Kiszla: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, despite age, at top of NFL quarterbacks Mark Kiszla The Denver Post October 4, 2012 NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are such good pals, Hollywood should make a buddy movie about them, provided the producers could land Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson to play the lead roles. Time flies when you're throwing the football for 4,000 yards per season. How did Brady and Manning get to be the grizzled veterans of the NFL? Heck, Manning is so long in the tooth, he remembers when Dan Marino, John Elway and Troy Aikman ruled the NFL. "A lot of the guys I started out playing with, the older guys, the Marinos and those guys, Elway, Aikman, those guys are out of the league," Manning said Wednesday. "So I guess Tom and I have kind of become the elder statesmen, if you will." Hey, who's you calling old? "He's the elder statesmen. I'm younger than he is," Brady insisted. "I have a few years to grow into that role." Manning and Brady are the quarterbacks that have defined a generation. They made 300-yard passing games and 65 percent completion rates the gold standard, rather than rare feats. Their rivalry in classic games between Indianapolis and New England could fill a chapter of storied NFL history. Manning is 36 years old. Brady turned 35 in August. Has it really been more than five full seasons since either quarterback won the Super Bowl? Hey, nobody's cutting in line ahead of Manning and Brady for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Between them, they own six MVP awards. But are Brady and Manning truly the elite quarterbacks of 2012? Can you handle the truth? Right here, right now, Peyton might not even be the best quarterback in the Manning family. And, if your team had one game to win, would you really take Brady over Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay? Maybe that's what makes this new twist on the Brady-Manning rivalry so compelling. Having traded Indy blue for Denver orange after a chronic neck injury threatened his career, does Manning still have the arm to wrestle with Brady? In NFL terms, these are two old gunslingers. And football is a game where it sometimes can seem as if nobody has your back. Manning and Brady, however, have developed a buddy system that makes their bond way more intriguing than the blood feuds that were promoted between NFL rivals 50 years ago. "We've known each other for a long time," Brady said. "My first start of my career, I met Peyton on the field. Before the game, he was out there warming up. I went over there and he said, 'I'm Peyton Manning.' And I was like, 'Of course, I know that.' " Trust and loyalty are the foundation of every enduring friendship. But it seems to me if Manning is obsessed with preparation and focus, that obsession only scratches the surface for the value he places on trust and loyalty. Manning not only believes in the fraternity of NFL quarterbacks, he lives and breathes it. When Brady wrecked his knee during the opening game of the 2008 season, Manning made certain his rival knew there was a friend on the Colts pulling for a full recovery. After lauding Brady during his weekly media scrum during the buildup to the Broncos-Patriots showdown, Manning obviously felt he left something important unsaid. He went so far as to summon Denver Post reporter Mike Klis to emphasize how much the friendship of Brady meant during the time when four surgeries forced Manning off the field and, ultimately, out of Indianapolis. "He plays for another team and reached out to me and said, 'Hey, anything I can do to help the rehab, miss seeing you out there,' " Manning stressed. "When you're injured, and you're not out there playing, you kind of find out who's with you and who's not." Maybe Brady and Manning ain't quite what they used to be. But a slight decline in skill might actually intensify the passion to win a championship. They share too much history to hate each other. What makes Manning and Brady such great theater is also the unspoken truth about every great football rivalry. It's not about the hate of losing. It's staring across the field, and seeing a quarterback who loves this game as much as you do. Peyton Manning, Bill Belichick meeting again as AFC rivals with twist Mike Klis The Denver Post October 4, 2012 Whenever the Great Quarterback Debate played out on the same field, it was always an indirect competition. Tom Brady would try to score for the New England Patriots, then Peyton Manning would get his turn and try to compile points for his team. The scoreboard operator would tally them up at the end to determine which quarterback won. The more direct duel, though, has been Manning vs. Bill Belichick, the Patriots' head coach and defensive sage. "I think it's well documented the respect that I have for Coach Belichick and the way his teams always play, all sides of the ball," Manning said. "This is a new team that I'm playing with, so I think sometimes getting into the comparisons and going back to years past, I don't know how valuable a time that is to discuss that." These aren't Tim Tebow's Broncos who will be playing the Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Nor will the Patriots be playing Manning's Indianapolis Colts. About all that is the same is Brady, Belichick and a New England team that rolled the Denver defense twice last season, once by a 41-23 score in Denver and the other by whatever score New England wanted in a second-round playoff game in Foxborough. The Patriots went up 42-7 a couple minutes into the second half before settling for a 45-10 victory. That's where the game Sunday does become about Manning vs. Brady. "With a team like New England, you have to put points up," said Broncos running back Willis McGahee. Putting up points is where it becomes Manning vs. Belichick. Early, Belichick seemingly had Manning's number. Belichick went 7-1 against Manning from 2000 through the playoffs of 2003-04, including a 6-0 run with Brady as the Patriots' quarterback. Abruptly, Manning reminded Belichick that brilliance is fleeting. Belichick eventually bowed so reverently to Manning's greatness that the genius coach made the inane decision in a 2009 game to go for it on fourth-and-2 with the ball at his own 28yard line, leading by six points with only two minutes remaining. Manning has won five of his past seven games against Belichick. The swing in this rivalry suggests Belichick was the toughest of defensive minds for Manning to solve, but that Manning has since figured out his agitator. "I probably wouldn't agree with either of (those) statements," Manning said. "They have excellent players. It's different players from the games that I have played in the past. They have some younger players. They have had different defensive coordinators that have all had a little bit of something different and unique. "I don't know this (New England) team necessarily all that well. I'm getting to know them during the week right now. I'll get to know them in the game on Sunday." Manning vs. Brady pits arguably the NFL's top passers of the past decade. Manning vs. Belichick is intelligence vs. counterintelligence, not to bring Spygate into this. "You've got to try to really work hard to take away things that you feel like he wants to do and make it hard for him to see exactly what you're going to be in," Belichick said during a conference call Wednesday with the Denver media. "We try to do that every week, but I don't think anybody that we play against is any better at it than he is in terms of recognizing what the defense is in and where they're weak and vulnerable and how to get to plays that hurt it. That's definitely one of the things we have to do a good job of this week with Peyton." Patriots' Tom Brady happy to see Broncos' Peyton Manning in action Lindsay H. Jones The Denver Post October 3, 2012 First, Tom Brady praised Peyton Manning to the Boston media Wednesday morning. Then Manning returned the admiration to the Denver media after practice in the afternoon. Finally, Brady told Denver reporters he was happy to see his old friend — and current football foe — back on the field after a year away because of injuries. Indeed, Manning and Brady have mastered the art of mutual admiration. "He's a phenomenal player and leader and quarterback, and it's great watching him play out there," Brady said in a conference call. "Peyton has obviously worked very hard. The level that he plays at now, it really doesn't look like he's missed any time, to tell you the truth." Sunday marks the 13th time Manning and Brady will quarterback against each other, but the first time with Manning playing for the Broncos. "We've got a great history with the Broncos, and I have a lot of respect for the organization. It's going to be our toughest game yet," Brady said. Brady is 3-6 in his nine starts against the Broncos since 2001. Two of those victories came last season, in Denver in December, and in Foxboro in a January divisional round playoff game. New England outscored Denver 86-33 in those two games. "Both games were really very challenging, but we probably executed — those were two of our best games execution-wise all season, so hopefully we come out and execute well again," Brady said. The New England quarterback said he's noticed changes in the Broncos' defense since the addition of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who has added "different looks" to the Denver scheme. "They really try to confuse the offense with different defensive fronts, different pressures. They really do a good job disguising. They're a very good defense and they're playing very well. Broncos-Patriots game Sunday to feature some of NFL's brightest minds Jeff Legwold The Denver Post October 4, 2012 It's clear everyone has gone to rehearsal and brushed up on their lines. Yes, they all desperately want us to know, to accept, that Sunday's game isn't technically Peyton Manning against Tom Brady, that it isn't really Manning against Bill Belichick. That football is, yes, "the ultimate team game" with plenty of other folks on the field, plenty of other plays to be made by people who don't play quarterback for either team. But the Manning-Belichick faceoff — football thinker against football thinker — is just about as good as it gets. Belichick has long been considered one of the game's best tacticians, a guy with decades worth of experience, five Super Bowl appearances and three wins in the league's title game. With the good fortune of Brady as his quarterback, Belichick has won more games in a 10-year stretch than any coach in NFL history. Those who have faced him through the years say he makes gameday adjustments as quickly as anyone they've ever seen, and that his players play with enough discipline to make those adjustments work. Plenty of coaches can make an adjustment or create a dynamic game plan, but the real key is getting the players to play it with discipline and without mistakes on the fly. Belichick also remains one of the league's best-ever coaches at taking away your first option as an offense, your favorite thing. He will routinely make an offense beat him with Plan B or Plan C or beyond. And offenses usually aren't built for that, and he knows it. On the other side you have Manning, the guy who many in the league say thinks the game better than any other quarterback who has played it. Defensive coordinator after defensive coordinator who have faced Manning since he opened his rookie year (1999) as the Indianapolis Colts starter say his preparation is unmatched. But that it is also his ability to adjust, to learn and to remember how defenses lined up against him through the years, that is often the difference. Manning adapts, he adjusts and forces the coaches who face him to adjust as well. Those who have made careers out of refining their schemes, their "systems," are pushed out of their comfort zones against Manning because he remembers what you did, how you did it and, perhaps most importantly, why you tried it. He sees the big picture, even as he sweats the details. "I think he's a very tough competitor, tough guy to play against and you've got to try to really work hard to take away things that you feel he wants to do and make it hard for him to see exactly what you're going to be in," Belichick said Wednesday. "We try to do that every week but I don't think anybody that we play against is any better in terms of recognizing what the defense is in and where they're weak and vulnerable and how to get to plays that hurt it." Sunday's game won't decide a season, not with almost three months worth of the season still to go no matter what happens in Foxborough, Mass., on Sunday afternoon. But as Belichick works through his 13th season as Patriots head coach, his 38th in the NFL, as Brady plays his 12th year and Manning his 15th, the clock is ticking on all of this. There won't be that many more chances to see the pieces get moved around the board by these guys. So, from a football perspective, it's almost always a keeper to see what they come up with along the way. Peyton Manning vs. Bill Belichick saw a big swing since 2005 Jeff Legwold The Denver Post October 3, 2012 In his first eight meetings against a Patriots team coached by Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning was 1-7 — playoffs included. But he is 5-2 in the last seven games against Belichick, including a playoff win to close out the 2007 season. Nine of those games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Here's a look at the turnaround, comparing the first eight games of Manning vs. Belichick, and the past seven: THE FIRST 8 Date Comp.