By: Bob George/BosSports.net
November 01, 2003

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Patriots/Broncos
Close-Up
Where: Invesco Field at Mile High
Denver, Colorado
When: Monday 11/3/03
9:00 PM EDT
Television: ABC
WCVB Channel 5 in Boston
DSS: DirecTV
Channel 931
2003 Team Records: Patriots 6-2
Broncos 5-3
Latest Line: Broncos by 2 1/2
DENVER -- They came up with this funky new scheduling format, yet they didn't cure all scheduling quirks.

Someone needs to check the official NFL archives and see if the Patriots have played the Denver Broncos more than the New York Jets. Yes, we're being facetious, but this is getting ridiculous. The Patriots have to play Denver? Again? For the ninth straight year?

The Patriots never beat John Elway. NBC once brought in Red Sox broadcaster Ken Coleman to do a Patriots game at Denver, and the Pats still lost 45-21. Tom Brady threw his first career pick two years ago at Invesco Field. In the same game, he also threw his second. And his third. And his fourth.

All the Patriots need to do is to keep Shannon Sharpe away from a telephone, and things will be okay.

The Patriots and Broncos meet once again this coming Monday night. Every year since 1995, these two teams seem drawn together by some magnetic force. They love our history and beaches, we love Vail and Aspen. They want to see Acadia National Park, we want to see Red Rocks Canyon. While they check out a spa in the Berkshires, we check out their terrific spa in Glenwood Springs.

From North Washington Avenue to Colfax Avenue, fate seems to pull Foxborough and Denver together. These two teams are destined to defy all scheduling odds and somehow play each other more often than Oakland or Miami. They'll have a 50th reunion party in 2045, and they'll probably form an All-Time Broncos-Patriots team. Maybe Tyrone Poole will have to cut each team's jersey in half, sew it together and wear it for the team picture.

These two teams know each other well. Here are some tidbits gathered along the way during this nine-year run.

1995 -- The Patriots beat Cleveland in Curtis Martin's NFL debut, 17-14, then went on a five-game losing streak. The fourth of those five losses was their first meeting with Denver since losing a pair in 1991 to the Broncos (one of them was an excruciating 9-6 loss at Foxborough as Hugh Millen scrambled and was tackled in bounds at the three yard line; time expired before he could run another play). The Broncos jumped on the Patriots early, scoring first quarter touchdown runs by Aaron Craver and Terrell Davis. Leading 23-3 at the half, the Broncos put the game away in the third quarter as Anthony Miller hauled in a 60-yard touchdown bomb, and Sharpe scored on a one-yard toss. Denver won, 37-3.

1996 -- This was the Sharpe phone call game. Terrell Davis was a one-man wrecking crew, rushing for three first half touchdowns (15, 10, 2 yards) and finishing with 154 yards rushing on 32 carries. Denver outrushed New England 198 yards to 17, and won the game by a 34-8 count. Sharpe may have laughed that day, but the Patriots got the last laugh when Denver went on to lose an AFC divisional game to Jacksonville in January, clearing the way for the Patriots to host the AFC title game and represent the conference in Super Bowl XXXI.

1997 -- Once again, the inability of the Patriots to contain Davis proved decisive. Elway may have gone undefeated in his career against New England, but he sure had help. What turned out to be a quarter duel (14-0 Denver after one, 14-13 after two, 31-13 after three) was really another superb game for the eventual Super Bowl XXXII MVP. Davis rushed for 171 yards, scored two touchdowns, and Denver once again brutalized the Patriots, 34-13. Rod Smith chipped in with five catches for 130 yards.

1998 -- At least the Patriots made a game of this one. Opening the season on a Monday night, the Patriots sustained a10-0 first quarter deficit, but played even with Denver the rest of the way and lost, 27-21. Troy Brown hinted at his future greatness with five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown (24 yards). But Ed McCaffrey also had 97 yards receiving, and despite holding him to only 75 yards rushing, Davis managed two touchdowns to bolster the Broncos. In his NFL debut, Robert Edwards scored a touchdown, something which would become a happy habit for the rookie running back.

1999 -- Elway retires after winning Super Bowl XXXIII, and whaddayaknow. In steps Michigan rookie Brian Griese, fresh off a 12-0 season and a national championship with the Wolverines, yet he presides over the first win by the Patriots over Denver in 19 years. Despite having to play a 5-2-4 defense thanks to numerous injuries to linebackers, the Patriots parlayed 106 yards rushing and two touchdowns by Terry Allen into a 24-23 win at Foxborough Stadium. McCaffrey was the big gun for Denver, hauling in five catches for 111 yards. Also noticeably absent was Davis, who was out with an injury, but Olandis Gary rushed for 90 yards. Griese did throw for 102 more yards than Drew Bledsoe, and engineered a 10-point fourth quarter rally which in the end fell one point short.

2000 -- Bill Belichick's first win as coach of the Patriots was historic, to say the least. Bringing back memories of the final days of playing in Miami's Orange Bowl (the next-to-last game broke a 19-game losing streak in Miami and sent the Patriots to Super Bowl XX, the final game won the 1986 AFC East title), the Patriots broke through and won their first game in Denver in 32 years in what would be their final appearance at Mile High Stadium. Belichick was mired with an 0-4 record to start his Patriot coaching career, but Bledsoe threw three first half scoring passes, two to Brown and one to J.R. Redmond as New England built up a 21-3 halftime lead. The Patriots survived a safety and an 87-yard kickoff return by Deltha O'Neal in the third quarter, and Bledsoe iced the 28-19 win with a nine-yard scoring pass to Terry Glenn.

2001 -- This became known as the game where Brady finally got his comeuppance. Sailing along with a 3-1 record since taking over for Bledsoe after his Week 2 Mo Lewis hit, Brady hit a wall at brand new Invesco Field. He threw the first four interceptions of his career, one of which was returned 39 yards for a score by Denard Walker. Brady did throw touchdown passes to Brown and David Patten, but Griese threw two of his own, both in the third quarter, to Smith and Dwayne Carswell. The Broncos prevailed, 31-20, but Brady would prove to be unflappable as he led New England to an eventual Super Bowl championship.

2002 -- The Patriots wore dark blue pants last year for home games against Green Bay and Denver, lost both games and looked sick in both, and haven't worn them since. This game, more than the Kansas City game, did more to expose how slow and old the Patriot defense was. The Patriots once again could not defend the run, and Clinton Portis rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns. McCaffrey was the biggest problem for the Patriots, hauling in eight critical catches for 116 yards. The 24-16 loss was the fourth in a row for the defending champs after a 3-0 start.

2003 -- We'll see you Monday night. Griese now plays for his dad's old team, ex-Giant bust Danny Kanell will play quarterback, McCaffrey might not play, ditto for John Mobley, and the Patriots are 6-2 thanks to Belichick's genius in gameplanning and drafting. This draft class is by far the best in Belichick's career, and these rookies are literally carrying the team on their shoulders. But Denver's season is on the line, and the Patriots hate thin air and ABC.

It should be a good game. We'd go into more detail, but why? You know this team better than you know the Jets.


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