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Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will not allow the Patriots to lose this weekend.
-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
No. 4 Denver (8-8) at No. 1 New England (13-3)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, CBS
January 20, 2008.
That is the date of the New England Patriots' last playoff win. It’s actually a little hard to believe, frankly, and you can bet that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady know that date by heart.
And it’s just one reason why the Denver Broncos have no chance of pulling off the upset this weekend in Foxborough.
The second weekend of the NFL Playoffs is a different beast. The best four teams in the league, by record, are in action against the best that the Wild Card Weekend has to offer. Many fans point to this weekend as the best weekend in football each year, and Tim Tebow's presence this year only adds to the electricity.
The numbers in Tebow’s postseason debut against Pittsburgh are hard to ignore. He threw for 316 yards and threw for an NFL postseason single-game record 31.6 yards per completion. CBS’s overnight rating was a 31.6 for the final quarter-hour, and the Steelers' time of possession was 31:06. And last Sunday was the three-year anniversary (to the day) of his BCS National Championsip victory over Oklahoma during which he wore "John 3:16" — arguably the most well-known Bible verse in history — under his eyes. Oh, and Demaryius Thomas was born on Christmas.
You can’t make that stuff up. However, does any of that help the Broncos stop Brady and the Patriots? Cause the Orange Crush certainly couldn’t do it at home a month ago.
On December 18, New England went to Denver and dominated the Broncos 41-23. Tebow was held to seven second-half points, and Brady was magical. He completed 23-of-34 passes for 320 yards and scored three touchdowns (one rushing). Brady's emphatic spike following his touchdown run indicated just how much the game meant to him and his team. The win halted the Broncos six-game winning streak and sent Tebowmania spiraling into a three-game losing streak to finish the year.
Denver was 4-of-10 on third down, 0-2 on fourth down, completed 47.8% of its passes, possessed the ball for only 26:19 minutes and fumbled four times.
Adding to the intrigue of the rematch is how Tebow and Thomas landed in Denver. Former head coach Josh McDaniels traded up to snag the two talented prospects, and now McDaniels will be standing on the Patriots sideline once again. In a game that has no lack of storylines, McHoodie Jr.’s return to Boston feels like back page news.
At the end of the day, the Patriots are at home and are very hungry. Fans can bet that Belichick, who might be the best game-manager and preparer in NFL history, learned from Mike Tomlin's and Dick LeBeau’s mistakes a week ago. Don’t expect a lot of zero blitzes and 9-men-in-the-box formations from the Patriots. Remember, this is a team that one time lined up with one defensive lineman in the playoffs.
The NFL catches up with unique schemes, players and ideas awfully quickly. And there is a reason the Broncos are a two-touchdown underdog.
So barring a Tebowie spotting, this feels like the end of Tebowmania — at least, until next fall.
Denver By The Numbers
Scoring Offense: 19.3 ppg (25th)
Passing Offense: 152.1 ypg (31st)
Rushing Offense: 164.5 ypg (1st)
3rd Down Offense: 30.8% (30th)
Giveaways: 30 (25th)
Sacks Allowed: 42.0 (23rd)
Scoring Defense: 24.4 ppg (24th)
Passing Defense: 231.5 ypg (18th)
Rushing Defense: 126.3 ypg (22nd)
3rd Down Defense: 33.5% (6th)
Takeaways: 18 (29th)
Sacks: 41.0 (10th)
New England By The Numbers
Scoring Offense: 32.1 ppg (3rd)
Passing Offense: 317.8 ypg (2nd)
Rushing Offense: 110.3 ypg (20th)
3rd Down Offense: 45.9% (5th)
Giveaways: 17 (3rd)
Sacks Allowed: 32.0 (9th)
Scoring Defense: 21.4 (15th)
Passing Defense: 293.9 ypg (31st)
Rushing Defense: 117.1 ypg (17th)
3rd Down Defense: 43.1% (28th)
Takeaways: 34 (3rd)
Sacks: 40.0 (14th)