-Att. Yards TDs Ints Sacks Result Oct. 8, 2000 31-54 334 1 3 2 Patriots 24, Colts 16 Oct. 22, 2000 16-20 268 3 0 0 Colts 30, Patriots 23 Sept. 30, 2001 20-34 196 1 3 2 Patriots 44, Colts 13 Oct. 21, 2001 22-34 335 1 0 4 Patriots 38, Colts 17 Nov. 30, 2003 29-48 278 4 1 2 Patriots 38, Colts 34 Jan. 18, 2004 23-47 237 1 4 4 Patriots 24, Colts 14 Sept. 9, 2004 16-29 256 2 1 1 Patriots 27, Colts 24 Jan. 16, 2005 27-42 238 0 1 1 Patriots 20, Colts 3 THE LAST 7 Date Comp.-Att. Yards TDs Ints Sacks Result Nov. 7, 2005 28-37 321 3 1 0 Colts 40, Patriots 21 Nov. 5, 2006 20-36 326 2 1 3 Colts 27, Patriots 20 Jan. 21, 2007 27-47 349 1 1 3 Colts 38, Patriots 34 Nov. 4, 2007 16-27 225 1 1 3 Patriots 24, Colts 20 Nov. 2, 2008 21-29 254 2 0 0 Colts 18, Patriots 15 Nov. 15, 2009 28-44 327 4 2 1 Colts 35, Patriots 34 Nov. 21, 2010 38-52 396 4 3 0 Patriots 31, Colts 28 Broncos vs. Patriots also serves as the Gronkowski Bowl Jeff Legwold The Denver Post October 4, 2012 Chris Gronkowski has battled his brother — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski — more than any NFL defensive back or linebacker over the years, but he still wasn't prepared to offer much insight Wednesday on how the Broncos should defend the guy who finished with 145 yards receiving and three touchdowns in the Patriots' 4510 playoff victory over the Broncos last season. "Just double-cover him, I don't know," said Chris Gronkowski, a Broncos fullback. Chris, in his first season in Denver, is the second of the NFL's Gronkowski brothers to have played for the Broncos. Dan Gronkowski was a Denver tight end during Josh McDaniels' tenure with the team, starting four games and playing 12 for the Broncos in 2010. Sunday will be the first time Chris Gronkowski plays against Rob in an NFL game. Chris was on injured reserve with the Colts by the time Indianapolis played the Patriots on Dec. 4 last season. Asked if there is any brotherly trash talking about the Broncos-Patriots game Sunday, Chris said: "It's all trash time. We're both on offense, so we can't really go against each other. So we've just got to talk trash instead." Ground control. The Patriots come into Sunday's game with the league lead in scoring — averaging 33.5 points per game — so the pressure is on the Broncos' offense to play keepaway. Running back Willis McGahee said the Broncos' ability to pound the ball in the running game should help them. "Try to keep their offense off the field as much as possible," McGahee said. "That quarterback over there (Patriots star Tom Brady), he's known for putting up points." The Broncos rushed for 146 yards in their playoff game at New England last season, but Tim Tebow completed only 9-of-26 passes for 136 yards and was sacked five times. "I think we can put up points (this year)," McGahee said. "There's no doubt about it, we just need to execute our plays. ... This year is a little bit better. Looking forward to it. Can't wait." Footnotes. Everyone on the Broncos' 53-player roster participated in practice Wednesday. Guard Chris Kuper (forearm) and linebacker Nate Irving (concussion) were the only Denver players who were limited. ... Rob Gronkowski (hip) didn't practice for the Patriots on Wednesday, nor did tight ends Aaron Hernandez (ankle) and Michael Hoo- manawanui (concussion). Wide receiver Julian Edelman (hand) and safety Steve Gregory (hip) also didn't practice for New England. .... Former Broncos center Trey Teague, a University of Tennessee alum, was selected for induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame next May 4 in Nashville. Broncos kicker Matt Prater fits profile of future NFL record holder Jeff Legwold The Denver Post October 4, 2012 Today's question about the Broncos comes from Brian Bates in Calgary, Alberta. To submit a question for consideration, send an e-mail to The Denver Post's Jeff Legwold. Q: Matt Prater has enough leg to crush the current 63-yard field goal record, while kicking (in Denver). He has the ability to nail it from 70 yards. Do you believe that he will ever get the chance? Or are they hesitant to attempt a 70-yard field goal, as a miss would give the opposition the ball on the Bronco's side of the 50-yard line? ... What are the odds that Prater could break the record? A: Brian, at the current success rate of the league's kickers as a whole, Prater is on a growing list of kickers who will break the NFL record of 63 yards, currently held by three players. Tom Dempsey (1970), former Broncos kicker Jason Elam (1998) and Sebastian Janikowski (2011) all share the league mark. Former Broncos kicker Ola Kimrin hit a 65-yarder in a preseason game, which doesn't count in the league's record book. But no position has elevated its level of play over the last decade more than NFL place-kickers. They are far more accurate than their peers of even 10 years ago and consistently show far more range as well. Just last week, Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein, who is fairly unassuming at 6foot, 187 pounds, showed a nuclear leg with a 58-yard field goal and a 60-yard field goal in the same game last Sunday. Zuerlein also made a 48-yarder and a 24yarder in the game. Given Rams coach Jeff Fisher's play-it-close philosophy through the years, and the fact the Rams are going through a massive re-building project, Zuerlein is one of the leading candidates to be in an end-of-game or end-of-half situation to kick from 63 yards and beyond. That's especially true in the Rams' home stadium — a dome. So far this year, kickers league-wide have made 231 of 258 field-goal attempts, a .895 success rate that would be the highest in league history if the kickers hold their current pace over the remainder of the season. The .845 success rate in 2008 is the highest in history. The .829 last season is the second highest. So, the table is set for the 63-yard barrier to fall soon. In 1996, kickers hit 80 percent of their field goals to set what was then the NFL record. The accuracy and range totals are all the more remarkable when you consider the "K-ball" — shiny, new balls used only on kicking plays — has been used since 1999. Former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin sent Janikowski out for a 76-yard attempt in the 2008 season. Janikowski later said in an interview the goal posts looked like "a video game" from that far away. The ball on that kick landed on the goal line. Janikowski has narrowly missed a 64-yarder in a game. It's all about the situation. Virtually all NFL coaches are sticklers for field position. A missed field goal in the NFL, with the ball coming all the way back, is a costly play, especially in attempts of 55 yards or more when the game isn't in the final seconds. Most coaches just won't take that risk when the game clock doesn't demand that they try. But Prater routinely hits 70-yarders in warmups. He has hit them in end-of-game situations in practice. Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan would often put Prater in position to do that in practice. Prater plays at altitude and has the combination of strength and accuracy. All he's missing is being put in a position with a few seconds left in the game, and the Broncos needing a field goal to tie or win. Peyton Manning ready for first meeting as a Bronco against Pats Mike Chambers The Denver Post October 3, 2012 Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning insists that Sunday's game at New England is not a contest between him and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. But Manning understands that it's naturally billed that way. "This game — I know it's a boring, boring answer for you all — but this is Broncos vs. the Patriots, and two 2-2 teams, pivotal game at a pivotal time of the season," Manning said Wednesday during his weekly news conference. "It's our second road test; we've had three games at home. It's a tougher test for us because we got to go on the road to their place, and it's a conference game." Manning has faced the Brady-led Patriots 12 times, but this will be his first test in a Broncos uniform. Manning has fond memories of those previous games with the Pats. "I've always looked at it as Colts vs. Patriots throughout those years, and there were some great games, don't get me wrong," Manning said. "I know people will often label it as a game between two quarterbacks, but we all know it's a team game. There were some great players in a number of those games, some great coaches, (but) not many players left from those games. I'm going to say Tom and I are probably the only ones who have played in all those games. ... Of course, my circumstances are different." Manning has the utmost respect for Brady. "He's a great player. He works at it. I know how hard he works at it," Manning said. " And I've always had an appreciation for guys who put that much time into it." Broncos coach John Fox, whose team was eliminated in the playoffs last season at New England, said his squad is eager to present the Manning-led offense into Foxborough, Mass. "Obviously, they're a great football team, maybe the best in a short period of time in NFL history," Fox said. "We're going to their place, you have a huge challenge. They're well coached, they're an outstanding football team and they have a quarterback that I know is going to do everything in his power to get his team ready to play. We expect a huge test." Broncos add LB Mike Mohamed, WR Bert Reed, OT Darrion Weems to practice squad Mike Klis The Denver Post October 3, 2012 The Broncos filled in some depth this week by re-signing linebacker Mike Mohamed to their practice squad, and adding receiver Bert Reed and offensive tackle Darrion Weems. The Broncos signed Mohamed off the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad last week and he played on special teams in the team’s 37-6 rout Sunday of the Oakland Raiders. He was waived Monday and placed back on the practice squad. There must be a diret pipeline between the Broncos and Colts because the Broncos also signed Weems off the Indianapolis’ practice squad this week. Weems is a rookie from Oregon who has already spent time this year with the Vikings, Patriots, Colts and Broncos. Reed is a rookie from Florida State who has also bounced from Cleveland, where he made five catches in the preseason, and Tampa Bay. The Broncos had two practice squad openings entering this week. To make room for the third player they release offensive tackle Adam Grant. Peyton Manning said Tom Brady was there for him through injury Mike Klis The Denver Post October 3, 2012 They’ve been competitors for so long, and famous adversaries. But over the years, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have developed such a healthy respect for each other that their relationship has crossed into the realm of friendship. After his press conference with a media mob Wednesday, Manning in a much quieter setting outside the Broncos’ locker room couldn’t get over how Brady was there for him at his lowest point — last season when a neck injury forced him to miss every game with the Indianapolis Colts. “He plays for another team and he reached out to me and said, “Hey anything I can do to help the rehab, miss seeing you out there,” Manning said. “When you’re injured, and you’re not out there playing, you kind of find out who’s with you and who’s not. Tom consistently throughout the season would check in with me. I appreciate that. It says a lot.” And Brady told the Denver media during a conference call that Manning was there for him after the New England quarterback suffered his season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the first game of the 2008 season. Brady and Manning have much in common, including their respective seasonending injuries while in the prime of their careers. We’ll explore the subject in the Sunday Denver Post. Peyton Manning “sick” about losing center J.D. Walton; praises Dan Koppen Lindsay Jones The Denver Post October 3, 2012 DOVE VALLEY — Much has been made about Peyton Manning’s early offseason private workouts at high school fields and parks, as he got to know his new teammates after signing with the Broncos as a free agent in March. The unheralded member of that group, Manning said, was center J.D. Walton. “I’m sick about J.D. Walton’s injury. I know it’s part of football, and it shows up on y’all’s ticker as “JD Walton out for the season” but it’s more than that,” Manning said Wednesday. “He and I spent a great deal of time together. That was really the first thing I did when I got here was get together with him to work on snaps, taking snaps. I know people talk about the throwing, but he was at all of those throwing sessions.” Walton suffered a broken left ankle in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against Oakland. He was at Dove Valley Wednesday, hobbling