ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After giving up 86 points to the Patriots last year, the Denver Broncos realized just how far away they were from becoming a championship contender.
Following the Broncos’ 45-10 loss at New England in the playoffs, coach John Fox pledged, “We will do everything we can to get better.”
And they did.
They swapped Tim Tebow for Peyton Manning, retooled the offense and fortified their defense. They’ll get to gauge just how much they’ve narrowed that gap Sunday when they visit Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Champ Bailey insists the gulf hasn’t just been narrowed but closed entirely, suggesting the Broncos “know we can win” this time, something he’s not so sure they believed nine months ago.
“I didn’t feel like there were 53 guys that thought we could win,” Bailey said. “And it showed.”
He wouldn’t name names, instead saying the Broncos (2-2) are simply better equipped and better prepared to keep up with the Patriots (2-2) this time around.
“Couple of different players here and there. Different coordinator. Different mentality,” Bailey said. “But I think last year, it was pretty obvious we didn’t put our best effort in that last game. It was real disappointing to get that far and not put forth 100 percent. But it is what it is, it’s in the past, and this is a different year, different breed of guys going in there.”
With right guard Chris Kuper ready to return from a broken left forearm, middle linebacker Joe Mays back from a one-game suspension for an illegal hit, and second-year tight end Virgil Green’s month-long suspension for violating the league’s banned-substances policy over, the Broncos are as invigorated as they’ve been all season.
And they have a healthy confidence, too, insisting they can keep up with the high-powered Patriots after losing to them 41-23 on Dec. 18, ending a six-game winning streak, and by five touchdowns in the divisional playoffs in January.
“I think we have better personnel and we have a better scheme,” Mays said. “We just have to go out there and execute.”