Bracing for chance to emerge again

Defensive lineman Ron Brace played a role in one of the key plays of the Patriots' 41-23 victory over the Broncos on Dec. 18, forcing a Lance Ball fumble in the second quarter.

It was the first of three straight turnovers for the Patriots over a span of eight minutes, which were turned into 13 points. That was a turning point in the game.

Brace was smiling in the locker room after the game, explaining how "it was actually my first real play since I've been back playing. It was exciting making a contribution, knowing how big of a game this is."

Yet the third-year veteran hasn't played since, a healthy scratch for the team's final two regular-season games.

"I knew it was only one play at that moment and we had more games to go, so I've been working on trying to get myself back out there to have an opportunity to make another play," Brace said this week in the Patriots' locker room. "I'm taking it like every day, trying to work and get better at something every time we go out and practice."

The Patriots went big against the Broncos on Dec. 18, dressing all of their "pure" defensive linemen -- Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Andre Carter (now on injured reserve), Brandon Deaderick, Eric Moore (since released), Shaun Ellis, Mark Anderson, Gerard Warren and Ron Brace.

That decision was tied to the Broncos' ground-based offense and the idea of making sure as much bulk was available as possible. Assuming the Patriots go the same route this time around, the 6-foot-3, 330-pound Brace is prepared for the call.

"I look at every week like that," he said. "You don't lose track, just focus on the game-plan, and I do what I can to be a part of it."