On November 29, the New England Patriots came into Denver to face the Broncos sporting a 10-0 record. The Broncos were 8-2 and looking to post a signature win on an uncertain season.
Denver knocked the Patriots from the ranks of the unbeaten, 30-24 in overtime on that day. In today’s AFC Championship Game, they will try the same formula.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler, in his second career start, was up against the legendary Tom Brady. He had taken over the reins the previous week after an injury to Peyton Manning.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was putting together a patchwork offense after injuries to receivers Danny Amendola and, most importantly, Julian Edelman. The Patriots did have all-world Tight End Rob Gronkowski and former Buccaneer LaGarrette Blount at running back.
New England could only garner 39 rushing yards throughout the game. They had only 16 rushing attempts.
With Blount now out, the Patriots must count on veteran Steven Jackson to try and improve on that performance. Against the Broncos’ top-ranked defense, that is unlikely.
Brady threw for 280 yards and 3 touchdowns on 42 passing attempts. A similar rush-to-pass ratio will almost certainly occur today.
Ostweiler had nearly identical statistics to Brady, throwing for 270 yards on 42 attempts for a touchdown with one interception. The difference was in the rushing game, where the Broncos ran for 176 yards, led by C.J. Anderson with 113 yards and two touchdowns.
It was Anderson who sprinted around left end for 48 yards and a game-winning touchdown just 2:18 into overtime.
Ostweiler performed well. Can Manning do better today?
New England will have almost no running game. With Edelman back, joined by Gronkowski, Amendola and Brandon LaFell, can Brady and the Patriots sufficiently compensate through the air?
Denver dominated time of possession in the November game, 36 minutes to 26 minutes. Keeping Brady off the field is the best defense the Broncos could play.