FOXBOROUGH — It wasn’t that long ago — less than eight weeks — that the Patriots and Broncos met in a nationally televised showdown at Gillette Stadium. Go back and watch the tape, and you’ll see Peyton Manning and Tom Brady under center, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman catching passes, and familiar faces such as Logan Mankins, Chandler Jones, Knowshon Moreno, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
That’s pretty much where the similarities end between the Patriots and Broncos from their Nov. 24 game compared with the AFC Championship game that will be played Sunday in Denver. The faces and uniforms are the same, but the teams are now quite different.
“It’s just like any time you play a team twice — I think you look at what happened, but you have to erase the board and start all over again,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “I think we’ve all seen in the playoffs that it’s really about that game, that matchup, that day.
“Whatever happened during the regular season or some other year or some other time, or whatever reference point you want to take, is really not that significant. What it’s about is how things go on that particular day, just being at our best on the biggest game of the year.”
Let’s start with the Patriots, who have been an amorphous blob all season — a defense-first team to start the season, then an aerial juggernaut with Rob Gronkowski, and now a ground-and-pound team behind LeGarrette Blount and an improving offensive line.
You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month
Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.
- High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
- Convenient access across all of your devices
- Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
- Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
- Less than 25¢ a week