QUARTERBACK PEYTON MANNING**
On people saying that he prepares so meticulously for every game that there isn't a higher level of playoff preparation
"Certainly, preparation is important in games like this, and you want to have laser focus. I guess what I would say [is] if you have to prepare harder for this game, that means you probably haven't been preparing hard enough all season long. I really feel you have to treat every game – every regular season game – as it's the most important game. Cover yourself from a preparation standpoint, spend the time talking to your teammates about this adjustment or this audible. That's how you're supposed to play the game. I think [you must] be prepared. But when you do that all season long, when you get to games like this, it should flow right along. Obviously, we know that we're one of two games being played, but it has to start with the preparation. Our preparation has been good all season; it will be important that it's solid again this week."
On how he can describe playing against New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick
"I don't know if I have a word that really jumps out. Coach Belichick is the best coach that I've ever competed against. I think it's safe to say he'll go down as the greatest NFL coach of all time. So, the teams that he has coached that I've competed against have always been well-coached, always been prepared, always played hard for 60 minutes. If I had to think of a couple of things that have stood out about the teams that he has coached – and you know I've played against him when he was a defensive coordinator with the [New York] Jets and then as the head coach at New England – those things jump out every single week. To me, that speaks to his coaching."
On welcoming matchups with Coach Belichick
"Like I said, it's certainly a great challenge when you play against teams coached by Bill Belichick. That goes back to my first couple of years when he was the defensive coordinator with the Jets, and then he gets the head job with the Patriots. His teams, his defenses when he was coordinator, like I said, [are] always well-coached, always well-disciplined, and you know it's going to be a 60-minute fight."
WIDE RECEIVER WES WELKER
**On the differences between Demaryius Thomas and Tom Brady on and off the field
"I'll try and answer this and be as indifferent as possible. There aren't too many differences. They are great quarterbacks. They do a great job of keeping guys accountable, and their leadership skills and everything else. They are two guys you want quarterbacking your team. It's a toss-up between those two."
On if there was any kind of culture shock going from Coach Belichick to Coach Fox
"Obviously everyone is going to be different. Players are different, coaches are different. Everything else. They are obviously great coaches and have different styles and things like that, but they are both very effective in the way they go about their business and the way they do things. I'm just excited about the opportunity that I have in front of me."
On the differences in the Patriots secondary from the last game
"Their secondary I feel like is the real strength of their defense and of their football team. They have a lot of good players back there and lot of good cover guys. Their safeties are very knowledgeable of the game and they do a great job. I don't see too many differences from what they did in the first game going forward, but we'll just see how it plays out."
On if it is strange that it is Patriots vs. Broncos playing for the AFC Championship
"It's tough to get here and tough to get to this position and tough to get this opportunity. You just try to take advantage of it and try not to worry about how you got here or what was expected or anything else. I'm just happy I have the opportunity and try to make the most of it."
On if he still maintains relationship with people at the Patriots and the charity raffle with Matt Light
"Yeah I do. I played with Matt Light for a long time. We have pretty cool raffle deal going on to get to come to the AFC Championship game. You get flown out here and get four tickets. You can go to weswelker.com or netraffle.org and get raffle tickets for a chance to win."
On how it feels to face the Patriots again with so much at stake
"It's still another game. You understand it is the AFC Championship and everything like that. You want to go out there and prepare as much as possible. At the same time, it is still an opponent and it's a team and you're going out there and playing to the best of your ability and go out there and try to win the game."
CORNERBACK CHAMP BAILEY
**On what has impressed him most of the way QB Peyton Manning has played this year
"One thing about Peyton he's always been detailed about is working and things like that. But I was very impressed with how he attacked people consistently. It's not like you see the up-and-downs from Peyton. Peyton is always up, because he's always ready, always prepared. And it's good to see that firsthand."
On how frustrating the season has been for him
"It's been very frustrating – my most frustrating, probably because I'm living it right now. The only thing I care about now is I'm back on the field. I'm ready to go. I feel good, and that's all that matters right now."
