Tebow-mania has been well-documented as the Broncos stunned Pittsburgh last Sunday in the AFC Wild Card round 29-23 when Denver QB Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for a 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage in overtime.
New England did not sew up the AFC’s No. 1 seed until the final weekend, and the Patriots offense has been solid all season, averaging a league-best 428.0 yards per game, and New England’s +17 turnover margin is the best in the AFC.
The two teams met back in Week 15 on December 18, and the Pats rolled to a 41-23 victory in Denver behind 320 passing yards and three touchdowns (two passing. one rushing) by quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady led the conference with 5,235 passing yards and 39 touchdowns. He has also thrown for 4,407 yards in his postseason career. With 104 passing yards against Denver, he would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (4,510) for the fifth-most NFL postseason passing yards. He has also thrown 30 postseason TD passes. With three TD passes, he would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw (30), Kurt Warner (31), and Marino (32) for third-most postseason TD passes in NFL history. He has also thrown a TD pass in 17 straight postseason games.
Denver relied on a tough defense and a stout run game, led by running back Willis McGahee, who rushed for 1,199 yards. The Broncos have struggled holding onto the football, with a minus-12 turnover ratio.
Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, the No. 1 seeds in the AFC have a 12-9 (.571) record in the Divisional Playoff round. Denver will try to extend its magic for one more week against an elite head coach-quarterback combo.
We take a look inside the game notes provided by both clubs’ PR staffs as well as the NFL Communications office (via Elias Sports Bureau).
Denver (8-8; AFC West champions) beat Pittsburgh in the AFC Wild Card Game last Sunday:
- The Broncos will face New England for the third time in the playoffs, entering Saturday’s contest with a 2-0 record against the Patriots in their previous two postseason meetings.
- The Broncos won the AFC West division for the 11th time in franchise history, including the ninth time in Owner Pat Bowlen’s 28 seasons with the club.
- John Fox owns a 6-3 all-time postseason record as a head coach, including a 4-2 mark in road playoff games.
- Denver led the NFL and set a team record with 2,632 rushing yards in 2011 (164.5 ypg.).
- QB Tim Tebow totaled the most passing yards (316) by a Bronco in his postseason debut while helping Denver defeat Pittsburgh in last week’s AFC Wild Card Playoff Game.
- WR Demaryius Thomas set a franchise postseason record with 204 receiving yards against the Steelers last week, including an 80-yard game-winning touchdown reception on the first play of overtime.
- K Matt Prater converted all three of his field goal attempts (20, 28, 35) against Pittsburgh in addition to sending all six of his kickoffs for touchbacks.
TEBOW AND McGAHEE: QB Tim Tebow, who was named Denver’s starting quarterback on Oct. 11, led 18 scoring drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in Denver’s last 12 games … Tebow’s 660 rushing yards this year marked the most by a quarterback in franchise history during a single season … RB Willis McGahee totaled 1,000 rushing yards for the fourth time in his career and produced seven 100-yard rushing games this season to tie for the NFL lead in that category … The Broncos, who ranked tied for 25th in the NFL with 86.8 rushing yards per game through the first four weeks of the season, finished with the league’s top rushing attack after averaging 190.4 yards per game on the ground in Games 5-16 … Denver has produced the most regular-season individual 100-yard rushers (18) in the NFL since 1995, while leading the league with 136.0 rushing yards per game during that stretch.
TEBOW’S PLAYOFF DEBUT: Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow completed 10-of-21 passes for 316 yards with two touchdowns and rushed 10 times for 50 yards (5.0 avg.) with one score in his playoff debut against Pittsburgh. With his performance, he joined Joe Montana and Jeff Garcia as the only players in NFL postseason history to rush for 300 yards and two scores in addition to rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Tebow’s 15.1 yards per passing attempt against Pittsburgh also represented the best mark in NFL postseason history (min. 20 att.), and his 316 passing yards were the most ever by a player in his postseason debut with the Broncos.