his way in and out of the training room using a set of crutches. I believe Wednesday marked the first practice Walton has missed since the Broncos drafted him in 2010. Once Manning got his thoughts about Walton out of the way, he said the Broncos were fortunate to have signed Dan Koppen last month. Koppen spent nine years with the Patriots, most of that time as the starting center snapping to Tom Brady. “Rarely do you lose a three year starter who started every game at center like JD and have a guy as experienced as Dan to replace him. It’s always nice to have guys on your team that have been around winning their whole careers. Coming from New England, Dan has played in every situation that you could think of,” Manning said. “His veteran experience, it does show in practice, and thankfully he is on our team.” Brady, on a conference call with Denver reporters, called Koppen one his closest friends. Brady said he was happy to see Koppen land in Denver after being released by the Patriots at the end of the preseason, though he joked that he hopes his buddy saves his best games for after this week in Foxboro. “I was happy he got the opportunity to be with a great organization and to play with a quarterback like Peyton and an offense like that, I’m sure Dan’s a great fit,” Brady said. “He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s physical. He’s got great command for that position. I loved playing with him when he was here.” Broncos safety Quinton Carter has knee surgery, says he’s ready for rehab Lindsay Jones The Denver Post October 3, 2012 Broncos safety Quinton Carter isn’t going to let a little thing like knee surgery keep him off social media. Carter, whose season ended last weekend when he was placed on injured reserve, Tweeted and posted a picture on the social media site Instagram from the hospital following his surgery. Team sources said last week the safety would likely need a microfracture surgery. Carter reaggravated a pre-existing injury when he fell on the artificial turf at the South Suburban Sports Dome on the second day of training camp. Denver’s practice had been moved inside because of weather. He underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure in early August and was able to return in time for the Broncos’ final preseason game. The pain returned after Denver’s Week 3 game against Houston. Today Carter posted the following Tweets: “Thank God the surgery went well. Now time to grind in rehab!” and “Thanks to all the fans praying for me!! N the few real friends that texted checkin on me!” Broncos' Peyton Manning getting teammates pumped for game vs. Patriots Lindsay H. Jones The Denver Post October 3, 2012 Lest anyone think this is just another week at Dove Valley, the Broncos got a short pre-practice pep talk from Peyton Manning on Wednesday. The quarterback said a few words before leading the post-stretch, pre-practice breakdown in the team's first day of preparations for Sunday's game at New England. The Broncos look like they will head to New England in good health, with all 53 players on the active roster dressed out in full pads for Wednesday's practice. That includes right guard Chris Kuper, who continues to work his way back into practice while recovering from a broken arm. Kuper was limited in practice all last week and did not play against Oakland. Wednesday also marks Dan Koppen's first practice as the team's starting center. Koppen replaces J.D. Walton, who broke his ankle on Sunday against Oakland. No other players were injured in the team's last game. The Broncos will practice until 1:15 p.m. Manning sick over Walton, glad to have Koppen Arnie Stapleton Associated Press October 3, 2012 ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — First off, Peyton Manning says he's sick over losing center J.D. Walton to a broken ankle that ended his season. That said, he's glad to have a backup stepping in who's as accomplished as Dan Koppen, who spent his first nine seasons in New England snapping for another great quarterback. While everybody else was focused on his arm strength upon his arrival in Denver seven months ago after he missed the entire 2011 season, the biggest thing on Manning's mind was working with his new snapper. So, he and Walton spent endless hours practicing on local high school football fields before they could work out at the Broncos' headquarters. "That's probably the first thing I did when I got here, was getting snaps with J.D. The quarterback-center exchange is vital, and so I'm sick about his injury," Manning said Wednesday. "When you lose a starting center who has started every game for the past three years, it's very rare that you can replace him with a veteran like Dan who has played in many huge games and is experienced. So we feel fortunate to have him and it's always nice having a veteran player who's been around winning for his entire career on your team." Indeed, the Broncos didn't miss a beat Sunday when Koppen came in just before halftime and played the rest of the way as Denver outscored Oakland 27-0 in the second half of its 37-6 rout of the Raiders. He helped Manning record his first sackless day as a Bronco and his second straight 300-yard passing game. Walton, who had missed only one offensive snap in his career, out of 2,269 possible plays, got hurt when defensive end Jack Crawford inadvertently crashed into his legs as he was making the tackle on running back Lance Ball. Walton didn't speak with reporters Wednesday when he walked through the locker room on crutches with his left leg in a protective boot. Koppen signed with the Broncos three weeks ago after spending his entire career in New England, where he'll make his first start Sunday in a pivotal matchup of 2-2 teams with high hopes that can ill afford another stumble. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said it'll be weird seeing Koppen snapping the ball to Manning. "Being one of my best friends over the years, to see him go was a very hard thing," Brady said. "But I was happy he really got the opportunity to be with a great organization and to play with a quarterback like Peyton and certainly with an offense like that, I'm sure Dan's a great fit." Koppen started 134 games for the Patriots, including the playoffs, before breaking a bone in his lower left leg in the opener last season. He spent the rest of the year on injured reserve and then lost a competition to Ryan Wendell in training camp. The Broncos signed him three weeks ago. "It's been great. We haven't been together too long yet, but I'm sure glad we brought him in," coach John Fox said. "At no point were we thinking he'd be lining up as the starting center as we head into Foxborough this weekend." The Broncos are set to get right guard Chris Kuper back from a broken left forearm that sidelined him most of the preseason and the first month of the regular season. With Kuper and Koppen, the experience quotient in Manning's pocket of protection rises exponentially. "He won a lot of games and has some great experience," wide receiver Eric Decker said of Koppen. "So, to have him around is just going to make us better." Koppen said that while he's got a long way to go, he's already comfortable in Denver's offense. "I'm pretty familiar with it. I think it's along the same lines of what we ran in New England, which helped. Just a little bit different verbiage and all that stuff," Koppen said. He's taking his homecoming in stride, too. "I'm sure it's going to be fun. A little bit different, a little bit of a different view, but it's still just football," Koppen said. Notes: The Broncos had their first perfect attendance at practice this season on Wednesday although Kuper and LB Nate Irving (concussion) were limited. ... Broncos FB Chris Gronkowski on facing his brother, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, and who his parents will be rooting for: "I keep asking them who they're cheering for and they won't tell me, so we're going to have to see on game day what jersey they're wearing." ... K Matt Prater won his fourth career AFC Player of the Week award after kicking three FGs against Oakland and putting all 8 kickoffs out of the end zone for touchbacks. Broncos-Patriots Preview Alan Ferguson Associated Press October 3, 2012 The Denver Broncos ended last season with a dreadful performance at Gillette Stadium, one that in part led to their pursuit of a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Having been on the winning side in recent games against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Peyton Manning will try to deliver some redemption for the Broncos in Sunday's matchup of 2-2 teams. Denver ended a five-year playoff drought in 2011 and won its opening-round game in overtime with Tim Tebow leading the way. The Broncos, though, were shellacked 45-10 the next week in New England as Tebow went 9 of 26 for 136 yards while Brady threw for 363 and matched a career high with six touchdowns. When Manning became available following 14 years in Indianapolis, the Broncos were among the eager suitors and eventually signed him to a five-year, $96 million deal. Following some early difficulties coming off a season-long absence due to neck surgeries, Manning appeared to find his groove in last week's 37-6 rout of Oakland. After completing only half of his passes in a loss to Houston on Sept. 23, he was 30 of 38 against the Raiders for a season-high 338 yards and three touchdowns. Manning wasn't sacked for the first time this season and didn't throw an interception for the third time in four contests. "The key that I've said all along is just trying to keep making progress somehow," Manning said. "That doesn't always show on the scoreboard - you'd like to win every game as you're feeling your way and learning about your team and learning about yourself a little bit. "So, there's still a lot of that going on, for me out there as the quarterback, and for our team, sort of figuring things out." Manning will try to keep that momentum going against his longtime rival. He has won four of the past six matchups with Brady, including the AFC championship game Jan. 21, 2007, but the New England quarterback has prevailed in eight of the 12 overall between the two superstars. "We've had our fair share of meaningful games against a Peyton Manning-led offense when he was with the Colts," Brady said. "He seems like he's got this team really in the hunt as well. They lost two very close games and were in it right until the end. He's a phenomenal player, leader and quarterback and it's great watching him play out there." Brady is coming off a dominant performance of his own and a much-needed one for his team. Avoiding their first three-game losing streak in a decade, the Patriots blew out Buffalo 52-28 last week after falling behind 21-7. Brady had three touchdown passes and ran for another score while leading six consecutive touchdown drives in the second half and New England became the second team in NFL history to have two 100-yard rushers (Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley) and receivers (Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski) in the same game. The Patriots defense allowed more than 300 passing yards for the second straight week but also forced six turnovers. "We need to do a better job starting the game and that's what we're focused on," wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said, "starting the game, staying out of long-yardage situations, being more productive on second and third down. "We're not going to sit here and take any moral victories about how we performed in the second half because our first half was not what we expect to perform like on Sunday." The Patriots performed superbly in their two matchups with Denver last season, outscoring the Broncos by a combined 86-33 and gaining more than 450 yards in each game. Denver, though, has a new defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, and four new defensive starters in this game: cornerback Tracy Porter, safety Mike Adams, tackle Justin Bannan and rookie end Derek Wolfe. The Broncos are ranked in the top 10 in average points and yards allowed after ranking 24th and 20th, respectively, a year ago. "They're active. They're very fast. Their secondary is quite different than what we played back in January," said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Denver's former head coach. "We have to do a good job of trying to defend, if you will, all the different things that they throw at you." Sunday's game will feature another reunion with Dan Koppen expected to start at center for Denver in place of the injured J.D. Walton. Koppen was signed three weeks ago after being released by New England, where he played nine seasons. Lloyd will be facing Denver for the first time since the Broncos traded him to St. Louis last season, and Gronkowski will get a chance to face his brother Chris, a fullback for Denver. By the numbers: Best in the West Bill Williamson ESPN.com October 3, 2012 Here is a look at the division leaders in some key statistical categories after Week 4: Passing yards Player: Peyton Manning, Denver Yards: 1,162 Comment: Manning looked brilliant and comfortable in Week 4. Rushing yards