On whether he feels like he needs to win a Super Bowl to complete his career
"I don't prepare thinking things like that. All I care about is winning the game in front of me. [I do] not worry about my legacy – all those things will take care of themselves. I'm just worried about what is in front of me. If I don't take care of what is in front of me, then nothing else will matter, because I would probably go out there and have a bad game or something like that. So I don't get caught up in that. I just … When I'm done, I'll look back then."
On the challenge of facing Patriots QB Tom Brady
"It's going to be tough. Brady has always been tough against us. I don't know how many times we've beaten him, but not a lot. He is one of the better quarterbacks to play the last 15 years. It's going to be one of those challenges [where] we've definitely got to bring our 'A' game. We know they're going to be ready, so it's going to be a war out there."
On whether the younger players on the team gather around him for advice and understand his jokes
"Not all the time. (laughter) They listen – that's the one thing I like about our young guys. They don't think they know it all. We've got a great group of young guys, and to be honest with you, we're only going to go as far as they take [us]. They're very important to us in what we do, so they definitely take all they can take in."
On whether he is nervous at all
"I get nervous in the preseason. Nerves are always there – it's just are you ready? I'm always confident in what I can do, but the nerves are always there."
On whether he thinks about the 2005 AFC Championship Game – the last time the Broncos were in this position
"Not a lot. I can't look back; I can't change it. It was disappointing at the time and frustrating. It is what it is. That was eight years ago. It's not like it was two years ago. It's definitely behind me. I'm just looking forward to this challenge."
On whether he ever doubted that he would get back to an AFC Championship Game
"We had some up-and-down years, but that is the reason why, when my contract was up – the time before this one – there was no doubt I wanted to be back here. Because this organization is about winning, so it wasn't going to take long until we got back to it. I feel good about what I did and am definitely glad I'm still here."
LINEBACKER WESLEY WOODYARD
**On whether this will be the biggest test for the Denver run defense
"It most definitely is. [Head] Coach [John] Fox always talks about [how] the next game is the biggest game, and this is going to be a huge game with [Patriots RB LeGarrette] Blount coming in with I think three great games the past games. It's always going to be a challenge to stop the run, especially in the playoffs. With the way they've been running the ball and the way they know how to scheme around it and get players out of their gaps and taking advantage of it, it's going to be a huge challenge this week."
On what type of chip is on his shoulder
"Being a leader, I would definitely say having that captain on my chest, that's my chip. Regardless of anything that goes on, my job is to continue to lead my defense and to continue to lead my teammates – give guys good advice out there. A guy who I'm living through and I love to see play every game is [LB] Danny Trevathan. He came in like a little brother to us, and now he's just growing up and taking over things. It's exciting to see that. To me, that's what I look forward to, seeing guys step up."
On what the team can draw from Week 12's game at New England
"Finish. That's the topic of that game, and it'll be the topic of this game. These guys aren't going to go away. If they're down 30 points, they're going to play the same way as if they're up 30 points. They're not going to go away. You've got to go out there and play four quarters, 60 minutes, a full game versus these guys."
On understanding the importance of closing out games
"I definitely think we're understanding that. It's always going to be tough in those last quarters to continue to play dominant, but that's a challenge that you've got to live up to. This being in the playoffs, any moment can cost you a game. Definitely finishing is going to be something that we've been hitting on since Monday, and it's going to be the same throughout Sunday."
On the benefit of having savvy veterans
"To me, it goes more for the younger players. If the younger players don't have anything to look forward to, then they're going to be lost. They're going to be lost souls, probably out of the league in a few years. But if you've got guys like a Wes Welker or a Shaun Phillips or Champ Bailey around the locker room, those guys can see the way that you're supposed to do it."
DEFENSIVE TACKLE TERRANCE KNIGHTON
On if facing a bigger back like LeGarrette Blount changes anything for him
"For me, no. As long as the back's not bigger than me; he's not bigger than me but almost. I don't have any worries but we'll have to gang-tackle him and they have three running backs that are capable, four, really, that are capable of going back there and exposing you. We've just got to know who's out there, our personnel and know guys' running styles. He's more of a downhill guy so we'll try to hit him before he gets going."