New England (13-3; AFC East champions) will open its’ postseason Saturday as the AFC’s No. 1 seed:
PATRIOTS NO. 1 SEED FOR SECOND STRAIGHT SEASON: The victory over Buffalo in the 2011 season-finale earned the Patriots the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff field for the second straight season. The Patriots have now earned the number one seed four times (2011, 2010, 2007 and 2003) in the past nine seasons. New England is the first team since Philadelphia (2002, 2003 and 2004) to have the top seed in its conference in at least two straight years and is the first AFC team to have the first seed in two straight years since Buffalo in 1990 and 1991.
TWO OR MORE PLAYERS WITH 10 OR MORE TOUCHDOWNS FOR TWO STRAIGHT SEASONS: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (11) and TE Rob Gronkowski (18) reached 10 or more touchdowns in 2011. It is the second straight season and fourth time in team history that the Patriots have had two players finish with 10 or more touchdowns in a season. Last season, Gronkowski (10) and Green-Ellis (13) had 10 touchdown seasons. In 1974, Mack Herron had 12 touchdowns (7 rushing, 5 receiving) and Sam Cunningham had 11 (9 rushing, 2 receiving). In 1976, Steve Grogan had 12 touchdowns (12 rushing) and Andy Johnson had 10 touchdowns (6 rushing, 4 receiving).
PATRIOTS PLAYOFFS BY THE NUMBERS:
- .583: The Patriots postseason winning percentage. New England is 21-15 in the playoffs, the fourth best winning percentage in playoff history. That figure trails only Green Bay (29-16, .644), Pittsburgh (33-21, .611), and San Francisco (25-17, .595).
- .786: The Patriots home playoff winning percentage. New England has won 11 of 14 home playoff games, making them the second-winningest franchise at home in the playoffs behind Green Bay (14 of 17, .823).
- 3: The Patriots are one of three teams to make the playoffs in five of the past six seasons with appearances in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Baltimore (2006, 2008-2011) and Indianapolis (2006-2010) are the other two teams.
- 5: The number of Championship Game berths for the Patriots since 2000, tied with Philadelphia for the most of any team in the NFL since that year.
Here is the look at the Broncos-Patriots matchup from NFL Communications:
TEAMS MEET for 3rd time in postseason. Broncos are 2-0 vs. Patriots in playoffs. Clubs met in Week 15 (New England 41-23).
BRONCOS: Denver aims for 1st postseason road win since AFC Championship Game at Pit. on 1/11/98 … Club won AFC West title for 11th time in franchise history … Incl. postseason, Broncos have 4-0 record in OT games this season … QB Tim Tebow threw game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass to WR Demaryius Thomas on 1st play from scrimmage in overtime last week, longest TD ever scored in OT of NFL postseason game. Tebow completed 10 passes for 316 yards last week & became 1st player to average at least 30 yards per completion in postseason game (min: 5 completions) in NFL history. Tebow’s 316 passing yards last week were 3rd-most in postseason game in franchise history (HOFer John Elway, 385 & 336). Posted 125.6 passer rating last week, highest rating in playoff game in Broncos history. Rushed for 93 yards in last game vs. Patriots. Incl. postseason, Tebow is 8-4 as starter in ’11 … Club averaged NFL-best 164.5 rushing yards per game in ’11 & totaled single-season franchise record with 2,632 rush yards … RB Willis McGahee has 4 rush TDs in past 5 road playoff games. Rushed for 70 yards on 7 att. (10 avg.) last game vs. NE. McGahee (1,199) posted 4th career 1,000-yard rushing season in ’11. Tied NFL-best in ’11 with 7 100-yard rushing games (Arian Foster). RB Lance Ball had 32-yard rush TD in only game vs. Patriots … WR Demaryius Thomas set franchise postseason record last week with 204 receiving yards & became 7th player in NFL history to reach 200 receiving yards in game. Thomas had 7 catches for 116 yards (16.6 avg.) in last game vs. NE. WR Eddie Royal had 30-yard TD catch in postseason debut last week … TE Daniel Fells tied career-high with 3 TD catches in ’11 (3 in ’09 w/ StL) … Rookie LB Von Miller led AFC rookies & ranked 2nd among NFL rookies with 11.5 sacks (Aldon Smith, 14). Registered most sacks by Denver rookie since ’82 … LB Elvis Dumervil has 3 sacks in 3 career regular season games vs. NE. LB D.J. Williams led club with 90 tackles. Robert Ayers posted 2 sacks in playoff debut … CB Champ Bailey has 2 career postseason INTs, incl. 100-yard INT-TD return on 1/14/06 vs. NE (tied for 2nd-longest return in postseason history) … Rookie S Quinton Carter (4th round, No. 108) had INT in postseason debut … Club had 3 players selected to 2012 Pro Bowl (CB Bailey, LB Dumervil, LB Miller).
