ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Competitively, the two delays figure to help the Patriots.
The Broncos practiced last week and the Patriots didn’t because of COVID-19 risks. Now, they both were able to practice this week.
The Broncos were coming off a 10-day break from their previous game; the Patriots only six days. Now the Broncos will have 17 days between games – more rest than any team wants – while the Pats were idle 13 days.
Most importantly, the Patriots would not have had quarterback Cam Newton nor cornerback Stephon Gilmore had the game been played last Sunday as originally scheduled.
Now those two star players will play. To which the Broncos say, bring them on.
“I would rather go into Foxborough and beat Cam Newton and Gilmore on the Patriots, then go in there and not beat Cam Newton and Gilmore and be coming home with the Patriots able to say, ‘well, what if we had all of our players, then what would have happened?’’’ said Broncos left guard Dalton Risner. “Because we’re a great football team, I know that. And regardless of who’s starting at quarterback, regardless of who’s on the defense, we’ve got to go in there and play Broncos football. And we’re a good football team. We can go in there and win regardless of who they play.
“We’ve got a lot of guys getting healthy. We’ve had a little bit of time off. The schedule change was hard of course. We would have liked to know so we could have actually taken a bye week instead of practicing all week but we got two weeks to prepare for the Patriots so we should be fully prepared, man, to go in there and get a win. And we’re going to do that. We’re going to do that on (Sunday) it’s going to be fun.”
On the flip side, the Broncos are expected to have their No. 1 quarterback returning in Drew Lock, and tight end Noah Fant, a top receiving threat, may also play. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said it wasn’t a problem getting his team re-started on preparations after already practicing a full week for the Patriots before the game was postponed.
“We started all over in our preparations right from ground zero,’’ Fangio said. “We were not going to make assumptions that they remembered everything from last week. We’ve even added a thing or two with the extra time.”
Bolles sentiment flips
Left tackle Garett Bolles attended the Broncos’ morning meetings, left to tend to a family matter, then returned to finish the second-half of practice Thursday. After receiving heavy criticism from radio sports talk shows and from fans in the stands through his first three seasons, Bolles is now receiving high marks from Pro Football Focus, which is about the only website that grades NFL offensive linemen, and from his coaches and teammates.
“I certainly haven’t seen what everybody else saw prior to me getting here,’’ said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who is in his first season in Denver. “I’ve been pleased with what he’s done. He’s tough, durable and knows what he’s doing. He’s been very effective here in the first quarter of the season.
“Watching him train, I think he’s encouraged to keep that going and that’s a really good thing. I certainly don’t have the view of him that the people here have of him. Guys are allowed to change, guys are allowed to improve, and guys are allowed to produce at a higher level than they did in the past.’’
Said Risner, who lines up next to Bolles: “Yeah, it was a tough offseason. I’d say a tough three years. He’s been through it the last three years and I think he’s gotten a lot of criticism and a lot of people that didn’t believe in him. Since I showed up last year, I realized that there were some holding calls—and that can anger people—and he’s a first-round pick, so there is a lot to be expected.
“I knew he was a great football player and I knew that he was going to be coming out. He’s showed that this year. He’s cleaned up a lot of things and he’s really honed in on what (offensive line coach) Mike Munchak wants him to do. There isn’t one guy on a team that I want to see succeed more than Garett Bolles.
“He’s been through it. Very little people have supported him or believed in him when things were tough, and I hate to say it. Garett’s showing everybody what he’s made of and he’s showing everybody that you shouldn’t talk bad about him. I’m 100 percent all Garett Bolles man. He’s had a great four games and he’s just got to have 12 more good ones.”
High praise for other guy
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman doesn’t seem the same the season as he been battling drops as he adjusts to life without Tom Brady. But for a 7th-round draft pick who played quarterback at Kent State, you can’t ask for a better receiving career.
Edelman, who is now 34, has 118 catches for 1,442 yards and 5 touchdowns in 19 playoff games alone (plus a 51-yard touchdown pass don’t the Ravens know).
“He’s going to go down as one of the all-time competitors,’’ said Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. “We’ve worked against this guy and we’ve practiced against him. He’s got a really good skill set, and it’s hard to find guys tougher than this guy. He’s tough and we’ve got to challenge him and come ready.”