On stopping the run with LeGarrette Blount or RB Stevan Ridley in the game for New England
"I think you've just got to know your personal. When [Stevan] Ridley is in there, he's more of a threat to bounce it outside with his speed. [LeGarrette] Blount will come in there and hit it downhill. So you've just got to know who's out there and know the formations and know what they like to do and things like that. Then they've got [Shane] Vereen, who comes in, who can line up at receiver and line up in the backfield. It's tricky but ultimately we've just got to do what we do and play gap-sound defense and tackle."
On how he went about getting into shape when he got to Denver and how training camp wasn't the easiest time for him
"This is my fifth year. As a professional, when you sign somewhere and when you're playing in this league, you're expected to do those things. It wasn't hard. I mean, the altitude, things like that were different but knowing where this team wanted to go and knowing where they were last year and how they wanted to approach it this year, I didn't want to behind. I just made sure I handled my business like a professional."
On what makes LeGarrette Blount so tough
"He has a lot of speed for a guy his size and people underestimate that. They think he's a bruiser but [when] he gets in the open field, he can make the DBs miss and run away from them. We'll just have to gang tackle and a lot of time watching film this week, he's getting to the second level untouched because their o-line is doing a good job of getting a hat on a hat and controlling their one guy. We'll just have to shed blocks and swarm him."
On the idea of finishing being a theme for the Broncos this season
"It starts in the meeting rooms. It starts in practice. You can't just turn it on on Sunday. We've just got to understand situational football. San Diego was down, so of course they're going to come out and spread the ball and get the ball out quick, try to take our d-line out of the game. We've just got to understand situations better. It will definitely be something we'll have to pay more attention to this week."
TIGHT END JULIUS THOMAS
On the progress he has made in such a short amount of time
"To be honest, sometimes when I think about all of the things that I get asked to do and how far I've come, sometimes I look back like, 'How'd you do it? How'd you do it all? How did you stay on top of everything?' I think it's just a great job by our coaches. Our coaches do a great job of preparing me and really helping me learn things in a short amount of time. A lot of times stuff goes in on Tuesday and you're expected to have it down by Thursday. They do a great job of making sure that I have it down."
On if he is a basketball player that plays football or a football player that occasionally plays basketball
"I'm definitely a football player that gets to play basketball every blue moon in the offseason. It's funny because I have an old basketball tape at home and I look at it like, 'I don't even recognize that guy.' I used to be 215 [pounds], jump off the ground and hang in the air for a while. I'm pretty sure I can't float like I used to."
On how he has traced his season since the time that he was injured
"It's hard to think about last year and what it was like when I was sitting there watching football on Sundays, but it's something I'll never forget. The way I approach the game, the way that I approach everything that I do, is with the understanding that there was a time when I wasn't even able to hit the field. There was a time when 53 guys ran out of the tunnel, and I wasn't one of them with a helmet. That's something that I'll never forget. That's something that will be with me for the rest of my life, just continuing to work hard and putting myself in positions so when I have an opportunity to make the most of it."
On if he ever doubted himself in the NFL and thought about a different career path
"I always felt that I was going to have the ability whenever I got a chance to do well. I think that comes from practice. Guys would be like, 'You caught one pass in two years,' but that was only in a game. In practice, I was able to do things to build confidence, to show the organization and my teammates that when I did have an opportunity to get onto the field that I would be able to do well. I never had the thoughts that everything is so down. Battling back from an injury, it's tough, but to be able to go out there and practice and build that confidence and start to learn the game more and more, that was always encouraging for me."
WIDE RECEIVER ERIC DECKER
On playing for a spot in the Super Bowl
"It's really a dream come true. It's something that, for us, has been a goal since the beginning of our offseason. We came into OTAs, came in talking about what we wanted to do from last year. And we knew we had the capability, we knew we had the guys and the pieces in the locker room to have that. And we set ourselves up for that chance. Now, what are we going to do with it?"
On the importance of playing at home
"That's the name of the game—to try to get that home-field advantage throughout the season so that you set yourself up to have the best chance to make it to the end. To be at home against them—they've been obviously very good at home, they had their four losses on the road—to be with our crowd, in our environment, it's an advantage we need to use."