Player: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Yards: 415 Comment: Charles is second in the NFL in this category. Receptions Player: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Yards: 342 Comment: Bowe is quietly putting together a nice season. Tackles Player: Phillip Wheeler, Oakland Total: 34 Comment: The linebacker has been the bright spot on a poor defense. Sacks Player: Justin Houston, Kansas City Sacks: 4 Comment: Houston didn’t have a sack in Week 4 after getting three in Week 3. Interceptions Player: Antoine Cason, San Diego; Eric Weddle, San Diego Interceptions: 2 Comment: These two players are a big reason the Chargers’ defense is improved. Mailbag: Raiders' greatest draft need Bill Williamson ESPN.com October 3, 2012 Midweek mail call: Jose G. III from Anaheim, Calif., wants to know if I think new Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is relying too heavily on his Green Bay connections when it comes to signing players. Bill Williamson: McKenzie has signed three players recently who he worked with in Green Bay. That’s pretty typical. Executives from across the NFL often bring players with them to new jobs, whether they are high-profile players such as when Scott Pioli brought Matt Cassel to Kansas City from New England three years ago or bottom-of-the-roster players that McKenzie has brought to Oakland. I don’t see anything wrong with it. These are all developmental players McKenzie has a good feeling about. They are not taking roster spots from anyone pivotal and I think it could pay off down the road. Gerardo Gonzalez Jr. from Weslaco, Texas, wants to know if Wesley Woodyard's play could prompt the Denver Broncos to move D.J. Williams to middle linebacker when he returns from his suspension. BW: Williams has played middle linebacker before and he can do it again. But I think he will be brought back in the rotation when his suspension ends. He has two games remaining from a six-game NFL suspension for using a banned substance. But he could face up to another three games for a driving and alcohol charge. Honestly, I think the Broncos are moving on from Williams and if he gives them anything when he comes back they will take it. Fabio Contu from Italy wants to know what position I think the Raiders will look for in the first round of the 2013 draft. BW: I think Oakland has to look at cornerback. Starters Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer are not signed beyond this season and there isn’t really much behind them. Players such as Dee Milliner (Alabama), Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State) and David Amerson (North Carolina State) should be on Oakland’s radar. Chris Kuper will be game-time decision Bill Williamson ESPN.com October 3, 2012 Denver guard Chris Kuper, who broke his forearm in August, continued to be limited in practice Wednesday. He practiced on a limited basis all last week but didn’t play in Week 4. Denver coach John Fox said Wednesday that Kuper will be a game-time decision Sunday at New England. If Kuper doesn’t have a setback, I like his chances of playing if he's had two weeks of solid practices. In other AFC West news: San Diego linebacker Donald Butler was named the AFC defensive player of the week for his efforts in a 37-20 victory at Kansas City on Sunday. Butler had a 21yard interception return for a touchdown in the game. Don’t read much into the fact that the Chargers have Jackie Battle atop the running-back depth chart instead of Ryan Mathews. Battle started last week for Mathews because of the latter's fumbling issues; Mathews did finish the game. The Chargers know their best bet is to go with Mathews, but he must stay healthy and hold on to the ball. San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding (groin) is still out. He is expected to be week-toweek. The Chargers meanwhile cut receiver/returner Micheal Spurlock to make room for cornerback Chris Carr. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning is sixth on Mike Sando’s MVP Watch this week. No other AFC West player is on the 10-man list. Oakland coach Dennis Allen addressed the reason why he was laughing in the middle of the field with Denver coach Fox after a 31-point Oakland loss Sunday. I got many letters from angry Oakland fans about the photo. Perhaps Allen’s explanation will calm the storm. It sounds reasonable to me. There is a chance the Raiders’ Oct. 21 home game against Jacksonville could be moved to accommodate an Oakland A’s playoff game. If that is the case, the best bet is that the NFL game would be moved to Monday night. Asked how much different the Denver offense is now than the unit his team saw in the playoffs in January, New England coach Bill Belichick said “95 percent.” Yep, that’s sounds about right when you switch from Tim Tebow to Manning at quarterback. There's hope yet for the 1-3 Chiefs and Raiders. For the record, the Raiders have never made the playoffs when they started 1-3. NFL honors Matt Prater Bill Williamson ESPN.com October 3, 2012 Matt Prater didn’t kick a game-winning field goal Sunday. He didn’t need to. His Denver Broncos smoked the Oakland Raiders, 37-6. Still, Prater found a way to contribute in the blowout by dominating every time his foot hit the ball, and that’s why the team announced he is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. The underrated Prater was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and produced touchbacks on all eight of his kickoffs. That is the second most touchbacks by a kicker in a game, and he is the only kicker to have a perfect kickoff percentage with at least eight kickoffs since at least 1994, according to the Broncos. Prater’s 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter increased his career percentage from 50 or more yards to 77.8 percent (14-of-18). It is the best percentage since the 1970 merger. He also added to another NFL record he owns when he was 2-of2 on field goals in the fourth quarter. His career percentage in the fourth quarter is 96.4 percent (27-of-28). Prater’s dominant performance showed kickers can make headlines in blowouts, too. Patriots not doubting Manning's arm James Walker ESPN.com October 3, 2012 Is Peyton Manning over the hill? Is Manning’s arm strength not what it used to be? The New England Patriots aren't buying it. New England is hosting Manning and the Denver Broncos this weekend in a battle of high-profile, .500 teams. The Patriots are preparing for the same dangerous Manning they’ve always seen pre-neck injury. "I just see a guy who is making extremely good decisions and is doing a great job of getting the ball to the receivers that are open," Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. "I haven’t seen any issues with that whatsoever. He looks like he’s throwing the ball extremely well, extremely confident and getting it into some really tight locations and I just think it’s building every week. I think he’s just doing a tremendous job out there." Manning is coming off his best performance as a Bronco in a 37-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders. Manning threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Fortunately for the Patriots, they have had Manning's number. Brady is 8-4 against Manning. Most of these games had a lot on the line, and this is no different. Both teams were favorites to win their divisions and don’t want to fall to 2-3. Brady, Manning set to duel again Mike Rodak Special to ESPNBoston.com October 3, 2012 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After a one-year hiatus, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will square off again at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. On Wednesday, Brady reflected on his longstanding friendship with Manning. "He's someone that I've always looked up to and admired, and I respect the way he plays the position, and the way he works, the way he leads," Brady said. "He's been a phenomenal player. We played against him for a long time against the Colts, it seemed like every year. You see a lot of those games, and obviously I've learned a lot from him." Coach Bill Belichick has been in New England since 2000, when Manning and the Colts were in the AFC East, and may know Manning's game better than any other opposing coach in the NFL. On Wednesday, Belichick repeated his normally effusive praise for the Broncos' quarterback. "I think he has no weakness in his game," Belichick said. "He does everything well." Belichick said that although the Denver offense is "95 percent different" than what it was last season under quarterback Tim Tebow, the system is "identical" to what Manning ran in Indianapolis. "It's very much the same offense, from what some of the guys tell me," Brady said. "Obviously there are different players with different skill-sets and so forth. I've always really looked at that offense as kind of one to emulate because they've been so productive for so long." Manning was coy, however, when asked if anything had changed in the system. "I think for me to respond to that would be too informative," Manning said. "If that's Coach (Belichick)'s evaluation, that's his. It's new players that I'm playing with, there's new coaches, there's new things for me. So everybody can form their own opinion." Added Broncos coach John Fox: "It would probably be close to moronic for us not to inject some of the things that he has 14 years of great play with into our offense" Brady, 35, is the oldest player on the Patriots, while Manning, 36, is the secondoldest on the Broncos. Their younger teammates, such as Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty, have watched the two battle for more than a decade. "You can tell, those guys, it's not something that just happens overnight or you can work hard for one year and then you just got it," McCourty said. "Those guys consistently (put in) a lot of work and a lot of extra time each year to kind of perform at a high level. I think they've kind of made that routine for themselves and they're able to execute that every year, year in and year out." Broncos' Fox & Manning check in Mike Reiss ESPNBoston.com October 3, 2012 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Broncos coach John Fox and quarterback Peyton Manning conducted conference calls with New England reporters on Wednesday afternoon. Some of the notable soundbites: Fox on Belichick's knack for youthful turnover. Problems drafting and developing talent? While that might be a hot topic locally at times, Fox has a different view from afar. Asked about some of the young players he sees on the Patriots' defense, Fox said: "This is a young man’s game and you’re always evolving. Bill [Belichick] has done probably the best job over a period of time of any coach in our business. Those guys are definitely some good plug-ins. Over the last few years, the guys who have been added into that, some of the veterans have moved on, that’s just all part of what we do. Bill is the master of that." Manning on how much longer he'd like to play. Tom Brady has said he'd like to play well into his 40s. What about you, Peyton? "I don’t have that number in my mind quite like he does, but I still have a passion for it, I still enjoy the preparation, the work of it, the offseason, the Mondays, the Tuesdays, the game planning, I still enjoy that. So I think until I stop having a passion for that, until I can no longer produce or be effective, that’s when I’ll stop playing – when I can’t produce or I just don’t enjoy it." Fox on adopting some of the Colts' offense with Manning. Bill Belichick said it looks like the Broncos are running the Colts' old offense. No disagreement from Fox. "At the end of the day, part of being a coach is putting players in the best position to have success. I don’t care if you’re talking offense, defense, the kicking game. It would have been close to moronic for us not to inject some of the things that he had 14 years of great play with into our offense. I think that’s all part of coaching." Manning on Koppen stepping in for injured Walton at center. Former Patriots center Dan Koppen takes "center" stage against his former team. "Well certainly I’m sick about J.D. Walton’s injury. I know how hard he’s worked this offseason. He and I have spent a great deal of time together; that’s probably the first thing I did when I got here, was getting snaps with J.D. The quarterback-center exchange is vital and so I’m sick about his injury. When you lose a starting center who has started every game for the past three years, it’s very rare that you can replace him with a veteran like Dan who has played in many huge games and is experienced. So we feel fortunate to have him and it’s always nice having a veteran player who’s been around winning for his entire career on your team." Fox on Manning and Tom Brady. Sometimes you just have to appreciate two of the best. "When you look at both of those quarterbacks, you’re looking at two of the best quarterbacks to play over the last decade. I don’t think, without a doubt, when their careers are over – hopefully not any time soon for either one of them – they’ll be first-ballot Hall of Fame players. I think their body of work to this point – not that it’s nearly over yet – but to this