Title game big for Broncos vets Bailey, Phillips, too

Title game big for Broncos vets Bailey, Phillips, too
January 15, 2014, 8:30 pm
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Champ Bailey has gone to eight Pro Bowls but is still looking to reach his first Super Bowl.

(AP Photo)

FOXBORO – The Broncos storyline for the week has been distilled to one thing. Peyton Manning and his “legacy.”

Meanwhile, the guy who’s been there since 2004, has gone to eight Pro Bowls as a Bronco and was a three-time All-Pro? Afterthought.

Champ Bailey, believe it or not, has been the gold standard corner in the eyes of Tom Brady the past 10 seasons. Nobody’s been more consistently excellent for as long as Bailey.

And even though injuries have slowed him and his games this year were limited to just five, Bill Belichick looks at the Broncos and thinks Bailey.

“Champ’s pretty close to the face of that franchise, has been for the last decade,” Belichick said Wednesday. “Great player, great ball skills, tremendous consistency. I think Champ is one of the players … what makes him so special is he can just match up against anybody. You can put him on big receivers, can put him on tight ends, can put him on little, fast guys. You can put him on anybody you want. He’s always been able to cover the top players; excellent run force player, good tackler, tough, very instinctive. He’s been a great football player.”

Bailey, for all his brilliance, has never been to a Super Bowl. He’s been to one conference championship – a 34-17 loss to the Steelers in 2005. Everyone knows that Manning’s going to the Hall of Fame. For a great player such as the 35-year-old Bailey, never advancing to a Super Bowl is the kind of thing Hall of Fame voters could use as a deal-breaker against him.

Belichick also made mention Wednesday of another veteran player who has had success but never gotten to play for the highest stakes. Shaun Phillips, newly acquired in 2013 after nine years in San Diego, is the Broncos best pass-rusher, especially with Von Miller out for the year. He had 10 sacks this season, he’s got 79.5 for his career.

He’s played in a lot of high-profile games against New England

“He’s had a great career,” said Belichick. “Shaun has been excellent, in the [3-4] defense out in San Diego most of the time he played outside linebacker and then defensive end in their sub defenses. Physical player on the edge, good pass rusher. Again, a very instinctive guy; does a good job of recognizing things, taking advantage of offensive mistakes or getting the anticipation of plays that are coming based on his experience and his understanding. I’ve had both players in the Pro Bowl: good to work with, solid guys.”

So while the drumbeat for Manning throbs on, he’s not the only one out there who has compiled a brilliant career that’s still looking for a cherry on top.