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Wes Welker says comparing Tom Brady, Peyton Manning is ‘like comparing Picasso and Michelangelo’ 01.16.14 at 5:20 pm ET
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Wes Welker caught one of two TD passes from Peyton Manning Sunday to set up another playoff showdown with Tom Brady. (AP)

Wes Welker caught one of two TD passes from Peyton Manning Sunday to set up another playoff showdown with Tom Brady. (AP)

There’s no one more qualified than Wes Welker to compare Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Before catching 73 passes for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns from Manning this season, Welker earned his reputation as the best slot receiver in the game hauling in passes from Tom Brady between 2007 and 2012.

On Thursday in Colorado, Welker said it’s practically impossible to compare the two future hall of fame quarterbacks.

“It’€™s like comparing Picasso and Michelangelo,”€ Welker said. “€œIt’€™s hard to compare the two.”

A reporter followed up by wondering if Welker actually preferred either Michelangelo or Picasso. Welker said he had heard the comparison once before and thought it appropriate.

“I couldn’€™t even tell you. Somebody threw those names at me one time and I thought it sounded pretty good,” Welker said.

With Manning, Welker is seeing a renaissance, much like the one in 2007 when the Patriots brought in Randy Moss and Welker to rejuvenate the New England passing attack around Brady.

And like in 2007, the Broncos used Welker as a cornerstone of a record-setting NFL offense. The 2013 Broncos set new records for points and passing touchdowns.

“€œThere aren’€™t too many differences,” Welker said. “€œThey are great quarterbacks. They do a great job of keeping guys accountable, and their leadership skills and everything else. They are two guys you want quarterbacking your team. It’€™s a toss-up between those two.”

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Ex-Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker ready to face his old team again at 6:00 am ET
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Wes Welker and the Broncos have their sights set on the Patriots this Sunday. (AP)

Wes Welker and the Broncos have their sights set on the Patriots this Sunday. (AP)

When asked Wednesday about Wes Welker and the impact he’s had on the Denver offense in his first season with the Broncos, coach John Fox and quarterback Peyton Manning didn’t mince words.

‘€œHe’€™s been exactly what we thought we were getting,” Fox said when asked about Welker. “Even people in the New England organization said that we would enjoy coaching him, and we have. He came in, made a pretty big impact. The fact that he was voted captain and just got here is a pretty good indicator of what his peers and teammates think of him. He’€™s fit in in exactly what we thought he would be, and that’€™s important.’€

‘€œLike Coach Fox said, a lot of things that I think a lot of people thought about Wes as an opponent all proved to be true once he joined us as a teammate,” Manning said. “I always assumed that he was an extremely competitive guy that loved football and a guy that loved to work, he loved to practice. The way he played ‘€“ I saw him many a time play Colts versus the Patriots ‘€“ so to have him become a Bronco, all those things checked out.

“He’€™s a gym rat. He loves the game, loves to work after practice [and] loves to talk in meetings about routes that he thinks might have a chance to get open,” Manning added. “He’€™s very knowledgeable of defenses and how teams have played him in the past, whether they’€™ve double-covered him or whatever it may be. So he’€™s been a fun guy to play with, I’€™ll say that.’€

After six seasons in New England, Welker finished his first year with the Broncos with with 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games. After going down with a concussion that caused him to miss the final three weeks of the regular season, he returned to the lineup in last weekend’s divisional playoff win against the Chargers, and had six catches for 38 yards and a touchdown.

Welker said that after his first game against the Patriots — which ended in a loss in his return to Gillette on Nov. 24, a game where he had four catches for 31 yards — he was able to get some of that nostalgia of facing his old team out of the way. Now, heading into this weekend’s AFC title game, the focus is on football.

‘€œIt’€™s still another game,” he said Wednesday when asked about facing the Patriots. “You understand it is the AFC Championship, and everything like that. You want to go out there and prepare as much as possible. At the same time, it is still an opponent and it’€™s a team and you’€™re going out there and playing to the best of your ability and go out there and try to win the game.’€

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Tom Brady on D&C: ‘It would be as satisfying a victory as we’ve ever had to go to Denver and win this game’ 01.13.14 at 10:27 am ET
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Tom Brady has led the Patriots to the AFC championship game for the third consecutive year. (AP)

Tom Brady has led the Patriots to the AFC championship game for the third consecutive year. (AP)

With the Patriots and Broncos set for an AFC championship game matchup Sunday, quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan to preview the game and recap Saturday night’s victory over the Colts. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots relied on a strong ground game to defeat the Colts, rushing for 234 yards and six touchdowns.

“That’s been one of our strengths here for the last six weeks, is our ability to run it,” Brady said. “I think our offensive line, the way they’ve played down the stretch has been incredible. And certainly with LeGarrette [Blount], Stevan [Ridley] and Shane [Vereen] and what they’ve done, it’s been really just huge for our team. That’s going to be a part of every game plan, and then when we got out there and we started to really become more efficient in the running game we just kept running it and running it. Then you get those big long runs where LeGarrette broke out and ran for whatever, 70-plus yards.

“It’s been just a great thing for us, to be able to control the tempo of the game. To really be a physical football team is what coach [Bill] Belichick has talked about all year. That’s really come out here really since Thanksgiving.”

Added Brady: “Over the last month we’ve been exceptional in our efficiency. All of the backs are running hard. Like I said, it starts with the offensive line and what they’ve been able to do and what they’ve been able to contribute. I know how satisfying it is for them. When you talk about rushing stats at the end of the year and where our team stands, it’s very gratifying when you’re able to run the ball like we’ve run it. Like I said, the backs do a great job finding the hole and finding what’s there, they’re running really hard, they break tackles. But the offensive line gets those guys started. They deserve so much credit.”