point, it would be hard to argue." Manning on returning from a year off. Let's pass on this topic. "I know this is the first time I’ve spoken to you all, but I’ve talked about that quite a bit since March and training camp and I’m just about talked out of the topic if you don’t mind. I’m kind of past that point." Gronk: Denver's defense is main concern Field Yates ESPNBoston.com October 3, 2012 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski says that as an offensive player, he is worried about the Denver Broncos' defense -- not Peyton Manning -as the two teams prepare for their Week 5 matchup at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. "We're not facing Peyton Manning, we're facing the Denver Broncos defense and that's what we're worried about, is when we're going against the Denver Broncos defense," he said. "We've got to do what we've got to do, we've got to execute. We've got to play as a team, we've got to play as an offense in order to go out there and move the ball." And while the third-year tight end isn't focused on the resumption of the rivalry between Manning and Brady, he says any game that pits the two against each other is always competitive. "It's always great, it's always competitive," he said. "But I'm really just going against the Denver Broncos defense. That's what I'm basically only worried about." Gronkowski had his best receiving game of the season in Week 4, surpassing the 100-yard mark for the first time in 2012. He knows that duplicating that success against the Broncos won't be easy, as he sees a strong secondary and pass rush. "They've got a great secondary, and great pass rushers that can get to the quarterback," he said. "We've got to be strong overall at all positions, and we've got to go out there and run good routes. I've got to run good routes, and get open and Tom can hit the open guy." The player who draws the most attention in the Denver secondary is cornerback Champ Bailey, who continues to perform at a high level at the age of 34, but Gronkowski says the secondary is filled with talent around him too. "He's a great instinctive player, and he knows the game well," Gronkowski said of the 11-time Pro Bowler. "It's not just him who is a great player, they've got other great players you've got to be aware of. They've got great secondary players you've got to be aware of. There's definitely a lot of focus on Champ, but you've got to focus on everyone because they're all good." Belichick: Manning 'does everything well' Field Yates ESPNBoston.com October 3, 2012 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Passing along some quick-hit soundbites from Bill Belichick's Wednesday afternoon press conference with reporters at Gillette Stadium. On how different the Broncos' offense is from the last time the teams played, during a 2011 Divisional playoff game It's, I'd say, 95 percent different. Some of the same players, some of the same matchups, but those players are doing different things. They're not running the dive option, it's different type plays. How many hours of film have you watched on Peyton Manning throughout your career? Quite a few. Quite a few. Back in the division, it seems like. What do you admire about his game? "Everything. I think he's got no weaknesses in his game, he does everything well." Is he still playing at the same level that he played at with the Indianapolis Colts? "He's playing at a high level, yeah. Looks pretty good to me. Everything's good, his mechanics are good, his decision-making is good, he handles the team well, and all the little things: footwork, ball handling, mechanics. He's pretty good." Is Denver's offense similar to the offense that Manning ran in Indianapolis? "It's identical. Looks the same to me." How has balance on offense affected your usage of shotgun? "We've been in it less." Any idea of roughly how much less? "It varies a little bit from game to game. There were games last year that we were in it 80 percent of the time, and other games it was less. So it varies from game to game, which that, of course, is sometimes reflective of the score. That Pittsburgh game [last year], we were hardly under center that game, but part of that was playing from behind the whole game too. Regardless of whether you are under center or not under center, you still have to have balance, running and passing, doing multiple things. I don't think you can do just one thing in this league for very long from anything." How similar is Denver's defensive scheme to last year's? "Similar, but I'd say similar but different. And they change things every week. They're a team that'll do something against Oakland that they hadn't done before against Houston or the week before against Atlanta or Pittsburgh. They're adaptable to what they're facing, and that's something that [Broncos head coach ] John [Fox] traditionally has done. They don't just line up there and run the same thing every time. I don't know how much of that is new, how much of it is game plan for another team, I'm not sure exactly on that. They definitely keep it moving, they don't just sit there in one thing." Why was it important to you to take part in the NFL Films production "Cleveland 95: A Football Life" (focusing on his coaching staff from that season)? "It's NFL Films. Steve Sabol, NFL Films, I have a lot of trust and a great relationship with him, so usually when he asked me to do something, I tried to accommodate him." How did it feel to go back through those memories of a tough season but such a talented staff? "I don't know. I'm still in contact with a lot of those people. Right now, I'm really just trying to get ready for Denver, concentrate on them. I haven't seen the piece. I'm sure if Steve and NFL Films did it, it'll be good like it usually is." Brady: I've always looked up to Peyton Mike Rodak ESPNBoston.com October 3, 2012 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some quick hits from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's news conference on Wednesday morning: On another contest against Peyton Manning: "He's a friend of mine, so we don't talk much during the season, but I think he's someone that I've always looked up to and admired, and I respect the way he plays the position, and the way he works, the way he leads. He's been a phenomenal player. We played against him for a long time against the Colts, it seemed like every year. You see a lot of those games, and obviously I've learned a lot from him." On former Patriots center Dan Koppen likely starting for the Broncos on Sunday: "He's one my best pals. I'm happy he has the opportunity. He's a great friend of mine. We've had a lot of battles together. I miss having him around here. But that's part of this business. He moved on, and he has an opportunity. Hopefully we play well against him." On his post-football life: "It's a great sport. I love coming to work every day. I love the challenge that the weeks bring, the mental challenge, the physical challenge. I love the training. I love being around my teammates. It's just not much else out there, other than my family. I think that's like the abyss. There's nothing else." Brady and Manning renew their rivalry The Sports Xchange October 3, 2012 On Sunday, we'll be treated to yet another edition of the Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning matchup, the one we've collectively enjoyed for years dating back to Brady's emergence as one of the league's all-time greats. Manning, who has had his share of ups and downs against the Patriots, and, in particular, Bill Belichick, will get another shot Sunday when his new team, the Broncos, travels to New England for a mid-day showdown at Gillette Stadium. The circumstances have changed seeing as though Manning is in a new city, but whenever Brady and Manning butt heads, it's always must-see TV, sparking debates as to which future Hall of Famer has the upper hand. That undoubtedly puts pressure on each defense, too, and both teams figure to have their hands full against these elite quarterbacks, particularly the Broncos, who now have to contend with the Patriots' running game due to the recent emergence of rookie Brandon Bolden. The one advantage Denver might have is the fact they know Josh McDaniels' offense; the Patriots' offensive coordinator was the Broncos' head coach three years ago, so there is some carryover, but that might be negated by the fact Manning is still Manning, running the same offense he ran to near-perfection years ago in Indianapolis. This should be an interesting week for defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who will have his hands full breaking down film of the old- and new-look Manning. "Obviously, Peyton Manning is doing everything that he does," Patricia said. "He is obviously a tremendous player and is really driving that offense right now and doing all of the things that he does that make him Peyton Manning. He is certainly a very difficult and challenging quarterback to face and one that really seems like he has a good rhythm going. "They have tremendous players over there between (Demaryius) Thomas and (Eric) Decker and (Brandon) Stokley at the skill positions, along with the running backs all the way through, starting with (Willis) McGahee, who obviously had a huge game, and to the tight ends with (Jacob) Tamme and (Joel) Dreessen really coming through for them to make that offense go. He's really done a phenomenal job out there. He looks great." The running backs Patricia mentioned might be the key to the Patriots' defensive game plan. They've been elite in terms of shutting down opposing running backs, starting with Chris Johnson last week and continuing this past Sunday with the explosive C.J. Spiller. McGahee is a challenge, as always, and he's finally healthy, which makes shutting him down one of New England's focal points. The fans might love seeing another classic Manning and Brady shootout, but neither coach would prefer that -- particularly the Broncos, who have undoubtedly seen enough highlights of Brady picking apart the Bills in the second half of last week's win. After some struggles the past two weeks, the Patriots might have finally turned the corner. They had two receivers haul in more than 100 receiving yards and two running backs crack the century mark in the same game. The Broncos don't have the firepower to match that production, even with Manning. "We've shown, at times, flashes of pretty good football," Brady said. "I think that was a pretty big part of it last weekend and scoring. (We) really capitalized on the opportunities that we got there in the second half from really the defense turning the ball over for us that we didn't do in the first half. It's really our inconsistency that's leading to us not scoring points, whether it was in the first half of that particular game or the first half of the Arizona game. "If we play well, we can move the ball, (and) we can get the ball in the end zone. If we don't play well, if we don't do our job the way that people expect us and our coaches expect us to, we're not going to score points. If you don't score points you're not going to win the game." The same goes for each week, particularly in this upcoming game. The Broncos are a formidable opponent. They've had the Patriots' number in recent years. Now they have another familiar face -- a Hall of Fame quarterback who's been a thorn in New England's side for years. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady play buddybuddy? Kareem Copeland NFL.com October 3, 2012 Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are bosom buddies, apparently. New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts fans, meanwhile, just threw up. Manning told reporters Wednesday that his one-time nemesis gave him regular support during his recovery from neck surgeries as a member of the Colts last season. "He plays for another team and he reached out to me and said, 'Hey, anything I can do to help the rehab, miss seeing you out there," said Manning, according to The Denver Post. "When you're injured, and you're not out there playing, you kind of find out who's with you and who's not. Tom consistently throughout the season would check in with me. "I appreciate that. It says a lot." Brady said Manning did the same for him after he suffered a season-ending knee surgery in 2008. What's next, shopping for Uggs, skipping rocks and singing Harry Nilsson songs? Maybe it's easier to acknowledge these things now that Manning is with the Denver Broncos. Still, isn't life more fun when Roddy White is insulting Victor Cruz and Jim Schwartz is shaking hands with Jim Harbaugh? Sigh. Quick Take: Manning vs. Brady duel returns Ian Rapoport NFL.com October 3, 2012 NFL.com and NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport has his thoughts on the game: Why this game is intriguing: It doesn't get any better than Manning vs. Brady. They've grown older. Hair has thinned. One faces questions about his arm strength, the other is starting to hear queries about how long he wants to continue playing. And yet, on the football field, perhaps nothing will change. Sure, Manning plays for a different team. But the feeling remains the same; the sense that, no matter the score, no matter the situation, either Brady or Manning will have one final say to put his stamp on an epic rumble. This is one you'll want to watch until the end. What to watch:Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia says he believes Manning's arm strength is fine, but the way he instructs his team to play will be more telling. Do the Patriots protect deep against the likes of Demaryius Thomas or do they cover up to 15 yards and tell Manning to go ahead, give it a try? And for Denver's defense, this game will be determined by how well the Broncos pressure Brady. They have 10 sacks on the season, but their potential is even higher. If they can move Brady and get him out of rhythm, they can avoid the kind of destructive effort he laid on the Bills last week. On Twitter: #DENvsNE Bill Belichick: Peyton Manning has 'no weakness' Gregg Rosenthal NFL.com October 3, 2012 John Fox remembers his Denver Broncos' 45-10 divisional-round loss in Foxborough last year. "If I recall, it didn't go very well," Fox joked Monday. Fox said he'd go back to watch the film to help prepare for Sunday's matchup of two very talented 2-2 teams. