ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Opposing defenses haven't succeeded in solving wide receiver Courtland Sutton this season. Sutton is one of three receivers with a double-digit receiving touchdown total and has foiled all sorts of challenges, from double coverages to defensive pass interference, in pulling in a highlight reel of unbelievable catches.
Ahead of the Broncos' Week 16 matchup against the New England Patriots — a team with a track record of taking away opponents' best big-play threats — Sutton is not changing his approach to account for potential increases in coverage.
"I go into each game preparing as if it's a regular situation, going in and making sure that [quarterback Russell Wilson] has confidence in me and all the routes that we have put in," Sutton said after practice on Wednesday. "I feel like if you go into it with a mindset of, 'Oh, they're probably going to take this away, they're probably going to take this away' and then you don't take it seriously and then they don't take it away and then y'all don't have that timing, then you're kind of limiting yourself in that situation. [I'm] just going into it with the mindset of making sure that I'm ready and prepared for whatever play gets called, because you never know the look we might get in a certain situation."
Sutton said he would view increased coverage as a sign of respect from one of the league's most accomplished coaches, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
"You can look at it as a respect thing, especially a defensive-minded coach that has had as much success as he's had in this league," Sutton said. "… I go into it trying to be as prepared as possible, so that whenever opportunities do arise and we do find looks that we like, I'm ready."
Head Coach Sean Payton said that Belichick's ability to limit opposing offense's top players is a clear strength of the Patriots' defense.
"He's just really good at taking away some things that you want to do or making you play left-handed, if you will," Payton said. "It's always something different, relative to what he sees on film and what he feels like he has to do versus this offense. That's one of the challenges."
Sutton also underscored two factors that have made the Patriot defense so effective this season: discipline and its adherence to the Patriot Way. New England's defense ranks among the best units in the NFL in defensive metrics, from run defense to yardage allowed per game.
Wilson said trust will be a critical aspect in the Broncos' approach to facing the Patriots' defense.
"Obviously, coach Belichick is one of the best of all time," Wilson said. "He'll have those guys prepared, and they'll do different things. Obviously, they do a really good job, they're really well-coached, really sharp. We're going to have to trust our eyes, trust what we see in the run game, in the pass game, all that stuff and just play clean football. We have a lot of guys that can make a lot of plays, and we're excited to get after it and play at home."
The Patriots will come to Empower Field at Mile High eliminated from postseason contention and sporting a 3-11 record, but Payton said the Broncos will be dedicated in their preparation for a New England team that has been in plenty of close games.
"You just have to look at the tape," Payton said. "They're near the top of the league in every category defensively. They're first in the league in rushing defense, red-zone defense, third down, all those stats. They make it difficult for big plays. … They've been in a lot of close games, and when you watch the film, you can see that, you can see all those things."
BRONCOS' DEFENSE LOOKING TO REBOUND IN RETURN TO EMPOWER FIELD AT MILE HIGH
After a tough loss to Detroit, the Broncos are looking to return to the opportunistic, lockdown defense they had shown they could be over the past two months.
"[I'm] really confident," safety Justin Simmons said about the defense's ability to rebound. "Detroit, they have a heck of an offense and we knew that going into it, and it was a huge challenge for us and one that we didn't meet. We didn't play nearly as well as we needed to, and we didn't execute well enough. Obviously, the takeaways weren't there.
"We need to do a lot better this week, especially coming back at home and protecting home turf. It's going to be a big game for us."
Inside linebacker Josey Jewell discussed the importance of honing their fundamentals ahead of Denver's prime-time clash with the Patriots.
"[The Lions game] wasn't the best game of ours, so that's what we're looking to fix — just doing the small things right," Jewell said. "… After a loss like that, you definitely want to push it past you and work toward the next one and try to have a good game."