Pass rush gives Brady a physical, punishing game
After facing questions all week about how they would get to quarterback Tom Brady with his infamously quick release that had just diced up a talented Chiefs defense to little pressure, the Broncos' pass rushers responded with a dominant day that saw Brady sacked four times and hit 20 times.
In fact, the Broncos tallied more quarterback hits than any team since 2006, per Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar.
"I don't think I've ever seen anybody put that much pressure on Tom, ever," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "I think we did a hell of a job getting that pressure on him."
The brunt of the pressure came from edge rushers Von Miller (2.5 sacks, four QB hits) and DeMarcus Ware (0.5 sacks, seven QB hits) and the three-technique defensive end tandem of Malik Jackson (three QB hits) and Derek Wolfe (one sack, four QB hits).
Sometimes the pressure led to a turnover, like when Jackson closed in on Brady late in the second quarter, forcing Brady to float up a pass that was intercepted by safety Darian Stewart. Sometimes getting to Brady led to simply an incomplete pass, like on many occasions on the Patriots' final few drives when Brady managed to fling the ball into the turf in the direction of a receiver while a Broncos defender was taking him to the ground.
However Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips chose to attack Brady, whether with three- or four-man rushes or by dialing up a blitz, the defense consistently rattled Brady into a frustrating day in which he completed less than half of his pass attempts.
"We really talked about it all week that it's going to be one of those quick-passing games," Ware said. "Somebody asked me a question, they said, 'If he gets the ball off in 1.9 seconds, what are you guys going to do if you can't get any rush?' I said, 'Well, we've got to be a little bit faster and get there at 1.8.' […] The game was going to be won in the trenches, and we said as the defensive line, we have to be able to get pressure on him in all situations. It might not be a sack, but we have to let him know that our presence is there. He felt that tonight."
The pass rush's effectiveness was matched by the secondary, which held the Patriots to just 4.9 yards per passing play, a 32.8 percent drop from their regular season average of 7.29 yards per passing play.
"They've got some great pass rushers," Brady said. "They've got interior pass rushers, they've got some outside rushers. I think you complement that with good coverage. It was just tough for us to ever get into a rhythm."
*- Ben Swanson *
Daniels was ready for New England trickery
With 30 seconds remaining in the first half on his own 20-yard line, Brady kneeled to let time expire while his team ran into the locker room.
The Patriots, down by eight points at the half, have always emanated an aurora of secrecy and trickery — something that tight end Owen Daniels was closely looking for signs of at the Broncos bench.
When New England trotted to the visitor's locker room at the half, the CBS camera found Daniels standing by the bench pointing. They were focused on him after he notched two touchdowns in the first half, but Daniels looked confused rather than confident. For almost 15 seconds, the camera was on Daniels as he looked across the field, pointing with his mouth agape.
"Yeah, I got some comments about that on social media that I looked really confused," Daniels said with a smile.
On Monday when Daniels spoke to the local media, he said he got a lot of questions about what was going through his mind when the camera caught him before leaving the bench area. But Daniels was actually trying to stay on his toes in case Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick pulled a trick out of his sleeve and faked heading into the locker room. It was a situation Daniels and Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak worked on last season when they were with the Baltimore Ravens.
"Last year in the playoff game against Pittsburgh, we had set up a situation where—in that stadium, they exit right behind their bench—it was set up to where if somehow, someway we get the ball at the end of the half by the tunnel, that we go out with time enough where we're just going to take a knee," Daniels said. "We were going to take a knee, act like we were walking off, have them go off, come back, snap the ball and run for a touchdown. That was our plan.
"New England has always got something up their sleeve. Kind of the same situation. Our guys were kind of exiting and getting away. [Kubiak] was right there doing the same thing, so I was just making sure I was ready to make a tackle. I was making sure they weren't doing that, because you never know."
Daniels ended the day with two touchdowns on two receptions. His pair of touchdowns makes him just the third Bronco in franchise history to catch multiple touchdowns in the playoffs.
- Allie Raymond
With the Broncos' victory, you can take advantage of the following promotions:
- Papa John's is offering the "If the Broncos win, you win!" promotion, which gives fans in Colorado 50 percent off all orders the day after a Broncos win (home or away).
- McDonald's is offering fans in Colorado one-dollar Big Mac sandwiches or one-dollar sausage egg McMuffins on Monday and 30 percent off any jersey in the Broncos team store.
- With three touchdowns, Arby's is offering one-dollar roast beef sandwiches.