ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The closing moments of the Broncos 24-17 win in the Divisional Round not just a little too close for comfort, they were also a little too familiar for Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway.
"I think it took me five hours to enjoy it just because of the fact of what we were going through during the game and the situation we got ourselves in," Elway told Chris Hall of Broncos TV in the weekly Elway Access Podcast presented by US Bank FlexPerks.
"Until we finally picked up that third-and-17 it was almost a déjà vu but we made the plays we needed to make to get over the hump and win that. We dominated that game for three quarters and then we let them back in. It took me a while to get that pit out of my stomach because of the fact of the flash backs to what happened last year."
But once the final whistle blew and the win had the chance to sink it, it came with a relieving feeling.
"I think that took the monkey off of our back from what's happened – losing in the Divisional Round really the last two years but really last year's hurting as bad as it did," Elway said. "So it was good to get that monkey off our back and I think everyone felt that."
Elway said that the play of the game Sunday was the throw and catch from Peyton Manning to Julius Thomas on third-and-17 late in the fourth quarter.
The catch by Thomas and another crucial third-down catch by the tight end later in the drive allowed the Broncos to run out the clock in the victory formation.
Not long after that, the attention turned to the AFC Championship matchup with the Patriots set for Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos found out on Monday that they'll be proceeding without cornerback Chris Harris Jr. who suffered an ACL injury in the Divisional Round.
Elway said that they've handled this sort of adversity all season long as several defensive players have suffered injuries that kept them on the sideline and the team has held tightly to the "Next Man Up" mentality.
Moving forward this week, the Broncos have to continue to pay attention to detail, Elway said, in preparation for the Patriots.
"It's a normal week for us with a Championship game coming up on Sunday. You don't have a whole lot of time to spend doing nothing. We'll get out to practice and both sides of the ball will continue to pay attention to detail. We're going against one of the best coaches, if not the best coach in the history of the NFL and you know that they are going to have every base covered. That's what we have to do, we have to cover every base."
He added that it's "a lot better" for the Broncos to be playing at home this weekend because of the fans. He said the fans were tremendous last week and he hopes that they'll be loud again this weekend.
When the Patriots and Broncos met last it was on New England's home turf and the Patriots came away with a 34-31 OT win. That game is something that the team can learn from but shouldn't get caught up on.
"We don't dwell on the first loss," Elway said. "We use it, and it stung at the time, but we use it and don't dwell on it and realize that this is a team that we're going to have to keep our foot on the pedal for 60 minutes. We're not going to back into anything. We have to go out and win it as well-coached as they are and we know that."
Kickoff for Sunday is set for 1 p.m. MST and the winner will advance to the Super Bowl.
"It's going to be a barn-burner."