Both teams have changed since Broncos, Patriots last met

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Less than two months have passed since the Broncos and Patriots met in a wild regular-season game New England. But as the two teams prepare to face off again on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, there are significant differences on both teams. Here are some of the major changes on both teams since the Broncos and Patriots met on November 24:

— Broncos linebacker Von Miller had his best game of the season in that November meeting, scoring the game’s first touchdown on a 60-yard fumble return and adding two sacks and two tackles for loss. Miller is now on injured reserve.

— The Broncos’ secondary has undergone significant changes. Chris Harris was the Broncos’ best defensive back at the time of that previous game in New England, but Harris suffered a torn ACL on Sunday against the Chargers. In that first game, the Patriots’ passing game really picked up after Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie left with an injury at halftime, but Rodgers-Cromartie is healthy now. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey didn’t play in November but will play on Sunday.

— The Broncos’ defensive line is also very different. Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson had a sack and a tackle for loss in the November game, and he hit Tom Brady as he was passing twice. Vickerson is now on injured reserve. Derek Wolfe was a starter on the Broncos’ defensive line in the November game but hasn’t played since then after suffering seizure symptoms on November 29.

— Broncos tight end Julius Thomas was injured and didn’t play in November, and backup tight end Jacob Tamme was Denver’s leading receiver in that game. Now that Thomas is healthy, he’ll be one of Peyton Manning’s top targets, and Tamme will likely be a non-factor.

— Rob Gronkowski was a huge part of the Patriots’ offense, with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos. Gronkowski is now on injured reserve.

— Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount barely played, with just two touches. Blount has recently emerged as the focal point of the Patriots’ offense, with 48 carries for 355 yards and six touchdowns in the Patriots’ last two games. The flip side of Blount’s emergence is that Brandon Bolden, who was the Patriots’ leading rusher in the November game against the Broncos, is now a non-factor.

— Patriots safety Steve Gregory missed the November meeting with a finger injury. He’s healthy and starting now.

— Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes had nine total tackles and recovered a fumble against the Broncos. He’s now on injured reserve.

— Patriots defensive tackle Sealver Siliga is now a starter but was inactive when the Patriots played the Broncos.

— On special teams, Patriots punter Ryan Allen is hurt and might be unavailable on Sunday. The Patriots had Devin McCourty returning kickoffs against the Broncos in the regular season but have now turned those responsibilities over to Blount. The Broncos had Wes Welker on punt returns against the Patriots but this time will have either Trindon Holliday or Eric Decker returning punts.

Do all these changes add up to an advantage for the Broncos or the Patriots? We’ll find that out on Sunday. But we know for sure that these two teams are very different than they were in November.

68 responses to “Both teams have changed since Broncos, Patriots last met

  1. I may actually stay up for the entire game this time. That was a bit of a surprise when I woke up and saw that the Patriots won last time.

  2. Offense-Broncos have four very talented receivers. To put this in proper perspective, there is not one Patriot receiver that could start for the Broncos. Running backs-Moreno and Ball should see heavy duty, but I like the Pats three headed monster led by Blount. Line-Pretty even, but Mankins is the best Offensive lineman on either team. QB- Manning is king of regular season. Brady is superior in playoffs (the numbers don’t lie).
    Edge: Broncos

    Defense-Both teams have had injuries to key players. Neither team is that strong defensively.
    Edge: Broncos (ever so slight)

    Special Teams Edge: Patriots

    Coaching: Patriots (big edge)

    Intangibles: Thin air gives Broncos an advantage that no other team in the NFL enjoys.

    Prediction: Patriots 24 Broncos 23

  3. BB may be the difference in this game. It’s the main reason the Pats probably have a slight edge.

  4. Does anybody know Brady’s record in Denver?

    Peyton blew Brady out in his own house in one half and then took the foot off the gas. This was IN NEW ENGLAND.

    Brady generally sucks playing in Denver and this will be the toughest Broncos team he’s ever faced in Denver.

    Sorry Pats fans, you overachieved all year and you’re about to hit the wall.