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick did the same, but it's not going to be as helpful when he watches the Broncos. Belichick said the Broncos' offense is "identical" to the one Peyton Manning ran with the Indianapolis Colts and "95 percent" different than the Broncos' offense from a year ago. (Belichick also could have said "95 percent better.") Belichick believes Manning has "no weakness." Yes, Belichick is known to puff up his opponents on occasion. But he's the ultimate football historian and knows how special these Brady-Manning clashes are. Considering Manning's play and health this season, it's safe to expect more Manning-Brady matchups in the future. Matt Prater takes home AFC special teams player of week Evan Silva Pro Football Talk October 3, 2012 Broncos placekicker Matt Prater was awarded AFC special teams player of the week for Week Four after converting all three of his field-goal attempts and four extra points in Denver’s smashing, 37-6 blowout victory over the Oakland Raiders. Prater also produced a touchback on each of his eight kickoffs. Strong-legged Prater’s field goals came from 21, 43, and 53 yards out. He is now 14-of-18 in his career on tries from 50 yards or longer, good for a 77.8-percent clip. No kicker has a better conversion rate since the 1970 merger. Prater is also 27-of-28 lifetime on field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter, good for another league record. Prater has yet to miss a kick this season. 20 of his 24 kickoffs have been good for touchbacks. Broncos Notebook: Chris Kuper to be a game-time decision Andrew Mason CBSSports.com October 3, 2012 With center J.D. Walton out for the season and RG Chris Kuper still being worked back up to full speed after missing six weeks of practice with a fractured forearm, the Broncos could face the Patriots with only 40 percent of the offensive line they intended to have when training camp began. Kuper will be a "game-time decision," Broncos coach John Fox said, but his recovery from a fractured leg and torn ankle ligaments suffered on Jan. 1 is at least as central to his prognosis as his forearm injury. During training camp, the Broncos slowly eased Kuper back up to speed, and held him out of the preseason opener at Chicago on Aug. 9. The seven-year veteran was still only working approximately half the first-team snaps in training camp before he broke his arm. "He missed a lot of time playing football but he looked good last week and he looks even better this week," Fox said. Kuper's replacement at right guard has been Manny Ramirez, and he enjoyed a much smoother game against the Raiders on Sept. 30 than seven days earlier against Houston, when he allowed 2.5 sacks to Texans DE J.J. Watt. Walton was replaced by ex-Patriots C Dan Koppen in the second half of the 37-6 win over the Raiders and appeared to be back in form after missing the last 15 games of 2011 because of a fractured ankle, which eventually led to the Patriots' decision to cut him Aug. 31. When the Broncos signed Koppen on Sept. 11, speculation arose that he was brought in to push or supplant Walton. Fox denied that Wednesday. "At no point were we thinking he'd be lining up as the starting center as we head into Foxborough this weekend," Fox said. Added Manning: "Dan has played in every game situation that you could think of, there's nothing that he has not seen on defense -- except his own team he's playing against this Sunday in a real game -- but he's seen them every day in practice. But his veteran experience it does show in practice and thankfully he is on our team." Denver Broncos players asked to spell at Drive for Life 15 Susie Wargin 9News.com October 3, 2012 KUSA - On the heals of their victory over the Raiders, about 30 Broncos players returned to Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Tuesday to welcome nearly 2,000 donors and fans for Colorado's largest single-day blood drive The Colorado community came out in force to help celebrate and donate blood with Bonfils Blood Center and the Denver Broncos at Drive for Life 15. Susie Wargin tested the "blood giving" knowledge of a few Broncos players. To see their responses, watch the story in the video player above. There were 1,480 lifesaving units collected through pre-event donations, donations collected at the seven-hour drive, at four fixed-site metro area donor centers and mobile drives on Tuesday, Oct. 2. In addition, 330 first-time donors attended the event. Bonfils' Colorado Marrow Donor Program also successfully registered 78 potential marrow donors to the Be the Match Registry to help patients beat blood cancers. "Each year our community continues to come to this event and ensure its success . We couldn't provide this life-saving service without the nearly 2,000 donors and their readiness to step up and donate when blood is needed," says Jessica Maitland, vice president of marketing and community operations for Bonfils Blood Center. "There were nearly 30 Denver Broncos players and more than 15 alumni players and cheerleaders on hand to meet the fans who came out to celebrate and donate with us this year. We are grateful for the community's ongoing support of our premiere event and look forward to Drive for Life XVI." For nearly 70 years, Bonfils Blood Center has successfully managed the community blood supply and played an integral role in Colorado's health care system. Bonfils Blood Center supplies blood to nearly 200 healthcare facilities and needs to collect more than 3,000 blood donations weekly to meet the needs of the community and to be prepared for any unexpected events. For information about Bonfils Blood Center please call 303-366-2000 or visit www.bonfils.org. Broncos Prater named AFC Special teams player of the week David Hunt 9News.com October 3, 2012 ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater will be named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, the National Football League informed the Broncos on Wednesday. Prater connected on all three field goal attempts (21, 43, 53) and all four extra point tries in Denver's 37-6 win against Oakland on Sunday in addition to producing touchbacks on all eight kickoffs. His eight touchbacks against Oakland represent the second most in the NFL in a single game since at least 1994, and he is the only player during that span with a perfect touchback percentage on eight kickoffs or more. Prater's 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter increased his career percentage from 50+ yards to 77.8% (14-of-18)-improving on his NFL record among kickers who started their career after the 1970 league merger. He added to another NFL record he currently possesses by converting 2-of-2 field goals in the final quarter against the Raiders to improve his career percentage in the fourth quarter to 96.4% (27-of-28). Through four games in 2012, Prater has made 7-of-7 field goals and 11-of-11 extra point attempts while delivering touchbacks on 20-of-24 kickoffs. This marks the fourth time in Prater's career he has received the honor, as he also earned conference player of the week accolades in 2008 (Week 5), 2009 (Week 12) and 2011 (Week 14). Overall, the award represents the 22nd AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor by a Broncos player since the award was initiated by the NFL in 1993. They Meet Again Gray Caldwell DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 Quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will square off for the 13th time in their careers on Sunday. It will mark the first game in NFL history featuring opposing quarterbacks that have both thrown 300 or more touchdown passes. But Manning stressed that Sunday's contest is about the teams, not the signal callers. ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Manning vs. Brady. A four-time NFL MVP vs. a three-time Super Bowl champion. The two players have 26 years of NFL experience, nearly 100,000 passing yards and 714 passing touchdowns between them. "To be able to do that, to play at the level they’ve played at for as long as they’ve done it, it’s impressive," wide receiver Brandon Stokley said. "It’s hard to maintain that level, maintain that focus, for that long.” Sunday's Broncos-Patriots clash will mark the 13th time the two quarterbacks have squared off, including the postseason, and the first game in NFL history featuring opposing quarterbacks with 300 or more touchdown passes each. It comes at a pivotal time for both squads. “This game is enough to get everybody motivated, everybody focused," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "We’re 2-2, this is a big road game. We didn’t play like we wanted to play in our first road game. It’s a conference game. That’s really all everybody needs to be motivated, myself, our entire team." From 2001 to 2010, Manning faced off against Tom Brady's Patriots 12 times, including three times in the AFC playoffs. The two have had some memorable matchups, and Manning has won four of the last six meetings. This Sunday, the circumstances have changed, but the hype surrounding the battle of arguably the top two quarterbacks of their generation will still be at an all-time high. "We’ve had our fair share of meaningful games against a Peyton Manning-led offense when he was with the Colts," Brady said on a conference call Wednesday. "He seems like he’s got this team really in the hunt as well. They lost two very close games and were in it right until the end. He’s a phenomenal player, leader and quarterback and it’s great watching him play out there.” Both teams enter the game at 2-2. New England is tied atop the AFC East, while the Broncos trail the 3-1 San Diego Chargers in the AFC West. Manning stressed the importance of the game for both teams, not just both quarterbacks. "It’s well-documented, my thoughts on Tom Brady and the type of player that he is, but this game -- I know it’s a boring, boring answer for you all -- but this is the Broncos versus the Patriots," he said. "It’s two 2-2 teams. A pivotal game at a pivotal time in the season." Head Coach John Fox said he has studied up on a few Colts-Patriots games to see how New England likes to defend Manning, but "nothing stays the same." Along those lines, Manning acknowledged that there have been "some great games" between his teams and Brady's teams throughout the years, but entering Sunday, they don't mean a whole lot. "This is a new team that I’m playing with, so I think sometimes getting into the comparisons and going back to years past, I don’t know how valuable a time that is to discuss that," he said. "This is an important week of practice for us. Coming off a win, I thought we played with a sense of urgency last week coming after a loss, we need to do it again coming after a win. I think that’s important this week.” There is one thing that hasn't changed from Manning's early battles with Brady to Sunday -- the Patriots are always a threat to light up a scoreboard. Take last week's 52-point Patriots explosion as proof. "I guess what I’ve always known playing against offenses like the one that he leads is that you better be on your job," Manning said. "You better be prepared to score touchdowns in the red zone, convert on third down, because they’re capable of scoring points." So while some will still label Sunday's game as Manning-Brady XIII, the veteran signal caller said "we all know it's a team game." And Fox had no doubt that both teams will be ready. "We’ll be excited," Fox said. "I’m sure they’re going to do a great job in their game planning, and I can assure you we will, too.” Prater Named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Stuart Zaas DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 The NFL has named kicker Matt Prater the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after the sixth-year kicker connected on all three field goal attempts and all four extra point tries in Denver’s 37-6 win vs. Oakland. In addition, Prater produced touchbacks on all eight kickoffs to represent the second-most in the NFL in a single game since at least 1994, and he is the only player during that span with a perfect touchback percentage on eight kickoffs or more. The franchise’s all-time most accurate kicker, Prater increased his career percentage from 50+ yards to 77.8 percent (14-of-18) with his 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. He converted a pair of fourth-quarter attempts to improve his career percentage in the fourth quarter to 96.4 percent (27-of-28), extending his own NFL record in that category. The weekly award is the fourth in Prater’s career, as he also earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors in 2008 (Week 5), 2009 (Week 12) and 2011 (Week 14). It marks the 22nd time in Broncos history that a player has earned the weekly special teams award. PRATER’S CAREER AFC SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARDS OPP (DATE) WEEK vs. T.B. YEAR Week 5 (10/5) 2008 Week vs. NYG 2009 12 (11/26) 2011 Week vs. Chi. 2012 14 (12/11) Week 4 vs. Oak. (9/30) STATS 3-3 FGs, 55/40/27, 1-1 PAT, 10 pts., 4 KO for touchbacks 4-4 FGs, 26/32/47/24, 2-2 PAT, 14 pts., 5 KO for touchbacks 2-3 FGs, 59/51, 1-1 PAT, 7 pts., 2 KO for touchbacks 3-3 FGs, 21/43/53, 4-4 PAT, 13 pts., 8 KO for touchbacks Prater also tied a franchise record for passer rating by a kicker (39.6) in the team’s win over Oakland. One Quarter In The Books Mike Rice DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 It was only one game. But it was certainly a thing of beauty. The Broncos’ 37-6 rout of the Raiders last weekend showed what this team is capable of and showed the progress it has made. The Broncos went out and dominated a team they need to beat at home. In the process, the Broncos made it clear they have more than enough talent to win the AFC West. This is a good, solid football team that, in my opinion, will continue to get better as the season goes along. We are a quarter of the way through the season and the Broncos have already shown me several key things. 