BOSTON (CBS) - Patriots Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Bledsoe came on the Gresh & Zolak program Friday morning to preview the AFC Championship and give his keys to the game.
In their first meeting on November 24, the Broncos were without Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas.
A versatile tight end like Thomas can be a game changer - Bledsoe knows this because he was fortunate enough to have played with one.
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"I had kind of the prototype when I had Ben Coates back in the day. There really weren't a bunch of guys like that early in my career. Now it seems like every good team has got one."
A basketball player by trade, Julius Thomas didn't play collegiate football until 2010, following in the model of players before him like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham.
Aqib Talib will likely cover Demaryius Thomas again. Wes Welker was held in check in their first meeting, so nickel corner Kyle Arrington will probably be saddled with those duties again, and Eric Decker had just one catch in that game.
But again, Julius Thomas was inactive.
Now that Denver has a full arsenal at their disposal, what's the plan?
Bledsoe doesn't know for sure, but thinks Belichick and his staff will come up with something to limit the tight end's impact.
"Tight ends are really tough matchups.They're big, physical and fast. When you match them up with defensive backs they're too strong for them, and when you match them up with linebackers they're too fast. Those are tough matchups, particularly when you have other guys to worry about."
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While we're on the topic of tight ends, the loss of Rob Gronkowski may have been a revelation, or perhaps a turning point for this Patriots offense.
The emergence of this newfound running attack is something the Patriots employed with more regularity after the Gronkowski injury, and now that he's out of the picture the backfield has really shined.
With LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in their stable, the Patriots arguably have one of, if not the best collection of runners among the remaining teams.
Keeping Peyton Manning off the field will be paramount, and running the ball is how you get that done.
"The big thing to me in this game is whether the Patriots can continue to run the ball as well as they have. If they can keep the ball out of Peyton's hands, as we all know the best defense is keeping that guy on the sideline. If they can do that, I really like their chances."
Listen below for Bledsoe's full analysis:
Drew Bledsoe's Keys To The Game
Tune in to the AFC Championship game Sunday afternoon at 3 pm on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV — the flagship stations of the New England Patriots. WBZ-TV will have a special 90-minute edition of Patriots GameDay beginning at 11:30 am, with pregame coverage beginning on 98.5 FM at noon.
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