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Patriots will adapt defensive focus for Broncos

Newly re-signed Patriots assistant Josh McDaniels, right, joined head coach Bill Belichick at practice today.

Winslow Townson/AP

Newly re-signed Patriots assistant Josh McDaniels, right, joined head coach Bill Belichick at practice today.

FOXBOROUGH -- Playing the Broncos for the second time in four weeks should bring some advantages as the Patriots prepare for Saturday night’s divisional playoff game.

“We can learn a little bit from our last game against them, but this is a whole new deal,” coach Bill Belichick said today. “They’re a tough team to prepare for, they give you a lot of looks. We know we’ve got a lot of work to do here in a short week, we’ll have to cram it all in here, and hopefully be ready to go Saturday night.”

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New England forced three turnovers -- scoring on one -- in a 41-23 win at Denver Dec. 18. That was the first of three consecutive losses by the Broncos to end the regular season, but they surprised many by beating Pittsburgh, 29-23, in overtime on Sunday to book a trip to Gillette Stadium.

The Steelers came in with the top-ranked defense in the league (first also against the pass), and Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards on just 10 completions, taking advantage of a Pittsburgh scheme that seemed to focus on stopping the run and forcing Tebow to win the game with his arm.

Belichick said he’ll study what the Steelers did and see what might work for the Patriots.

“Each team plays their own defensive scheme against them, whether it’s Buffalo or Kansas City or Pittsburgh,” Belichick said. “We have our scheme, and we’ll take some things from each game that we’ve seen and try to apply it to what we do.”

Among other topics, Belichick also downplayed the role former Broncos head coach and new Patriots addition Josh McDaniels might play this week -- “I covered that yesterday” -- stressed the importance of getting off to a quick start, and praised Tebow’s skills, which give Denver a look that is unique to the NFL.

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