The Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins are still both in the playoff hunt. Denver has dropped two of their last three while Miami has won two of three. Who has the edge when they meet this Sunday? CBS’s Tony Gonzalez gave his thoughts on both teams.
Denver got surprised last week by St. Louis. Should Broncos fans be worried or was this simply one of those “Any given Sunday” type scenarios?
Tony Gonzalez: “I wouldn’t be worried at all. First of all, they have Peyton Manning, one of the best to ever play the game. He’s going to get that offense going. Whether or not those guys come back from injury, it will be an effective offense. I think defensively they need to pick it up. They haven’t played that well in the last two games. I’ve got to believe with the talent they have there: Von Miller, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, Terrance Knighton, DeMarcus Ware. It’s just a matter of time before they figure it out and they will because they’ve been there, done that. They played in the Super Bowl last year, they know how to win. They know this is the most important time of the season and they’ll pick it up.”
You and Shannon Sharpe were two of the best receiving tight ends in the league. Thoughts on the NFL now having more athletic TE’s like Julius Thomas, who have basketball backgrounds? Is this a fad or will this soon be the norm?
TG: “It’s the evolution of the position. Don’t’ get me wrong, I enjoy the blocking (tight) ends. Look back at my tapes. I am NOT a receiver. Yes, I can catch the ball but just like Jason Whitten, (Rob) Gronkowski I blocked a lot, especially when I first came into the league. Shannon Sharpe was probably the only TE to ever get away with that where when it was third and short or on the goal line he’d come off the field. I was in there every time dropping down, blocking, picking up double-teams during those plays.
I call it a ‘Flex’. Guys like Jimmy Graham, guys like Julius Thomas, these guys go out there and just catch balls. That’s not a tight end. That’s a flex tight end. But that’s part of the evolution of the position. It’s a huge matchup. Every team in the NFL is moving toward it because it works. You can’t guard it. Even if you do, I’m bigger and stronger than you. I can also jump higher than you because I have that basketball background. If you’ve got a good quarterback who can exploit that…it’s absolutely unguardable.
Teams are going to be looking for these guys and they’re out there. These ‘tweeners’ like myself were all undersized power forwards at the Division I level. We’re obviously athletic as hell because we played Division I but we just weren’t tall enough to make it in the NBA. That’s why we play in the NFL because we couldn’t make the NBA.”
Miami is 4-1 in their last five games and won their first game against New England, yet they still trail the Patriots by two games. Do you think they can overtake NE in the standings before the season is over?
TG: “I don’t know. It’ll be very tough. Right now New England looks like the best team in the AFC. They got something brewing on offense and Bill Belichick coming up with all of these defensive schemes. I don’t think Miami can catch them. They’re only hope right now is if one of the other teams slips up. But they can do it. They’re a good football team. They’re kind of my dark horse in the AFC. They have a championship caliber defense. They got guys who can get after the quarterback. They’ve got guys who can cover.
But (Ryan) Tannehill, Bill Lazor, the offensive coordinator, has done wonders for him. Tannehill has my vote for Most Improved Player. He’s really stepped his game up and he’s also running the ball well, which is huge. It’s very tough to stop. If he doesn’t turn the ball over and just be efficient, and takes what the defense gives him, which is what he’s been doing they pose a problem for New England. But New England’s playing great right now I think their (Miami) only chance of getting into the Playoffs is a Wild Card spot, which they could.
Two years ago you said you were 95 percent sold on retirement, yet you came back for one more season. This is Manning’s last season under contract for Denver before he can exercise his option. Do you see Manning retiring after this season regardless of the outcome? What would make him come back or decide to hang it up for good?
TG: “If he wins a Super Bowl, I think he’d seriously consider retiring. Because at that point why continue? He’s on his way, he might get another MVP which would give him six MVPs and a two Super Bowl rings. It ain’t about money anymore. It ain’t about legacy. That would solidify him as probably the best player to ever play in the NFL at that point.”
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.