As the Broncos continue their preparation for their rematch against the Patriots Saturday, one theme has been consistent throughout the defensive circles in the locker room; they need to limit the Patriots’ yards-after-catch.
In the last game, on multiple instances, the Patriots were able to pick up big chunks of yards after short completions. The Broncos know they can’t let that happen this game.
“It’s very critical,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “You see a lot of short throws, and then here you go — a missed tackle here, a missed tackle there; a guy will make you miss. They’ve got a lot of good players that can run after the catch, and if we don’t limit that, we can see what can happen, because that’s what happened in the first game.”
All week, the Broncos have emphasized tackling. With the size and athleticism of the Patriots two tight ends — Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski — bringing them down will be tough, but necessary at first try.
“One busted coverage and tackling played a huge part of it,” safety Quinton Carter said. “The catch wasn’t that many yards, it’s the run after. So we have to tackle better.”
The last game against the Patriots in Week 15 was the Broncos’ first game this season without veteran safety Brian Dawkins, who was out with a neck injury. With the exception of a small part of the next game against Buffalo, he hasn’t played since then.
The Broncos defense has improved since that game as they get more comfortable playing without one of their captains. The three games the Broncos have played since these two teams last met have given them a chance to cut down on their mistakes.
“(The mistakes) will be (cleaned up),” Bailey said. “I know that for a fact. We’re not going to make all the mistakes we made the first game. The thing is, now you’ve got to go stop them. Whether you’re in position or not, they still have good players, so you’ve got to find a way to stop them.”
With one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, led by three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots are tough to stop. But if the Broncos defense can play like it has in the last two weeks, the group likes its chances.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. “We also feel confident with our guys. We’ve just got to play sound, play smart and I think no blown assignments. Everybody does their job and executes, and it will give us a good chance.”
BAILEY VISITS PRACTICE
On Sunday, quarterback Tim Tebow hosted Bailey Knaub, a 16-year-old girl who’s had more than 70 surgeries due to a rare vascular disorder, at the Broncos-Steelers game. He met with her and her family before and after the match.
Thursday, they were back with Tebow at Dove Valley. They watched practice, got a tour of the facility, ate lunch and met with the Broncos quarterback after the team’s training session.
“Football is amazing,” Tebow said after Sunday’s dramatic victory. “We love it and we’re so passionate about it—you can see right there (in the dramatic finish), but the real win, at least that I would take today, is being able to comfort a girl who’s gone through 73 surgeries before the game and get a chance to go hang out with her now. So that’s the biggest win of the day. They are both exciting, but that’s what I’m even more proud of.”
Here is Thursday’s injury report.
For the Broncos:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Brian Dawkins (neck), WR Eric Decker (knee), LS Lonie Paxton (non-injury).
LIMITED: S David Bruton (Achilles), TE Daniel Fells (ankle), DE Elvis Dumervil (ankle).
FULL: LB Von Miller (thumb).
For the Patriots:
LIMITED: CB Kyle Arrington (foot), OT Marcus Cannon (ankle), C Dan Connolly (groin), LB Dane Fletcher (thumb), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder), G Logan Mankins (knee), LB Rob Ninkovich (hip), WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), OT Sebastian Vollmer (back/foot), WR Wes Welker (knee) and LB Tracy White (abdomen).
Below are some photos from Thursday’s practice.