1 – THIS TEAM CAN SCORE POINTS. They’re averaging 28.5 points per game. That’s seventh in the NFL. The most impressive part is they are doing that as their quarterback is still working his way back into rhythm. I have to believe that Peyton Manning will continue to get stronger as the season goes on. Yet, he has played pretty well to this point. In the past several years, when the Broncos fell behind like they did this year against both the Falcons and Texans, there was little realistic hope they would come back. And before fans bring up last year’s comebacks, let’s all remember how incredibly well the defense played in most of those games. This year, the Broncos trailed the Falcons by 20 points and then fell behind the Texans by 16. Yet in both of the those games, the offense found a way to get some things together and rally to the point that Denver was one defensive stop away from getting the ball back to the offense for what could have been a last-minute scoring drive. Peyton Manning gives the Broncos hope even if they are way behind. The offense has not had that at the quarterback position since John Elway was in uniform. 2 – THERE ARE WEAPONS ON OFFENSE. It starts with Manning but definitely doesn’t end there. I know the receivers have had a few more drops than they would like but I have seen nothing to suggest there is not ample talent in the Broncos’ receiving corps. We saw it come to the fore against the Raiders. I also like the multiple options Manning has at the tight end position. Joel Dreessen has a touchdown catch in each of his last two games and Jacob Tamme had one in the opener against the Steelers. Four different players already have 13 or more receptions. Manning’s eight touchdown passes have gone to six different receivers. I also like what I have seen out of Willis McGahee and the running game. Keep in mind, the Broncos could not run as much as they normally do against the Falcons and Texans because they fell behind. Nonetheless, McGahee has 325 yards and three touchdowns in four games and is averaging 4.7 yards per rush. The offense is settling in under Manning and it should be very interesting to see how much better it gets in the coming weeks. 3 – THE DEFENSE HAS SHOWN SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT. Even thought the offense put the defense in tough spots against the Falcons, the Broncos D hung in there enough to keep the Falcons from running away with the game. Against Houston, despite giving up some big plays early, the Broncos’ defense regrouped and played better as the game went along. The defense certainly did a good job against the Steelers and completely stifled the Raiders. Let’s remember the Broncos are on their seventh defensive coordinator in the past seven years. I know it ends up sounding like an excuse but it does take some time for everyone to get on the same page. There is no doubt the Broncos made some major strides in this area in last week’s blowout win. I would expect the Broncos’ defense to continue to show improvement as the year goes along. Why? Because the players will be more familiar with Jack Del Rio’s system. I believe as they continue to settle in, they’ll be able to just react more on the field instead of thinking about what they need to be doing. In addition, I look at this defensive unit and I see more than one playmaker. I see guys capable of making big plays at big times that can change the complexion of a game. They made some of those big plays last Sunday. The Broncos are fine. They’re 2-2. Even when they haven’t played well, they have had a realistic shot at winning. This week’s game at New England should be fun. If the Broncos continue to improve, don’t be surprised if they come home 3-2. What did you like most in the big win over the Raiders and what do the Broncos have to do to defeat the Patriots? Thanks for reading and posting. Best, Mike Notebook: Carrying Over Momentum Stuart Zaas DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 The Broncos hope the things they did well versus Oakland continue this week at New England; The defense looks to duplicate its success against the run; Koppen is set to start at center. ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After dropping back-to-back games, the Broncos evened their record at 2-2 with a historic win over the Raiders in Week 4. This week, the team will work toward its first win streak of the season, but to do so, it will have to take the 1,758-mile, cross-country trip to Foxborough, Mass. Broncos players are doing their best to make sure that some of momentum from last week’s win travels with them through a strong week of practice. “We just have to carry what we did last week on to this week,” wide receiver Eric Decker said. “Last week the preparation was at another level than it has been all season just because we were so hungry for that win, a division game versus Oakland. … That preparation really set the tone for us last week and we’re trying to do the same thing this week.” The defense turned in its most impressive performance of the season, limiting the Raiders to just 1-of-12 on third-down conversions – a point of emphasis entering the contest. “We took a step in the right direction against the Raiders,” cornerback Tracy Porter said. “We made the necessary steps against them and we’re looking to improve coming into this game.” Even though the defense took strides against Oakland, the players know there is still plenty of room for improvement. And with Sunday’s upcoming matchup against the defending AFC-Champion Patriots looming, the Broncos know they have to shore up those mistakes if they want to have success against New England. “Obviously when you do really good, things get wiped under the rug,” defensive end Derek Wolfe said. “But we made some mistakes in that game and we’re going to get those fixed. (Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady and (Head Coach Bill) Belichick, they’re both really good at picking out what your weaknesses are. They’re going to definitely do something like that. We have to fix the things we were not good at and we’ll be fine.” STOPPING THE RUN Going into last week’s game vs. Oakland, the top priorities for the Denver defense were to limit the Raiders’ rushing attack and get off the field on third downs. Check and Check. Raiders running back Darren McFadden rushed for just 34 yards in the game and Oakland converted just eight percent of its third-down attempts in the game. “Stop the run, that’s our philosophy,” Wolfe said. “Stop the run so we can them into third-and-long and get after it.” Limiting the success of Oakland’s run game on first and second downs made those third downs harder to convert and it showed in the stats. The Raiders’ average third-down distance was 8.3 yards -- almost two full yards longer than the Broncos’ previous best this season. That will be the goal again this week against the Patriots, who had a pair of rushers top the 100-yard mark last week in their 52-28 win over Buffalo. “If you stop the run, then you leave them one-dimensional,” Wolfe said. “It puts the whole thing on Brady and the weapons they have. If we stop the run, make them one-dimensional, then we can bring our (pass rushers).” Running back Brandon Bolden exploded onto the scene last week, as the college free agent racked up 137 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. Fellow running back Stevan Ridley added 106 yards and a pair of scores. “(New England’s run game) is very strong, and looking at film, I can see why,” defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. “They do a good job running the ball, and their O-line is looking really good. We definitely have a big challenge ahead of us.” KOPPEN A FAMILIAR FACE TO PATRIOTS With Monday’s news that center J.D. Walton was headed to injured reserve, the Broncos’ next-man-up-philosophy brought veteran center Dan Koppen to the top of the depth chart. Koppen, who signed with the Broncos on Sept. 11, is the NFL’s all-time winningest offensive lineman with an overall career record of 107-31. Of those victories, 106 came playing for the team that he will be squaring off against this Sunday. “I was really happy he got the opportunity to be out there,” Brady said. “Obviously, he’s been one of my best friends over the years, to see him go was a very hard thing. It always is at the beginning of the year. But, I was happy he got the opportunity to be with a great organization.” With Koppen’s experience, Brady thinks it won’t be a problem for the 10th-year center to adjust to a new offense in Denver. “To play with a quarterback like Peyton, and certainly with an offense like that, I’m sure Dan is a great fit,” Brady said. “He’s smart, he’s tough and he’s physical. He’s got great command out there for that position. I loved playing with him when he was here. Hopefully he doesn’t play his best game of his career this weekend against us, but we’re always rooting for Koppen – except when he’s playing us.” The Broncos offensive line is a tight-knit unit and while losing their man in the middle is difficult, they’ve helped Koppen get up to speed. "They've been great,” Koppen said of his offensive linemates. “They've got a great group of guys here. Coming in from day one, everybody's been great. Just try to get acclimated to what they do and how they do things. Everybody's been helpful." As the one taking the snaps from Koppen, Manning has the utmost confidence that the veteran center will be able to fill in. “Rarely, when you lose a three-year starter at every game, a center like J.D., can you have a guy as experienced as Dan to replace him,” Manning said. “It’s always nice to have guys on your team that have been around winning their entire careers. Coming from New England, Dan has played in every game situation that you can think of. There’s probably nothing he hasn’t seen on defense except the team he’s playing against this Sunday, in a real game. But he’s seen them every day in practice. His veteran experience does show in practice. Thankfully, he’s on our team. As (Head) Coach (John) Fox says, next man up. I just think you have to take the time to reflect that J.D. was a really good player for us and we’ll miss him but I know Dan will do a heck of a job as well.” Patriots Week: Wednesday Injury Report Stuart Zaas DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 All 53 players on the Broncos roster participated in Wednesday’s practice, including wide receiver Matthew Willis, who missed all of last week with a hamstring injury. Willis was listed as a full participant, along with cornerbacks Tracy Porter (shoulder) and Chris Harris (ankle). Limited for the Broncos were Nate Irving, who continues to work back from a concussion suffered in the team’s Week 3 game vs. Houston, and guard Chris Kuper, who broke his forearm during training camp. Head Coach John Fox said that Kuper, who returned to practice on a limited amount last week, has continued to make strides in his recovery. “He’s easing back into playing,” Fox said. “He missed time in the offseason with his ankle surgery and then soon after coming back he broke his forearm so he’s missed a lot of time playing football but he looked good last week and he looks even better this week.” As for Kuper’s prospects this week, Fox called it a “gameday decision.” “He