Quickly putting Monday night's impressive win over the rival Ravens in the history books, Tom Brady and the Patriots have a short week to prepare for another big challenge.
Heading to Denver on Sunday New England must not only deal with the Broncos defense that's once again elite, but also make peace with the issues that make the Mile High City a difficult place to play.
In his weekly meeting with the media on Wednesday, Brady spent a lot of time talking about the challenges of games in Denver – primarily the good football teams that have annually called the city home.
Beyond the Broncos and the team's impressive defensive personnel, Brady utilized plenty of his press conference time talking up some of his own impressive teammates, including a running game that's been buoyed by impressive years from running back LeGarrette Blount and second-year center David Andrews.
Oh, and as he gets ready to try to pull off what would be an impressive two-game winning double-dip over the No. 1-ranked Ravens defense and Denver's dominating unit, Brady brought up arguably the greatest defensive player in history in comparison to the Broncos own game-changing pass rusher.
Here are a few of the highlights of Brady's presser, though one thing that's not included is the quarterback thoughts on who this year's NFL MVP should be.
1. Must deal with Denver team, not locale: Brady has a 2-7 career record against the Broncos in Denver including postseason action, two of those losses coming last season. For a guy with Brady's impressive resume and track record, that's about as bad as it gets. So it's not surprising that one of the first things the New England passer was asked about as he prepares for another trip to Denver was the difficulty of playing at Mile High.
"I think they've had really good teams. More so than where you play, it's how you play," Brady said. "I said earlier today, we just need to play better than the way we've been playing out there. It's a great place to play. They've got great fans. Coach [Bill Belichick] said they've sold out every game for like the last 45 years or something like that. It's definitely one of the louder places so our communication is going to be really important. Number 58 [Von Miller] on the other side of the ball is a lot more dangerous, and 94 [DeMarcus Ware], than the people in the crowd, so we're going to have to do a good job handling all those guys up front. They've got a great rush group. They've got a great coverage group. They're exceptional in a lot of ways and they've been that way for a long time, so it's going to be a big challenge for us."
2. Miller, like L.T., can "kill the quarterback": Miller is in the midst of one of the more dominant runs for a pass rusher in recent memory. He's tied for the NFL lead with 13.5 sacks this season after leading the Broncos to Super Bowl glory last winter. Last time he met up with Brady, Miller had 2.5 sacks and four of Denver's 17 hits on the New England quarterback.
As great as Miller was last year, Brady has seen improvement in his fearsome foe and is comfortable comparing him to the guy most often brought up as the best defensive player in the history of football.
"I think he's pretty great every single play, every game," Brady said of Miller. "I think he's actually gotten better in all phases of the game, not just as a rusher but dropping into coverage, covering guys, playing the run. He's a phenomenal player. I never played against Lawrence Taylor, but I watched a lot of Lawrence Taylor and they've got the same number, or two digits from one another, but they look like they can go kill the quarterback, so he's done a great job of that."
3. Patriots more in the running: When New England took on Denver in last January's AFC title game, the team did so with virtually no rushing attack. LeGarrette Blount had long been placed on injured reserve and aged free agent signing Steven Jackson was simply incapable of doing much to help the offense out. In fact, Brady was actually New England's leading rusher in the 20-18 season-ending loss with three attempts for 13 yards. His running backs combined for just 31 yards on their 14 attempts.
Now, though, Blount is healthy and in the midst of a career year. The big back has topped 18 carries in 10 of 13 games on the way to a career-high 1,029 yards and tying the Patriots franchise record with 14 rushing scores. The Patriots offense has better balance than has been the case in quite some time and is light years ahead of what Brady had to work with last January 24 under the duress of the never-ending Denver pass rush.
"It's important, it's definitely important," Brady said of brining a much more productive run game with him to this battle with the Broncos. "Because they play the pass so well, I think we've got to find ways to make yards in the run game. We've done a pretty good job of that this year. LG is having a great year. Dion [Lewis] is getting healthier every week, and James White has done such a great job for us. I feel great about our backfield. We're going to need to run the ball very effectively. I think that's important every week, but they do a great job of stopping you from running the ball and forcing you into a one-dimensional game, and that's ultimately how they want to play it. They want to play from ahead, they want to get to the quarterback, and they do a great job of that."