  5. No way to call this one in advance for either team. Fully expect the game to be a wild one that comes down to the final seconds.

    Pats love the underdog role though. Hopefully we’ll see a lot of everyone’s favorite Manning face that comes with INTs and other big mistakes.

  6. As the week rolls on I’ll start to over-think this game just like everyone else. I keep going back to coaching and wondering if John Fox can beat Bill Belichick in a game of this magnitude. I don’t think he can, but that is why they play the game. Can we get a countdown to kickoff on this webpage? Not sure I’ll make it until Sunday.

  7. Agreed Marcuswelby!

    John’s a decent guy… but he’s benefiting big time from having Peyton at QB.

    The Bronco D is the biggest unknown. Will they play 2 quarters, 3, maybe even all 4???

    Combine that with one more intangible – Tom Brady’s desire to win even when down huge.

    If the Bronco’s D plays in ANY QUARTER like they did in the 4th against the Chargers… it’s over and Pats win.

    Bronco’s 30, Pat 24… late game win. Watch the monkey jump off Peytons back… and out of the stadium..

  8. IMO i don’t see how so many people heavily favor the broncos! They only put up 24 on the chargers secondary that is decent at best. The pats however have a shutdown-esque corner in Talib while they also have Dennard, arrington and Logan Ryan manning the cb situation which i consider to be a vastly underrated group while also having Mccourty along with a collection of decent safeties. Plus it’s brady in the postseason along with that three headed monster they are sporting with power backs Blount and Ridley and scat back Vereen who could technically be considered a receiver moreso than a running back (sort of like faulk was)….Pats 31 Den 28

  9. Should be a good and likely close affair. As a pats fan I’m obviously pulling for them, but the Broncos are a very good team and Manning played well against the Chargers. Both teams are sure to break out plays and looks we haven’t seen so far this season, because you know both of them expected to meet up in the playoffs. You have to wonder if Manning wins a SB whether he’ll retire. This could be the last game between these two legendary QBs.

  10. Thank you to the football gods for allowing us to see Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady one more time!

  11. You could add that Jamie Collins barely played in November; he was huge last week for the Pats, with tackling, breaking up passes and pulling down an interception, all in place of Spikes.

    Also worth noting that Knowshon Moreno GASHED the Patriots in November but since then has only managed 2 rushing TDs and hasn’t had a single 100-yard game.

  12. Seeing how Denver covers up for the Harris injury is huge… That last game these 2 played changed when jammer had to play. Brady picked on him and Denver couldn’t hide him. Denver won’t let the run game beat them… So I think how Brady is passing will determine this game. I think it’s not gonna be as high scoring as we expect. The losing team will be in the twenties. I think it will be 28-35 Broncos.

  13. I don’t see any possible way for Pats to pull this one out. Playing on the road, no Gronk, no film of the walk through illustrating every red zone play option.

    Manning 49
    Bill 24

  14. .

    LB’s Hightower and Jaime Collins have elevated their games in recent weeks which has helped to offset previous losses to the Patriots defense.


  15. chargerdillon says:
    Jan 14, 2014 11:08 AM

    Does anybody know Brady’s record in Denver?

    Brady is 2-4 as a starter in Denver, including a playoff loss in 2006 @ Mile High.

  16. This game will come down to a bad PI call. Maybe even more than 1. To whom it benefits? Well it’s Manning vs Brady so I’m assuming it’ll go both ways but one will be bigger. This is what the league has become.

  17. Brady vs a Jack Del Rio coached D.
    this includes the last 2 games.

    8-0 over 17000 yards passing 18 TD’s 0 Int’s and QB Rating of117.0

  18. The steelers Also changed. They went 6-2 and were peaking at the right time. Only to get screwed out of the playoffs! They woulda manhandled either 1 of these teams! #nflisrigged

  19. Can I just point out how great Siliga has been down the stretch? Everyone was hoping for Sopoaga to make an impact after they traded for him. Meanwhile Siliga comes in basically off the street to play outstanding football and puts a veteran NT on the bench. That’s something you rarely see in a Belichick defense, but it’s been a very very different year all around.

