Patriots prepare to face Tebow again
Some have proclaimed that Patriots (12-4) quarterback Tom Brady has
arguably the best throwing mechanics of any quarterback in NFL history.
And Denver (9-8) quarterback Tim Tebow's elongated delivery is one of
the most ridiculed in NFL history.
But there will
be no beauty points on the line Saturday night at Gillette Stadium when
the Broncos travel to Foxborough to take on Bill Belichick's No. 1
seeded team. After losing to New England 41-23 during the regular
season, the AFC West champion Broncos earned the rematch with an
overtime win over the Steelers in Denver on wild-card weekend.
The Patriots and Broncos will Duke it out with a chance to advance to
the AFC Championship Game, taking on the winner of the battle between
Baltimore and Houston.
The two teams represent an
interesting juxtaposition. Denver led the NFL in rushing utilizing an
old-school option attack.
Brady threw for more than 5,000 yards leading the
league's No. 2 passing attack.
New England led the AFC with a plus-17 turnover
ratio. Denver was near the bottom of the conference at minus-12.
Denver hit the postseason with a three-game losing streak. New England
won its last eight games of the regular season.
much as the Patriots will be battling Tebow and the Broncos, the team
will be fighting its own recent playoff history. New England has lost
three straight postseason games dating back to the perfection-ending
upset at the hands of the Giants in Super Bowl XLVII.
In each of the last two postseasons, the Patriots have been
one-and-done in the playoffs. In 2009, New England got blown off the
Gillette Stadium field at the hands of the Ravens on wild-card weekend.
Last year, the No. 1 seeded Patriots fell to the Jets in Foxborough in
the divisional round.
Though the Belichick/Brady
Patriots are known for their three Super Bowl victories in four years,
many members of the current New England roster have never won a playoff
Tebow will be looking to lead Denver on an
improbable playoff run. Brady will be looking to regain his winning
postseason ways. They'll be doing it with very different styles. And
only one will be moving on come Saturday night.
LINEUP WATCH: As has been the case all season, New England's secondary
remains a major work in progress heading into the divisional round of
the playoffs. Belichick has used six different starters at safety and
four at cornerback this year, while rotating endless others throughout
the much-maligned secondary. Second-year cornerback Devin McCourty - a
Pro Bowler as a rookie - played primarily safety in the season finale
in a new-look lineup. Some lineups including McCourty, Kyle Arrington
and Patrick Chung will likely take the field Saturday night in
Foxborough. But who that trio is joined by and how the players are
employed remains a question to everyone but Belichick and de-facto
defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
NUMBERS: One is the number of regular defensive starters with the
Patriots when New England last won a playoff game - the AFC title game
following the 2007 season. That honor belongs to Pro Bowl nose tackle
Vince Wilfork. Four of the Patriots' offensive starters - Tom Brady,
Matt Light, Wes Welker and Logan Mankins - were with the team for that
AFC championship win over the Chargers at Gillette Stadium.
Josh McDaniels officially rejoined the Patriots' coaching staff on Jan.
8. McDaniels will return to help the Patriots prepare for a Broncos
team that he helped put together in his year-plus as Denver's head
coach. McDaniels actually drafted Tim Tebow in his time in Denver.
McDaniels was fired by the Broncos last fall and worked as St. Louis'
offensive coordinator this season.
--WR Wes Welker
was named a first-team All-Pro last week after leading the NFL with 122
receptions, the second time in his career he earned a spot on the squad.
--TE Rob Gronkowski earned first-team All-Pro honors last week after
the second-year player set an NFL record at the position and led the
NFL with 17 touchdown receptions.
--RT Sebastian Vollmer (back/foot) missed the final five games of the regular season,
but the team refrained from putting the third-year right tackle on
injured reserve with the hope that he might return for the postseason
--G Logan Mankins missed the final game of the regular season with a
reported sprained MCL in his knee, but is expected to return to the
lineup for New England's first postseason game after using the bye week
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