The Denver Broncos will try to bring a little Mile High magic to Foxboro when they take on the New England Patriots in a fascinating National Football League (NFL) divisional showdown on Saturday featuring two of the game’s most intriguing figures.
The Patriots and Broncos will clash for the second time in four weeks but this time much more will be at stake with the winner advancing to the AFC championship game and one step from the Super Bowl.
The 13-3 Patriots and their high-octane offence led by Tom Brady were always expected to be in the Super Bowl frame unlike the 8-8 Broncos, who arrive in the divisional contest thanks to some edge-of-your-seat drama provided by Denver quarterback Tim Tebow, who has mastered the art of the late game comeback.
With three Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl most valuable player awards and one supermodel wife, Brady has been the player fans have gravitated to much of the past decade but this Saturday the seven-times Pro Bowler will concede the limelight to Tebow, the gridiron miracle worker.
Tebow hysteria reached new levels on Sunday when the unorthodox quarterback, whose shortcomings as a passer have been well documented, tossed a touchdown strike to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime to stun the favoured Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 at Mile High Stadium.
Tebow-time has also become TV-time, the contest producing the highest television ratings for a wildcard game in 18-years with 42.4 million viewers tuning to watch Tebow work his magic.
While most of the attention will be on the two quarterbacks the outcome of the contest is likely to hinge on defense.
Thrashed 41-23 by the Patriots in Week 15 the Broncos defence is well aware of the task that awaits them.
Containing Brady, one of only four quarterbacks to throw for 5,000 yards or more in a single season, and his Pro Bowl cast of receivers in Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski will be job one for the Broncos.
While Denver’s surge into the playoffs gave birth to Tebow-Mania, the Broncos mid-season turnaround had as much to do with a healthy defense that limited opponents to 15 or fewer points five times during a 7-1 run.
“As a pro athlete, you kind of live for these moments,” Broncos 11-times Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey told reporters. “This is why you play, to be on the big stage and to get out there and show what we can do as a team.
“I expect us to play better, make it a little more difficult for them, but it’s Tom Brady.
“He’s good for a reason. He’s won a lot of games-won a lot of big games, Super Bowls, so we expect their best shot.”
The pressure will also be on a leaky New England defense ranked second last in the league in total yards (411.1) and passing yards (293.9) allowed.
“They’re a really solid team that has performed well in every area,” praised Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “Defensively, they’re fast. They have an excellent pass rush with (Von) Miller and (Elvis) Dumervil outside.
“They’re athletic inside, their linebackers blitz well. They cover well, they’re good in the secondary.”