PATRIOTS: Since 2000, NE has won NFL-best 9 division titles … Patriots became 3rd team in NFL history to win at least 10 games in 9 consecutive seasons (SF, 1983-1998, 16 consecutive seasons; Ind., 2002-2010, 9) … With win in Divisional Playoffs, Bill Belichick (15) will tie Pro Football HOFer Chuck Noll (16) for 4th-most playoff wins by head coach in NFL history … NE averaged AFC-best 32.1 points per game in regular season … QB Tom Brady (4,407) needs 104 passing yards to surpass HOFer Dan Marino (4,510) for 5th-most postseason passing yards in NFL history. Brady (30) needs 3 TD passes to surpass HOFer Terry Bradshaw (30), Kurt Warner (31), & Marino (32) for 3rd-most postseason TD passes all-time. Has 14-5 (.737) playoff record, tied with HOFer Terry Bradshaw for best postseason record as starting QB in NFL history (min. 15 starts). Has 8-2 record at home in playoffs. Brady had 5,235 passing yards in ’11, 2nd-most passing yards in season in NFL history, trailing only Drew Brees (5,476). In last game vs. Den. (12/18/11), Brady completed 23 of 34 passes (67.6 pct.) for 320 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs & 117.3 passer rating .. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis reached 10+ rush TDs in consecutive seasons (13 in ’10; 11 in ’11). RB Danny Woodhead totaled 98 scrimmage yards (46 rushing, 52 receiving) in only career postseason game (1/16/11 vs. NYJ) … WR Wes Welker joined Cris Carter (122 in ’94 & ’95) this season as only players to have 120+ receptions twice in career (123 in ’09; 122 in ’11). Joined HOFer Jerry Rice & Marvin Harrison as only players to have 4 100-catch seasons. Has 2 TD catches in past 3 regular season games vs. Broncos. WR Deion Branch (784) needs 16 receiving yards to become 22nd player in NFL history to reach 800 in postseason career. WR Chad Ochocinco had 33-yard TD reception in last regular-season meeting vs. Broncos … TE Rob Gronkowski set single-season record for TEs in receiving yards (1,327) & TD receptions (17) in ’11. Became 1st TE in NFL history to lead league in TD catches. TE Aaron Hernandez had career-best 9 catches for 129 yards (14.3 avg.) with 1 TD in only game against Den. Had career-best in catches (79), receiving yards (910) & TDs (7) in ’11 … LB Jerod Mayo led club with 95 tackles … LB Rob Ninkovich had career-best 6.5 sacks this season … DE Mark Anderson had 2 sacks in last game vs. Den … CB Kyle Arrington tied for NFL-best with 7 INTs. Patriots tied for NFL-best with 8 Pro Bowl players (Brady, DE Andre Carter, TE Gronkowski, G Logan Mankins, ST Matthew Slater, G Brian Walters, WR Welker & DT Vince Wilfork).