Patriots vs. Broncos: 3 storylines to watch

Deion Branch is back with the Pats on a one-year deal.
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1. Pass the gravy
 
You could easily argue that the Patriots secondary has been the weakest part of their team all season. Each week, that unit is responsible for giving up hundreds of yards, and is a big reason why the Patriots finished 31st in opponent passing yards per game (293.9). So it comes with mixed emotions that Tim Tebow and the Broncos head to Foxboro Saturday night.

On one side, the Broncos are a run-first team, heavy on the option. That’s good for a team that gives up big yardage through the air. But Tebow showed last week that he can — and will — go deep at times.
“Every time you come out of the huddle, again, the secondary’s primary responsibility is always pass, but in addition to that, they have a lot of run-force responsibilities in this game and option and those kind of things,” Bill Belichick said.

2. Tough as nails

One thing the Patriots are now well aware of is just how tough the Denver Broncos are on both sides of the ball. You could definitely say that the Pats defensive line and linebackers were a little shell-shocked when they realized the strength of the Broncos running game. The Broncos racked up a staggering 167 rushing yards in the first quarter the last time the two teams met. Tebow led the Broncos on two long scoring drives, and consumed 10:45 of the 15-minute quarter. But after that, that defense snapped out of it, limiting the Broncos to just 85 rushing yards the rest of the way. Don’t expect the Patriots to let the Broncos run wild again.

3. Unstoppable force

When it really comes down to it, one thing is clear: The Patriots are better than the Broncos. Yes, you can say that the Patriots haven’t beaten a team above .500 all season (0-2), and their 13 wins have come against teams that, when the dust settled at the end of the year, weren’t all that good. But the Patriots have won 13 games with an injury-riddled defense, one filled with undrafted free agents and late-round draft picks. Why? Tom Brady. Brady and the Pats haven’t showed up over the last two postseasons, but it’s clear the time is now for them. They, more than anyone, understand that. With Brady on point, nobody can stop the Patriots. If he and his receivers are on, it’s game, set, AFC championship game.



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