With Sunday night’s game already inching closer, New England was hard at work on Wednesday preparing for yet another tough match-up against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.


Brady and the Patriots offense will need to try and sustain drives and score points against a potent Denver team Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)

The Broncos come in averaging 39.8 points per game so far this season, 14 points better than New England who comes in averaging 25.4.  The thing that stands out about the high scoring total is the fact that Denver is ranked 20th in terms of time of possession at 29:38, which obviously means it doesn’t take them long to get down the field to put up points.

The Patriots are currently ranked 26th in the NFL at 28:51, but they did a great job Monday night against the Panthers after holding the football for 30:46.  That’s an area that they’ll obviously need to try and duplicate this weekend as the best way to keep Manning from scoring is to keep him on the sidelines as a spectator.

Brady said on Wednesday that another area that they’ll need to focus on is making sure they put up points when the opportunity arises.

“Offensively, we know we have to go out and score a lot of points,” said Brady.  “We can’t have a lot of three-and-outs and certainly turnovers give them extra possessions to score because the teams that have done that have really gotten blown out. You turn it over and give them extra possessions; you’re going to have a very hard time winning.”

Brady also talked about the fact he feels their execution has gotten better, and he’s excited about them building on that heading into Sunday night’s match-up.

“I think our execution has gotten better over the course of the year and we have made a bunch of improvements,” said Brady. “KT [Kenbrell Thompkins] came in and what KT did the other night, I wasn’t sure how much he was going to play, [but he] made a couple huge plays in the game. You know,Aaron Dobson has done a great job. Julian’s [Edelman] continued to be a steady, solid, dependable player for us and then like you said Danny, Gronk, Shane. LeGarrette [Blount] ran hard, Rid [Stevan Ridley] runs hard. We’ve got a good group. We’ve got a good group. We’re getting better, so that is what I am excited about.”

They did a good job on Sunday night moving the football and were just a couple of penalties and a turnover away from the game potentially turning out differently. Hopefully they can avoid those this weekend as they look to try and avoid losing back-to-back games, as well as the fact a victory over Denver this week would guarantee the Patriots a record of .500 or better for the 13th consecutive year. The Patriots are the only team in the NFL to finish with a record of .500 or better in each of the last 12 years (2001-12), while each of the other 31 NFL teams had at least one losing season over that same span.

GREGORY BACK AT PRACTICE, TRYING TO BE ‘CAUTIOUS’ WITH THUMB:

With the Patriots secondary ailing the good news is that safety Steve Gregory appears to be making progress as he tries to come back from the thumb injury he suffered during the team’s blowout win over the Steelers two weeks ago.  According to Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe, Gregory had what he called a relatively fresh surgical scar his right thumb that could be seen yesterday while the media was in the locker room, and also had a cast that he’s calling a “club”.

Gregory told the newspaper that he’s trying to do all the right things and he’s trying to be cautious.

“I’m doing my therapy that the trainers have me doing, basically just following their lead,” Gregory said. “I’m definitely being cautious, but at the same time I’m doing all the things I need to do to try to get myself back out there to play.”

They did a decent job moving the football in Carolina, and were a couple of penalties and a turnover from a different outcome. Hopefully they avoid those miscues Sunday night.

TALIB SAYS HIS HIP IS “ALL RIGHT”

Monday night’s contest saw the return of defensive back Aqib Talib, although he was unable to finish the game after he said that it “tightened up” a little bit at the end.  According to comments in this morning’s Boston Globe, it sounds like he may be O.K. for this weekend’s game against the Broncos.

“It’s all right, it’s all right. It tightened up on me a little bit toward the end of the game, but it’s fine,” Talib told the newspaper when asked about his hip. “I tried to go through it as much as I can. If I could have been out there, I would have been out there.”

Obviously the veteran corner had quite the battle with Panthers wide out Steve Smith Monday night, and after he wasn’t able to finish the game Smith said in a post game interview that he should “Ice up son.  Ice up.”  When asked about the comments, he said there were no hard feelings and that none of it was personal.

