New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Monday morning he was looking forward to working with new coaching assistant Josh McDaniels again as the team prepares for “a big challenge” in Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos on Saturday night in an AFC divisional playoff showdown.
Brady spoke about the advantage the Patriots will have in adding McDaniels, who coached the Broncos from 2009-10 after leaving New England, where he was offensive coordinator.
“He obviously has some inside information on that team and those players because he coached them,” Brady said during his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. “I haven’t seen Josh yet so I really don’t know. l think coach Belichick has a pretty good idea of what he’s going to want Josh to do.
“I talked to Josh briefly but I really haven’t had a chance to sit down with him. He’s a great coach and we’re lucky to have him. I’m excited to get back to work with him. How that plays into this week, we’ll see. We’ll try to figure that out in the next five or six days.”
The Tebow-led Broncos on Sunday upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in dramatic fashion, winning on an 80-yard touchdown connection between Tebow and receiver Demaryius Thomas on the first snap of overtime. The Patriots beat the Broncos once already this season, winning 41-23 in a Week 15 matchup in Denver.
"[Tebow is] a good player, and I think it's a lot for the defense to prepare for," Brady said is his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. "I know in our preparations for him this last time, it's a challenge. It's a very different style. But they're very effective. They have a very good team. It's certainly not about one player on this team. I know a lot of people make it out to be one player on a lot of teams, but the reason why the Denver Broncos are in this position is their team as a whole. Certainly, the way that Tim played yesterday, it was just a great win all around by them.
"We've got a big challenge. We realized going into Denver how challenging a game that would be. We were the beneficiaries of some turnovers. We're going to hopefully get some turnovers this weekend."
After trailing the Broncos early in the matchup, the Patriots turned things around by adjusting their defensive gameplan and forcing three key turnovers in the second quarter.
“That game that we played in Denver four weeks ago will mean nothing. Nothing. The determining factor in this game will be our level of execution. That’s why we’ll need to be at our best.”
In that game, the Broncos did a nice job shutting down the Patriots’ two top weapons in the passing game -- Wes Welker (4 catches, 41 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (4 catches, 53 yards) -- but Aaron Hernandez picked up the slack with 9 receptions, 129 yards and a touchdown.
“Aaron had a great game. I think the thing about our offense is, I’m going to just try to find to try to find the open guy. Wes had four catches. This week he may have 15 and Gronk may have 15 . You just never know. We’re going to try to spread it around to different guys, make them cover the whole field. … It’s just a matter of who they're trying to cover, what they’re trying to defend, where the coverage is packed. Sometimes it's packed in the inside you have to throw outside, when it's packed on the outside you have to throw it inside. When they’re covering short you have to throw it deep.
"All of that goes into everyone being disciplined, being in the spots they need to be in and trying to take advantage of what we see out there. There’s no magic formula to scoring points. It’s got to be execution, discipline and anticipation, everyone going out doing their job and being on the same page.”
Brady also echoed sentiments expressed by his teammates last week, that the Patriots can’t afford to play from behind out of the gate. In their last three games, New England was outscored in the first quarter and had to rally back (including against Denver).
“How the game plays out in the first quarter is usually how it’s going to go. You try to get to your best stuff early,” Brady said. “That’s why it’s important for us to start fast this week, something we can do a better job of. When you see how the game’s going to play out you have to make adjustments. We’ve done a good job of that this year. I’m excited. I’m sure there’s not a lot of guys on our team that slept great last night. We’re excited to have this opportunity [against Denver].”
New England will have an added edge this time around in McDaniels, who was hired by the Patriots on Sunday as an offensive coaching assistant and eventual successor for offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien once the season ends. McDaniels was offensive coordinator for the Patriots from 2007-2008 before leaving to become head coach of the Broncos. He drafted both Tebow and Thomas before the 2010 season, which would be his last in Denver. With new Penn State coach O’Brien retaining his offensive coordinator job with the Patriots until the end of the playoffs, McDaniels’ short-term role has yet to be defined.
"We'll see how it plays out," Brady said. "Josh is a great friend of mine. And obviously, the familiarity we have with Josh is something that's great. We'll see how it works this year, and going forward. It's always great to have another great coach on our staff. He's certainly a great coach and has been. I've always enjoyed my time with him, as our quarterback coach in '04 all the way to when he left to be the head coach of the Broncos."
One thing Brady didn’t seem to be concerned about was any potential drawback to adding another voice to the mix so late in the season.
"I think they both have a great understanding of our offense and what we're trying to do,” Brady said. “And Billy worked with Josh [in 2007 and 2008]. They're great friends. ...
“It's the same offense. What we've done since Charlie [Weis] was here is pretty much the same offense. And I've been lucky to be in the same system for 12 years. There's different wrinkles that different coaches have. But Josh and Billy always worked really close together."
Nor was Brady worried about O’Brien’s new duties at Penn State -- "a great opportunity for a very deserving coach,” Brady said -- getting in the way of helping the team prepare for the Broncos.
"Obviously, hopefully he doesn't start work full-time there for another month or so,” Brady said. "But we've got to go out there and play our best football this time of year. And I know Billy's committed to that. I know the players are committed to that. This is why we work so hard, for opportunities like this."