practiced all last week,” Fox said. “We decided to make him inactive for the game. We’ll see how he does this week in practice.” Below is the full injury report for both the Broncos and the Patriots: DENVER BRONCOS PLAYER LB Nate Irving G Chris Kuper CB Chris Harris CB Tracy Porter WR Matthew Willis INJURY Concussion Forearm Ankle Shoulder Hamstring WEDNESDAY PARTICIPATION LIMITED LIMITED FULL FULL FULL NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS PLAYER WR Julian Edelman S Steve Gregory TE Rob Gronkowski TE Aaron Hernandez INJURY Hand Hip Hip Ankle WEDNESDAY PARTICIPATION DID NOT PARTICIPATE DID NOT PARTICIPATE DID NOT PARTICIPATE DID NOT PARTICIPATE TE Michael Hoomanawanui RB Brandon Bolden QB Tom Brady DE Brandon Deaderick DT Justin Francis LB Dont’a Hightower G Logan Mankins OL Nick McDonald CB Sterling Moore RB Shane Vereen OT Sebastian Vollmer DT Kyle Love Concussion Knee Right Shoulder Ankle Ankle Hamstring Calf/Hip Shoulder Knee Foot Back Knee DID NOT PARTICIPATE LIMITED LIMITED LIMITED LIMITED LIMITED LIMITED LIMITED LIMITED LIMITED LIMITED FULL Broncos Join Instagram Stuart Zaas DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 The Broncos have opened an account on Instagram, the popular photo-sharing smartphone application. Follow the team’s account, DenverBroncos, for exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from Dove Valley, road trips and gameday. The first picture from the account features the pink cleats the Broncos players will wear throughout the month of October to raise breast cancer awareness. You can also follow the Broncos on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterist. In addition, the team has a free mobile app that is available for download on iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices. Foes On Field, Friends Off It Sam Davis DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 On the field, quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have a history. Off the field, they have a friendship. “It’s really grown over the years,” Brady said in a conference call Wednesday. “We’ve known each other for a long time. We talk about a lot of things. We’ve seen each other off the field quite a few times over the years. He’s always really been someone I look up to and admire — certainly the way he plays the game, but also the way he handles himself off the field.” Eleven years and four days ago, the two shook hands at Foxboro Stadium for the first time. It was during warmups prior to the first start of Brady’s career when he approached the Colts’ signal caller. Much to the surprise of the first-time starter, Manning — already one of the league’s top passers in his fourth year — introduced himself. “I went over there and he said, ‘Hey, I’m Peyton Manning,’” Brady recalled. “I was like ‘Of course. I know that.’” That began a long, off-the-field friendship that is sometimes mistaken for an onthe-field rivalry — when in reality, it’s more like a mutual respect. “Tom is a quarterback that’s been around the longest during my time,” Manning said. “He’s a great player. He works at it. I know how hard he works at it and I’ve always had an appreciation for guys that put that much time into it.” Brady reciprocates the admiration. “He’s really set the standard for quarterback play over my entire career,” Brady said. Manning’s Colts fell to Brady’s Patriots 44-13 on the day they first met. Six MVP trophies, four Super Bowl rings and 11 years later, the two will meet again in Foxborough this Sunday. “He’s been a really good friend over the years,” Brady said. “We have a lot of things in common.” Belichick Respects the Run Sam Davis DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick knows all of the different challenges that Peyton Manning will pose to his defense on Sunday. One of those challenges is the way Manning utilizes the run, knowing exactly when and where to hand the ball off. “I think Peyton has always used the running game well,” Belichick said in a conference call Wednesday. “He certainly understands how to attack defenses and where defenses are light, whether it’s in the running game, or the outside passing game, or play action or down the field or misdirection plays — whatever it happens to be — Peyton does a really good job of anticipating them, seeing them and getting his team in place to attack them. Certainly the run game is a part of it. I think he’s always used that as a good weapon against the defense, and it has complemented the passing game.” The Broncos have run the ball 113 times this year, an average of nearly 30 times per game. Willis McGahee has led the way with a pair of 100-yard performances and a trio of rushing touchdowns. The 10th-year veteran has spent his entire career in the AFC — including his first five years in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills — so Belichick is very familiar with him. “You see him running over people and breaking tackles,” Belichick said. “He has good run vision, and can find the holes. He has good patience, and knows how to use his blocking when he gets in the open field or when guys start to tackle him, he does a good job of breaking tackles, getting his head down, running with power, and he’s elusive in the secondary. He continues to perform well, and I have a lot of respect for Willis.” But it’s not just McGahee that concerns Belichick. “All of the backs are talented — they’ve all made plays I’ve been impressed with,” he said. (Ronnie) Hillman has made some big plays — he’s been impressive. (He’s) an elusive guy. Lance Ball, they’ve got a good group of backs. McGahee is good, though. Whichever one of them is in there could be a problem. So we have to be ready for all of them.” In the center of the offensive line, trying to provide holes for McGahee and company, will be another player Belichick is very familiar with. Center Dan Koppen will start for the first time as a Bronco against the team he spent the previous nine years with. “He was a part of a lot of our wins and a lot of our seasons and championships, so it will be a little bit different looking at him on the other side of the field,” Belichick said. “As much as he’s gone against our defense and our players, he’s pretty familiar with them, as we are with him. (I’m) not sure if there’s an advantage there or not.” Check back to DenverBroncos.com later this afternoon to see what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had to say in his conference call. Embracing the Challenge Tyler Everett DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 The Broncos are well aware of the test that awaits them this Sunday in Foxborough, Mass. ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos’ Week 5 trip to New England gives the team a chance to avenge not one, but two of its worst losses of 2011. Denver fell to the Patriots 41-23 in Week 15 last year, and had an even harder time with New England four weeks later, when the Broncos’ playoff run came to a halt in a 45-10 loss. “I think we all know what happened,” wide receiver Eric Decker said. “It’s in the back of our mind and we understand that it was somewhat of an embarrassment as far as our performance and what we did. We want to go out there and play a lot better and know that if we want to be a championship team, we have to play our best versus a championship team like New England. That’s our mindset right now.” The Broncos are well aware of the challenge they face in returning to Foxborough, Mass., to take on a Patriots team that finished each of the last two seasons 14-2. “Obviously, they’re a great football team and maybe the best in a short period of time or recent NFL history, so to go in to their place is a huge challenge,” Head Coach John Fox said. “They’re well-coached. They’re an outstanding football team. They’ve got a quarterback that I know is going to be doing everything in his power to get his team ready to play and we expect a huge test.” The first player that comes to mind for teams preparing for the Patriots is threetime Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady. “As long as Tom Brady wakes up and his arm is working, anything can happen,” safety Rahim Moore said. “It doesn’t matter who’s out there. He will get the ball in his best players’ hands and they find a way to win games. They do a great job. They have a campaign over there that’s like no other. We tip our hats off to them.” But with this year’s Patriots, Brady is just one of the many weapons the Broncos have to worry about. New England is currently eighth in the league with 144 rushing yards per game. The Patriots’ ability to attack teams both on the ground and through the air this year makes them even more dangerous than the team’s prolific, passing-oriented offenses of the past few seasons. “It’s very strong, and looking at film, I can see why,” defensive tackle Justin Bannan said of the New England running game. “They do a good job running the ball, and their O-line’s looking really good. We definitely have a big challenge ahead of us.” The Patriots’ increased emphasis on the running game hasn’t made the offense any less explosive, as New England reminded the NFL on Sunday. Trailing the Buffalo Bills 21-7 midway through the third quarter, the Pats erupted for 45 second-half points, including 31 in the fourth quarter alone. That outburst looked familiar to Bannan, who took on the Patriots twice a year during his first four seasons in the league with the Buffalo Bills. “I was in Buffalo for four years, and I know that feeling,” Bannan said. “I’ve been there. You do good against them the first half, they come out in the second half and just go crazy on you. I know how (the Bills) feel.” But the Patriots are more than just an offensive juggernaut. Head Coach Bill Belichick is known throughout the league for having one of the sharpest defensive minds in the business. In addition to experienced standouts like defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo, the Patriots have added solid rookies like linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive end Chandler Jones, who already has three sacks this season. “Their defense has been a big part of why they’ve been so successful over the past decade,” tight end Jacob Tamme said. “They have a lot of good players over there this year, some young guys mixed in with some vets that have been around awhile. It’ll be a big challenge for us.” Facing a team like the Patriots, linebacker Joe Mays knows his team is in for one of its toughest tests of the season. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Oh yeah, they’re special,” Mays said. “Playing one of the best teams in the NFL, it doesn’t get any better than that. We get to see how we fare against some of the good teams. So far, we haven’t done as well, but I feel like we got better. It’s going to be a great test for us, and we’re looking forward to getting a win.” Crucial Catch Campaign Kicks Off Tyler Everett DenverBroncos.com October 3, 2012 As part of the NFL and NFL Players Association’s support of October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the league is launching a breast cancer screening initiative and fundraising campaign. Each team throughout the league will commemorate the initiative during its first home game of the month. For Denver, that will be on October 28 during a nationally televised game against the New Orleans Saints. That night, there will be stadium-wide pink pompoms, and the celebrated survivors will enjoy a pink champagne celebration during pregame, and will also be honored during a halftime recognition tribute. ZTA will also be on hand distributing game day programs and pink ribbons. In addition, the Broncos will field a team that races in the October 7 Race for the Cure and will partner in the annual Pink Tie Affair Gala on October 27. This week at New England, the team will premiere its pink gear against the Patriots. Here is a look at the cleats that some players will wear for the game. Along with the American Cancer Society, a partner in the initiative, which is called “A Crucial Catch: Annual Screening Saves Lives,” the goal is to remind women 40 and older of how important it is to have an annual mammogram. This is the fourth year of this initiative. So far, more than $3 million has been raised for the American Cancer Society, with most of the money coming from retail sales of pink items and on NFL Auction. The money A Crucial Catch raises this year will support the American Cancer Society’s Community Health Advocates National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) program. This program will provide reach out to and offer screenings for women in the following NFL markets: Atlanta, Baltimore, New England, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Washington, DC. This year’s breast cancer awareness games will feature game balls with pink decals, pink cleats, wristbands, gloves and other player equipment, pink coins for the game toss and breast cancer awareness pompoms, shirts and wristbands for cheerleaders. Players will also autograph their game-worn merchandise and auction it at NFL Auction, with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society.
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