  20. Really looking forward to this match-up as it should be a great game. Even better, it will likely not include any of the annoying nonsense of the 9ers-Hawks (i.e. trash talk, unneccesary penalties, mocking each other). By contrast, this will be a game between two solid teams, each with one of the all-time greats under center (who genuinely respect one another).

  21. This is ironic. The Patriots used to have a balanced, tough offense and a physical stout defense. That formula used to give the softer Colts fits earlier in the decade and won the Patriots 3 Super Bowls.

    Once Bill Polian complained and took defense out of the NFL, the Patriots morphed with it and became essentially the Colts for years. They got to 2 more Super Bowls but ultimately lost because they weren’t balanced or tough enough against the Giants or Ravens.

    Now…the Patriots are back to being the Patriots and the Broncos are what Peyton’s Colts always were. We’ll see what wins out on Sunday in Denver.

  22. Also worth noting that Knowshon Moreno GASHED the Patriots in November but since then has only managed 2 rushing TDs and hasn’t had a single 100-yard game.


    For clarification, Moreno has played just as well as he did in the earlier matchup, he just isn’t getting near the touches because Ball has stepped up and stopped fumbling. Amazing how little credit Moreno has gotten this season despite playing fantastically. Everyone keeps trying to explain his success away for some reason. Great receiver out of the backfield, great blocker (the reason why Manning has him in there to begin with) and solid runner.

  23. flash1283 says:
    Jan 14, 2014 12:13 PM
    Brady vs a Jack Del Rio coached D.
    this includes the last 2 games.

    8-0 over 17000 yards passing 18 TD’s 0 Int’s and QB Rating of117.0


    Damn, 17,000 yards in 8 games, that is impressive!!!!!

  24. Denver: #1 Total Offense (yardage)
    #19 Total Defense (yardage)
    #1 Scoring Offense
    #22 Scoring Defense

    New England: #7 Total Offense (yardage)
    #26 Total Defense (yardage)
    #3 Scoring Offense
    #10 Scoring Defense

    I really see this being a close lower scoring game where the turnover battle (NE +9 /Den 0) will be the deciding factor. I also will be interested to see if BB will be able to dictate Manning’s game again by playing a 2 deep coverage, lightening the box, and showing him run. Payton tends to be pig headed and take what is given to him. I don’t see Denver beating New England on the ground especially considering that Denver had the #27 pass defense in the league this year. While not world beaters Edelman, Vereen, and Amendola can hurt you with intermediate routes and occasional deep play action routes. Another thing to note is Denver’s run defense was only slightly better over the regular season than Indy was and we saw how that worked out last week… so setting up the play action shouldn’t be difficult.

  25. As a broncos fan, i’m most concerned about blount. If denver stops him and doesn’t allow vereen to get a deep wheel route, Brady’s gonna have to do 5-10 yards passes to edelman and amendola all game. I think champ can keep up with one of them for this one since neither has great speed, and DRC has been great all year. But stopping Blount is going to be a task for sure.

    Denver’s offense will likely come out firing this week. I’m hoping peyton takes some vertical shots because with the wind last week he wasn’t really able to. Talib’s good but demaryius beat him for a td the last time they played. Collins of the pats may be able to keep up with fleener, but I watch julius thomas burn corners too.

    Also, Decker had his worst game that first time around. He is fully capable of big plays. Ask the chiefs.

    Denver’s had a ton of defensive injuries all year, as well as losing their all pro left tackle. Everyone has said we’d be doomed the more the injuries piled up, but the last 3 weeks they’ve been better than they were all year. Hopefully JDR realizes jammer is garbage and can’t be asked to cover the other team’s best receiver. It’ll help denver that brady really only has 3 good options to pass to, all under the height of 5’10”

  26. By the end of the week I’ll probably be somewhat nervous about something that pops into my head and I’ll think the game gets tighter but I feel like you’re going to see New England go in there and kick Denver off the field. These finesse teams never win. Look at the Patriots the last couple years. High powered offense with a finesse running game (run out of the shotgun, quick snap runs, etc). The running game, looking back on it, was gimmicky. And whether it was the Giants, Jets, or Ravens, a tougher more physical team punched them in the mouth and they couldn’t punch back.

