Brock Osweiler to experience challenge of facing Bill Belichick for the first time

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Brock Osweiler will make his second career start Sunday night when he and the Broncos face the New England Patriots.

A prime-time audience and sellout home crowd will watch the Denver Broncos. And that’s probably heady enough for a just-turned-25 quarterback.

But toss in the undefeated Patriots into the mix and perhaps the most difficult coach for any quarterback to beat on the first try, Bill Belichick, and that’s quite the work week coming up for Osweiler.

“[Belichick] presents challenges to everybody," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “... [The Patriots] are a tremendous football team. They've been very consistent with what they do, defensively. They're known to play a lot of things: 3-4 and 4-3. It'll be a great test for him, but it'll be important that the team plays well. He'll do his job. He'll get ready to go and hopefully we'll get him better this week."

Belichick and his shape-shifting defensive ways present a challenge, all right. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, since the start of the 2001 season -- the start of the Belichick-Tom Brady era -- quarterbacks are a combined 23-79 (.225) in their first career starts against the Patriots.

Aaron Rodgers (2014), Cam Newton (2013), Russell Wilson (2012), Brett Favre (2002) and Kurt Warner (2001) all won in their first starts vs. the Pats, as did three former Broncos quarterbacks -- Kyle Orton (2009, as part of the team’s 6-0 start that year), Jake Plummer (2005) and Brian Griese (2001). Two of those came when Kubiak was the team's offensive coordinator.

“When you have games like this -- [Tom] Brady knows everything about us, Belichick knows everything about us," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “Everybody is so familiar, it's really just about you having to win your one-on-one battles."

It also has gotten more difficult as time has gone along. Five of the first-timers won their matchups with Belichick's Patriots in 2001 and four won their first matchup in 2002. No more than three first-time quarterbacks have won in any season since.

And while Osweiler is no rookie -- he was the Broncos' second-round draft pick in the 2012 draft -- Sunday will be his second career start, so rookies' performances can provide some reference. Rookie quarterbacks are 4-10 in their first games against the Belichick-Brady Patriots.

The Broncos professed their confidence in Osweiler after Sunday’s win over the Bears and professed it again Monday.

“Everybody's asking the Brock questions, but we knew Brock can do this," running back C.J. Anderson said. “He's always been a part of our team and he got an opportunity to show the world, show you guys what he can do -- what we've always seen in him."

"I think he was himself from the day we said, 'OK, you're starting this week, let's go,'" Kubiak said. "I didn't see him try to overreact to it or anything. I think as the week went along and the game got closer, I felt him more confident ... he gained more confidence as we got closer to game day."

The issue for any team or player facing Belichick, particularly a young quarterback in the inaugural meeting, is the matter of preferences. Belichick understands what an offense and a quarterback want to do the most in given situations and is among the best ever at taking those things away.

You might like ice cream, but Belichick forces you to eat broccoli.

His team usually plays with assignment discipline, can morph into almost any scheme and waits for what seems to be the inevitable mistakes.

“Man-to-man, they're going to match us up, that's what they do," Anderson said. “I can do that without watching the tape. Just playing them so many times in my short career, that's what they do. They mix it up every once in a while, but that's what they want to do. They'll match it up and it will be fun. It will be exciting."