Bruins with NESN's Jack Edwards, our first talk since the NHL trade deadline.
Jerry discusses the plus and minus' of the Patriots first (of many) Super Bowl DVD's
Dale and Michael briefly discuss the opening of the Marathon Bombing Trial, and how the 'Free Dhzokar' crowd will have to get a new hobby.
Mikey, Mut, and Lenny are joined by the Rev girls, who are revealing the New Revolution uniform Tuesday at the House of Blues in Boston and talking about the Revs.
Mikey, Lenny, and Maggie talk Red Sox baseball with Red Sox Hall of Famer Bill Lee, who is in Florida and out of the snow that's perpetually burying the area.
Mikey gets a call from Kirk Minihane, who wants to clear the air with Mikey and get everything settled. It goes better than you think.
Adam Himmelsbach, Celtics beat reporter for the Boston Globe, joins the show to share his love of the Brow and discuss the surging Celtics playoff chances. Then we take a field trip to the MIT Sloan Analytics Conference and analyze the data with Rick Friedman.
Chris and comedian Will Noonan discuss the events of last night's Raw.
WEEI’s Scott McLaughlin previews the opening round of the Hockey East tournament with Northeastern coach Jim Madigan and Mike McMahon of College Hockey News and The Mack Report.
Schilling chatted about his decision to fight back against the Twitter trolls that targeted his daughter. Curt talks about what he would like to see happen to the most vicious trolls.More from this show
All the latest stories brought you by Kirk Minihane.More from this show
We discuss Curt Schilling's outing of the internet trolls who thought rape jokes were appropriate to direct at his daughter, and we discuss it with you, on how this isn't just a sports issue, it's a societal issue.More from this show
Tom E. Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England talks about the Patriots placing the franchise tag on Stephen Gostkowski and what is going on with Darrelle Revis' contract situationMore from this show