    Now the Patriots are that type of team and Denver is the finesse team. This is going to go down just like the old Patriots/Colts games. The Patriots are going to punch Denver in the mouth and they won’t be able to punch back. If Denver doesn’t get out to a sizable lead early and force New England to throw the ball, they’re going to get run over.

  27. Brady and the Pats has all of the excuses in the world should NE lose and very little pressure accumulating as the week goes on. Not that they would ever use them.

    Road Game
    No Gronk.
    Depleted Defense
    Depleted Offense- NO actual TE to target.

    Manning, on the other hand, has everything to lose, and incredible pressure to deliver a W.

    Home Game
    All Star cast to throw to.
    (Even Jacob Tamme would start in NE over any TE we have.)
    Solid Running game
    Warm weather
    Juked up field mikes during the Broadcast so we can hear him and his Omaha”wizardry” ad nauseum.

    Reality is this:

    If Denver loses, Manning’s fate is sealed as one of the greatest QB’s who couldn’t deliver consistently under pressure or in the playoffs- although that is pretty much the book on him anyway

    Brady’s legacy is already locked in stone and winning this game and advancing to an unprecedented 6th SB, win or lose, is just gravy..

    NE – 41
    DEN – 34

  28. I don’t know how defensive lineman keep jumping offsides against the broncos, but it happens more and more each week. That was absolutely pitiful by the chargers. It gave manning short yardage almost every drive. To me, that was the difference in the game. It kept manning on the field.

  29. The entire game changed when DRC got greedy and went for the pick right before the half. At that point Brady found our rookie corner WEBSTER #36 and like the vet that he is, proceeded to shred him for the REST OF THE GAME. Thank GOD he’s on IR for this one… We usually get the best of Brady at mile high. Hoping it continues. The last 3 games have been in NE??? Including NEXT YEAR?? NFL Scheduler a PATS fan? Lol

  30. What concerns me is that the refs have had a tough year, and in the face of a one sided crowd (see ticket sales restrictions) will they call a one sided game, or let the home team slide with enough grabbing and holding to alter the outcome of the game? I’m not saying this is particular to Denver. I’m saying it big high pressure games, the home team tends to play with their hair on fire, at least for a while, and they can really push the envelope out of fear of losing at home. Meanwhile, the visitor is focused on not doing anything that might result in a penalty, knowing it could kill their chances, and the imbalance results in a competitive advantage that alters the outcome of the game. We’ve seen strange officiating this year. I’m hoping the game is clean, called accurately, and the classic Manning come from behind phantom PI calls don’t show up. Sorry, but I’ve seen him chuck it up there looking for the call as a last ditch resort too many times. It worked a lot in Indy. I think it’s actually a play call in his book. It’s a way to not only get huge chunks of yardage, but also to stop the clock. The only QB that does it more may be Flacco.

    On the flip side, Denver had serious problems covering Pats receivers in November and I fully expect them to try and feel out how much they can get away with early in the game with regard to coverage contact, grab/hold/release (rinse and repeat), to alter the timing of routes, then let go just before the ball arrives and throw their hands in the air claiming they never touched the guy.

    Denver is never a good place for anyone to play and even the Pats have had issues there at times. They will need to be consistent and mentally tough to the very end if they want to pull it out.

    If NE is to win they will need help from Thompkins and Dobson if healthy, and both those guys need to start positioning the hands correctly to catch a football. Stop positioning your hands pinky to pinky unless the ball is directly below your waist. The ball is bouncing off your palms. Stop trying to basket catch the ball. It’s bouncing off your chest. Your hands need to be thumb to thumb and index finger to index finger, forming a cone. The hand attached to the shoulder that is closest to the incoming ball must be placed in the upper position. Otherwise the wrist will not turn radially far enough to adjust to the incoming ball. You snatch the ball out of the air with your fingers and secure it with your palms. I think these guys focus so much on route running they forget the basics of how to catch a football.