“Never personal, man. It’s never personal,” Talib told the Boston Herald. “I’m sure if I see Steve, it’d be, ‘What’s up, how you doing?’ It’s never personal, man. Him and the other guy from St. Louis (cornerback Janoris Jenkins), that was personal. He didn’t say he was going to punch me in my face after the game. He just told me to go get in the tub.”

EDELMAN NOT THINKING ABOUT WELKER:

While Julian Edelman enjoyed being a teammate of Wes Welker, he told the Boston Herald on Wednesday that he’s more focused on their defensive backs since that’s who he’ll really be going against Sunday night.

“You know, Wes has been (in Denver) for the past how many months it’s been. That’s part of the National Football League, guys moving on,” Edelman told the newspaper. “Right now, I’m not even going to get to play against Wes so I’m more thinking about Champ Bailey, (Chris) Harris, their secondary, (Dominique Rodgers)-Cromartie and what I have to do to ultimately contribute to the team.”

GOSTKOWSKI FACING A POTENTIAL MILESTONE THIS WEEKEND:

An interesting note also mentioned by Whitmer this morning is the fact that Stephen Gostkowski, should he kick an extra point or a field goal, will exetend his streak of scoring at least 1 point to 102 games, which would set a franchise record.  He’s currently tied with Adam Vinatieri and John Smith at 101.
ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:

BOSTON HERALD:

Manning at top of game – Jeff Howe – Howe writes that the transition to the Broncos was supposed to stunt his brilliance, but that hasn’t been the case so far with Peyton Manning.

Patriots: Wes’ return a business meeting – Mark Daniels – Daniels writes that Sunday night will be a bittersweet moment when Wes Welker steps back onto the field, but that his former teammates will be focused on beating the Broncos.

Wes Welker factor for real - Karen Guregian – Guregian has a look at how good Welker was during his time in New England, and how much he’s changed Denver’s offense.

Aqib Talib hip to Steve Smith’s jive talking – Mark Daniels – Daniels has reactions from Talib and Smith’s battle Sunday night, which the veteran said was “nothing personal”.

Notebook: Shane Vereen happy to help – Jeff Howe – Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off on some comments from Vereen who was glad to be able to contribute Monday night.

BOSTON GLOBE:

Patriots’ blitz could not stop explosive Cam Newton – Ben Volin – Volin has his “On Football” column for this morning, and upon reviewing the game film gives his thoughts on the fact New England’s blitz wasn’t able to slow down Newton Monday night.

Steve Gregory, Alfonzo Dennard limited in return to practice – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the fact Gregory was back at practice on Wednesday along with Dennard.

Vereen ‘ecstatic’ to return to game play – Shalise Manza Young – Manza Young has comments from running back Shane Vereen, who was happy to be back and didn’t feel limited at all in his first game since breaking his wrist.

Aqib Talib on trash talking with Steve Smith: ‘Not personal’ – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer has an article this morning with Talib’s reaction to Steve Smith’s “Ice up” comments.

WEEI:

For Patriots, stopping Peyton Manning starts with keeping him off field – Christopher Price – Price has an article this morning on the fact that the Patriots best course of action to beating Manning is to control the tone and tempo of the game.

PROFOOTBALLTALK.COM:

Belichick shows team 2009 play (but not 2010 play) – Mike Florio – Florio highlights an article from Mike Reiss regarding a game between the Browns and Lions that ended in similar fashion to the Carolina game, and then gives his thoughts about a previous match-up between the Patriots and Colts in 2010, saying Devin McCourty had his hands on Pierre Garcon near the goal line, which allowed former Patriot James Sanders to make the interception.

WORCESTER TELEGRAM:

With Broncos coming, challenge tougher for Patriots – Rich Garven – Garven has an article this morning looking at Sunday’s match-up, where Aqib Talib said this week’s game is “to the next level” this week, saying Denver has “weapons at almost every position.”

Concussion clouds Wes Welker’s return – Rich Garven – Garven writes that after suffering a concussion Sunday night against the Chiefs, Welker’s availability for this week’s game remains up in the air.

USA TODAY:

New England should have had three extra seconds to lose the game – Chris Chase – Chase looks at the game winning touchdown for the Panthers, and makes the observation that there should have been a couple of extra seconds thanks to an error by the timekeeper.