Facing Tebow, Again
Tim Tebow (Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE)

Posted Jan 9, 2012


The Denver Broncos are a Cinderella story looking for another happy ending. The Patriots would like to end Tim Tebow's fairy tale run, and they look to do it on their own turf.

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.

   As 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 game.

   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.

   BY THE 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.

NOTES

   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 to rehab.

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