Patriots not expecting Week 15 Broncos

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Patriots not expecting Week 15 Broncos

FOXBORO -- The last time the Patriots faced the Broncos was in Week 15. New England went into Denver and quickly fell behind 16-7 in the second quarter. But the team made adjustments; they went on to score the next 27 points and defeated the Broncos 41-23.

Tom Brady's offense helped end Tim Tebow's six-game winning streak, but even after an awful start to the game by the Pats' defense, those guys eventually made some big plays when it mattered most, recovering three fumbles in the win. New England's 'D' held Tebow to 11-of-22 passing for 194 yards and zero touchdown passes.

But that was weeks ago.

The Patriots made made it a point to acknowledge that on Tuesday, saying their first meeting will have no impact on Saturday's playoff game.

"They made some changes, you can see definitely, from the last game," said Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty. "Just taking more shots down the field. They threw some balls up there and they've got guys that can come down with them and make good catches. So they definitely threw some more vertical passes.

"That last game, when you look at it, it really won't have much relevance, going into this game. Both teams have a chance to game plan. They might do some things different. They might do some things the same. So it will still be a totally different game for us, defensively."

The most noticeable changes in Denver's game came Sunday in their overtime playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow threw for 316 yards and had two touchdown passes, including his 80-yard strike over the middle in overtime.

Simply put, Tebow was more of a deep-ball threat on Sunday against the Steelers than he's ever been. And it caught the Patriots' eye.

"They're going to throw the ball. Let's not kid ourselves," said Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. "Everyone says they're not throwing the ball, well, I'll tell you what. Tebow had a pretty good game last game. I don't care how many times you throw the ball, but, he had a pretty good game last game. So, we know that's going to come.

"He's just a tough, tough guy to prepare for," added Wilfork. "You can speak all day about how tough he is and how elusive he is. But it really don't matter until you face him. When you face him, you really figure out, man, this dude is like a running back. He's a big dude. He's a strong guy.

"I've seen some big guys over the years, but he's probably one of the biggest and probably one of the toughest, and probably one of the strongest that I've faced. And I'm not taking credit from anyone else, but he is a special guy."

As Wilfork pointed out, Tebow's success on Sunday wasn't just due in part to his passing yardage. It also had a lot to do with not turning the ball over, something that haunted Tebow in his last three games of the regular season -- all losses.

On Sunday, he threw no interceptions and didn't fumble for the first time since Week 11.

"When you look at any team, one of the biggest of them all is turnovers," said Wilfork. "When you get turnovers, or when you give them up. Looking at the last game they played, they didn't turn the ball over. And anytime you can do that, it's huge. And it's a different offense when they don't make mistakes, or when they get the big plays, when they can be explosive, it's a different football team."

Wilfork knows this "different" Denver football team will be a tough task for his defense.

"It's always challenging to go up against an offense like this, because they can do so many things. You can't just say that when they get in this formation, this is going to happen, or when they do this, look out for that. You can't do that . . . Because you can be attacked and blindsided from so many different ways. This game is going to come down to disciplined football for us.

"This is the postseason now," added Wilfork. "I'm expecting everything. I'm expecting them to throw the kitchen sink. Because if you lose now, you go home."

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

BOSTON – It’s easy to forget that Kelly Olynyk went several months without doing anything basketball-related as he was on the mend from shoulder surgery.

His return had its share of ups and downs, but it seems the 7-foot center has found his stride and he’s making opponents pay for it.

For the second time in as many games, Olynyk came up big for the Celtics as Boston continued on its winning ways with a 108-98 win over Charlotte.

Olynyk, who scored a season-high 26 points in Boston’s win at Atlanta on Friday, had an efficient 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting against the Hornets on Monday.

Assertive. Aggressive. Contract year.

It doesn’t matter how you describe what or why Olynyk is ballin’ so hard lately.

The point is he’s doing it a better job of recognizing opportunities to make plays and executing whatever role he’s being asked to play.

“Just feeling good with the second unit,” Olynyk said. “I’m just trying to be aggressive and help the starters out.”

In the past, teams have mixed up their defensive coverages on Olynyk which frequently left him being guarded by a quicker but smaller player, or a big man with limited mobility.

Often Olynyk settled for long range shots and 3’s, regardless of the defender.

But as we’ve seen the last couple of games, he has hurt teams with his scoring around the rim which has in turn opened things up for his teammates or himself.

“We need him to play like that all the time,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “When he’s aggressive, looking for his shot, shooting open shots, even getting in there getting rebounds, offensive put-backs, that only helps us as a unit. And he’s done a great job of that the past couple games. We need that from him.”

And as he gets further removed from his offseason surgery, opportunities for him to be an impactful player for Boston will only grow.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game.

 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics win, and Isaiah Thomas has another offensive flurry in the fourth quarter. So what else is new? He led all scorers with 35 points which included 17 in the fourth quarter.

Kemba Walker

He’s still playing at a level that puts him in the All-Star conversation, but it’s not going to happen with the Hornets continuing to struggle. They’ve lost five in a row now despite Walker’s 24 points on Monday.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

Boston is playing more inside-out basketball of late, and that’s opening things up for both Horford and his teammates. Against the Hornets he had 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting along with six rebounds and four assists.

Kelly Olynyk

For the second straight game, Olynyk had a strong, impactful performance for the Celtics utilizing his strengths as a perimeter threat and a 7-footer who can take advantage of smaller defenders around the rim. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Marvin Williams

He was the only other Hornet besides Kemba Walker who really impacted the game significantly. Williams had 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting which included 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range.

Jae Crowder

The 6-foot-6 Crowder continues to have a sneaky-good season for the Celtics, particularly with his 3-point shooting which ranks among the league leaders. On Monday he had 15 points which included a trio of 3-pointers to go with seven rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

 

DUDS

Nicolas Batum

Avery Bradley put most of his effort and attention into defending Batum and man, did it ever pay off. Batum grabbed 10 rebounds, but wound up missing nine of his 11 shots from the field to finish with just four points.