Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Broncos-Raiders matchups to watch Sunday afternoon, 1:25 p.m., at Oakland Coliseum.
Broncos RG Louis Vasquez vs. Raiders NT Pat Sims
Tale of the tape:
Vasquez (65): 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, fifth season, Texas Tech
Sims (90): 6-foot-2, 310 pounds, fifth season, Auburn
Pat Sims had 15 tackles Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Fifteen. That’s not a typo. It’s also about as many as some nose tackles have an entire season.
They’re supposed to make others better by closing gaps and flushing pockets. Stats are occasional, not always an indication of how good a player is.
In this case, it shows just how good Sims is playing right now. The reason: A renewed focus.
“He’s done a good job of getting dialed in,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “I sure hope he shows the same focus on Sunday, because that’s how he becomes the wrecking ball we thought he could be. He’s so big and strong that, when he sets his mind to something, he can be a disruptive force.”
Sims will have a tougher time this game than most. Denver right guard Louis Vasquez has played near-perfect football this season, even when asked to play tackle. He hasn’t allowed a sack all season and has been a stout run blocker as a pulling guard and as a gap creator.
Sims moves from right to left defensive tackle so the matchup won’t be exclusive, they two should but heads enough to make a significant impact on the game.
Quarterback Peyton Manning’s pocket presence is so good that outside rushes rarely work, but interior pressure can force errant throws. The Broncos are at their best running behind Vasquez in the A or B gap, and Sims will be responsible for slowing that process down.
Sims seems to have turned a corner, with some excellent performances over the last three weeks. He’s playing the best football of his career with just a game left on his contract.
“Things have been going well, but I’m never truly satisfied,” Sims said. “There are always things to get better at, always things to improve. I’m going to keep working because I think I can be an even better player.”