FOXBORO -- Rob Ninkovich watched Denver's divisional playoff win on Sunday. As far as he saw, the Broncos aren't trying to reinvent the wheel.
"It’s the same old, same old. [Peyton Manning is] making all the calls on the line of scrimmage, changing calls [and] doing what he does best. So, we definitely have our work cut out for us this week. We’re going to do our best to start preparing today and tomorrow and continue to have a good week here, because we know they’re doing the same thing."
Doing 'the same thing' has been effective for Denver. Its offense consistently smoked the competition this season, scoring 37.9 points per game. Manning may not be as mobile as other quarterbacks New England has faced this year, like Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, but no opponent is better in the pocket.
"That’s the one thing about Manning – he’s able to avoid pressure with just shuffling around and moving and using his feet," Ninkovich said. "All great quarterbacks have that ability to avoid the rush with just basic short movements in the pocket. So, you just want to do your best to constrict the pocket."
It doesn't hurt Manning has some talented targets to work with.
Demaryius Thomas was the league's No. 4 receiver in the regular season, catching 92 passes for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns. Eric Decker was not far behind with 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. There is also Wes Welker and Jacob Tamme to contend with.
And Julius Thomas.
The tight end had a team-high 10 touchdowns (tied with Demaryius Thomas) before injuring his knee. He was inactivate for Denver's regular season matchup against New England back in Week 12.
He will not be inactive this weekend.
“He’s a heck of a football player, a playmaker, go-to guy for them, somebody we’re going to have to understand where he’s at," safety Steve Gregory said. "He can create mismatches and things like that, so he’s a good football player."
One of many.
"I mean, across the board, all their receivers, the tight ends, running back, they all can make plays, so we’re going to have play really fundamentally sound and try to make it hard on them.”