  31. I can’t say who is going to win this game. What I do know is, the 4th quarter will end up being inconsequential. Come back to this comment after you watch the game.

  32. Don’t forget the ankles. Manning will have ankles this time.

    BTW, I like it when people identify themselves as believers in “QB wins.” It’s like them openly saying the earth is 6,000 years old, or that they believe in astrology or alien abductions. It tells me exactly how seriously to take anything else they might say.

  33. “Peyton blew Brady out in his own house in one half and then took the foot off the gas. This was IN NEW ENGLAND.”

    I was at the game. The Patriots built the Broncos’ lead for them. Peyton had nothing to do with the 3 fumbles the Patriots offense lost in the first half.

    Brady had everything to do with the comeback and the win. Go Pats.

  34. u missed the biggest difference… that was regular season… this is playoffs… we wont see the same manning… oh wait!

  35. Wow. If you ignore the trolls (mostly steeler fans) there are done great points in the comments. The take away….this is gonna be one heck of a game. As a self identified patriots homer I think they will win. I feel like we have too many options on offense for Denver to spend enough time preparing for everyone. Throughout this season we have come out as a ground and pound running team, a finesse play action passing team, a straight passing team, and I feel like in forgetting one. Our defense has been the bend but don’t break rock reminiscent of the 01-04 campaigns. Solid fundamental d that will give up yards but not points. This is gonna be one heck of a game.

  36. Peyton didn’t blow anyone out last game. The Patriots fumbled three straight drives and handed the Broncos 24 points to start with.

    No need the overanalyze by position. This game will hinge on if the front four of the Patriots can get to Peyton and force him to hurry his throws. I’m confident in the secondary, but if he has as much time as he did against San Diego, he’ll pick them apart. Force him into bad throws and you can generate turnovers. That and they need to be physical with his receivers. You disrupt the timing on the routes and blow up those picks, and the whole offense falls apart.

    The offense just needs to use the same formula as last week. If they can be as effective on the ground, you keep Peyton on the sideline and wear down that defensive front.

    It’ll be a great game; I’m not gonna pick the winner though. I’m feeling confident in the team right now and we’ll see whose best is better

  37. morty999 says:
    Jan 14, 2014 12:34 PM
    Also worth noting that Knowshon Moreno GASHED the Patriots in November but since then has only managed 2 rushing TDs and hasn’t had a single 100-yard game.


    For clarification, Moreno has played just as well as he did in the earlier matchup, he just isn’t getting near the touches because Ball has stepped up and stopped fumbling. Amazing how little credit Moreno has gotten this season despite playing fantastically. Everyone keeps trying to explain his success away for some reason. Great receiver out of the backfield, great blocker (the reason why Manning has him in there to begin with) and solid runner.


    I agree, and I’m not discrediting Moreno, I’m suggesting along with the theme of the article that the Moreno vs. Pats D storyline probably won’t be as much a part of this matchup.

  38. fryeways;

    So according to your logic the broncos just gave the game away. Brady had so much to do with Holliday’s muffed punt and the punt late in overtime which hit off a bronco defender, which basically sealed the game. Don’t forget that if that last turnover on special teams never happened, the broncos would probably have been able to run the last 3 minutes off the clock thus ending the game in a tie if not being able to get in range for a field goal. Football is a team sport. Brady didn’t win the game for the patriots, their team did.

    I see this game being a lot different than the first meeting. Both teams will score points it just comes down to whatever team limits turnovers and penalties. It very well could come down to whomever has the ball last.

  39. Good article.

    Two most significant changes for sure is Gronk being out and Miller being out.

    With that being said, I kinda think everyone is undermining the Broncos win versus the Chargers. The Chargers were arguably playing better then the Patriots. They also beat the Bengals at home, something the Patriots couldn’t do.

    I also think if Luck doesn’t throw 4 interceptions the Pats don’t score 44 points, thus a way closer game. Alot of those points were kinda gift wrapped.

    Lastly, Peyton won’t be losing to the Pat’s twice, will he? No, Broncos 38-30

  40. I’m a Pats fan, but the return of the Broncos two star corners is a decisive factor. Denver wins.

  41. Yea ur right broncos have gotten better and pats well they’ve stayed the course. Denver wins 35-24 go Peyton and knowshon will have over a 100 again

  42. The Chargers were arguably playing better then the Patriots

    For three and a half quarters the Chargers looked like they brought a knife to a gunfight.

    Win or lose you’ll get a much better showing from the Pats.

  43. Don’t forget the major pass interference that wasn’t called on denver against edelman in overtime. That would have given the pats the ball on the denver 40, just outside field goal range. Denver fans can say all they want about losing that game on a muffed punt….denver should have lost anyway.

  44. the first meeting was a fluke for both teams. first half, new england turns the ball over like crazy. second half, denver turns the ball over like crazy.

    this game is going to come down to the offensive line of the patriots vs the defensive line of the broncos.

  45. One team will race out to a 21-28 point lead and then have to survive a furious rally. This is the history of these Manning-Brady contests.

    The weather will be a non-factor so this should be a very different game. No wind, cold, or rain is expected. I doubt the Broncos will run it as much as they did in the first game and I suspect the Pats to attempt to establish the run. It would not surprise me if the Pats raced out to a 24-0 lead and then lost 34-31.

  46. Don Banks (no relation to Carl) said it best: “Of all the many New England trips to the AFC title game, this one is by far the most ridiculous. The Patriots’ receivers Saturday night against the Colts were all under 6-foot in height, and two of them went undrafted: Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins. The tight ends were the underwhelming Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan. The fullback is James Develin, an Ivy Leaguer from Brown who also went unselected in the draft. The starting offensive line includes two more undrafted talents: center Ryan Wendell and right guard Dan Connolly. Then there are all the key injuries and defections that rocked New England this season, from Vince Wilfork to Rob Gronkowski to Aaron Hernandez.”

  47. Flash1283: Check your stats. While Brady has been impressive he has not passed for 17000 yards. Just shy of 1800 is more accurate:

    “Brady has yet to lose to Del Rio in 7 games. He’s yet to throw a pick against one of his defenses. He completed 88% of his passes once against Del Rio’s defense (in 09) and that wasn’t even his best game against him. For his career, he’s 171/235 (72.76%) for 1,766 yards and 17 touchdowns.”

  48. One thing I like about this match-up is that there are few Patriots and Broncos fans that are complete trolls; mostly because they come from relatively civilized regions.

    The comments in here are pretty solid besides the trolls from other teams who have no football of their own to care about.

    Good luck Denver.

  49. I think that Denver takes this 31-13, but I am leaving the door open for it to be worse than that for NE.

    I got a feeling that Peyton may enter the zone this Sunday like he was in against Denver 10 years ago in the WC game.

    If he does, Broncos 49-21.

  50. The Patriots are a much better team than they were in November and this will be a tight game all the way. If NE has their punter back, that’ll be a factor. I feel NE will squeak by.

  51. I am a huge Manning fan. He is basically the only reason I care about the NFL. College ball rules in the southeast. “Go Vols”. That being said, Manning and Brady are the two best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Manning can outsmart any coach in the league, but Brady can out throw any defender. Manning fans hate Brady and Brady fans hate Manning. I wonder if they hate each other the same way. I would like I think they respect one another because they both deserve it.

  52. So many keep going back to the regular season game for comparisons. Truth is it was a poorly played game with some big plays, mostly by NE. If they weren’t turning the ball over, Brady was throwing lasers. Overtime was a draw with Welker having a brain fart at the end.

    I see no advantage in this game for either team including coaching since it’s really BB versus Manning. It will probably end with Brady kicking a 75-yard FG. Why not?

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