With the emphasis on the running game, the offensive lineman have had a chance to go on the offensive.

“It’s nice to be, for an offensive lineman, for you to be able to be aggressive,” Brady said. “Rather than, when you pass it all day, you’re really just trying to defend the spot. As a run blocker you can really enforce your will upon the other team. That’s where the basic fundamentals of football will never change: You’ve got to be able to stop the run; you’ve got to be able to run the football. Those things don’t ever change. That’s how you get to this point in the year. You’ve got to be able to win different ways, and certainly the way we’ve been able to win for a while now has been critical to our success.”

The Patriots rallied to defeat the Broncos, 34-31, in overtime on Nov. 24, but Brady put little emphasis on that game.

“There’s nothing that’s happened in the past that’s going to help us try to win this game on Sunday,” Brady said. “This game is going to come down to who plays the best. We’ll be able to take some things from the game we played and study them and prepare for them. But we’ll have different things to do, they’ll have different things to do. Their team is different than from when they played us, and we’re pretty different from when we played them.

“We’ll get our preparation going this morning and try to put together a great game plan and prepare as hard as we can, and then go out there and you let it rip. I’m excited. It’s everything you could ask for as an athlete. We’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us. It would be as satisfying a victory as we’ve ever had to go to Denver and win this game.”

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Peyton Manning, Broncos teammates will enjoy win over Chargers before starting real prep work for Patriots at 6:15 am ET
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Peyton Manning and the Broncos will host the Patriots in Sunday's AFC title game. (AP)

Peyton Manning and the Broncos will host the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC title game. (AP)

In the wake of Sunday’s divisional playoff win over the Chargers, the Broncos acknowledged they were going to take a few hours to enjoy the moment before moving on to prepare to host the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC title game.

‘€œWell, I think I’€™m just going to enjoy this one first,” said Denver coach John Fox of the 24-17 victory over San Diego. “It hasn’€™t sunk in. We’€™ll dig into [the Patriots] tomorrow. We’€™ll enjoy it tonight for what it is. We’€™re very honored and pleased to be in that position.’€

‘€œWe’€™re going to address [the Patriots on] Wednesday,” said quarterback Peyton Manning. “We’€™ll certainly talk about them plenty on Wednesday. But, we’€™ll enjoy this one. You’€™re supposed to enjoy these wins. They’€™re hard to come by, and we’€™ll start working on the Patriots tomorrow.’€

Two Denver players who have a history involving the Patriots are Manning and wide receiver Wes Welker — Manning because he’s so connected to Tom Brady (this will mark the 15th time they’ve squared off against each other), and Welker because of the fact that he spent six seasons with New England before signing with the Broncos this past offseason.

Tom Brady has just been an outstanding quarterback for such a long time, but the game next week is the Broncos versus the Patriots,” Manning said. “I know there will be some individual matchups that will get headlines, but it will be a battle between two good teams. Teams that have been through a lot, that have overcome a lot to get to this point, and that’s where my focus will be — trying to help the Broncos get a win against the Patriots.”

‘€œIt’€™s the AFC Championship game, so there will be plenty of juice,” said Welker.

It’ll be the second matchup of the season between the two teams — in the first game, the Patriots dug themselves out of a 24-0 halftime deficit to post a 34-31 overtime win.

Defensive end Robert Ayers said the Broncos are not going to be motivated to beat New England because of that November loss.

‘€œThat’€™s not going to motivate me,” Ayers said. “I can’€™t speak for anyone else. That’€™s not going to motivate me at all. That’€™s the last thing on my mind. We have to go out there and try to win. Regardless of what happened last time, if we don’€™t bring our ‘€˜A’€™ game, we’€™re going to lose. We’€™re just going to focus on bringing our ‘€˜A’€™ game. We are going to enjoy this victory for the night and tomorrow we’€™re going to start back preparing and that is what we are looking forward to, just getting another win and moving one step forward.’€

‘€œWe’€™re looking forward to it,” said defensive end Shaun Phillips. “Obviously we’€™re the two best teams in the AFC because we’€™re playing for the AFC Championship, so what more can you ask for? That’€™s what you want as a football player. Tom Brady is my second favorite quarterback behind Peyton. I really like Tom. I think he’€™s a great player and a great person, but what better way to do it? You want the two best teams going head-to-head, and that’€™s what’€™s going to happen.’€

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Julian Edelman reaches two franchise milestones in win over Bills 12.29.13 at 11:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With all the injuries and departures that have taken place within the Patriots passing game following last season to this point in 2013 there remains one constant besides quarterback Tom Brady – wide receiver Julian Edelman.

Edelman continued his career-year Sunday, hauling in nine passes for 65 yards in the Patriots’€™ 34-20 win over the Bills at Gillette Stadium. Of Brady’€™s 14 completions, nine went to the fifth-year receiver, who completed his first full 16-game season since being drafted in 2009.

Julian Edelman broke two franchise records in Sunday's win over the Bills. (AP)

Julian Edelman broke two franchise records in Sunday’s win over the Bills. (AP)

“I don’€™t think there’€™s ever been any question about Julian’€™s skills or his toughness or his competitiveness. Yeah, you’€™re right,” said head coach Bill Belichick, when asked if playing in a full season helped Edelman’s development. “This is the year he’€™s been able to stay on the field and certainly his production has paralleled his time on the field. He’€™s done a good job with his opportunities. He always practices hard, plays hard, prepares well. He’€™s always a tough guy you can count on from that standpoint and this year he’€™s been healthy.”

Being healthy was one of the main reasons for his breakout year, which saw him catch over 100 passes with a 12-yard reception in the second quarter. He entered the game with 96 catches and finished with 105, good for sixth on the all-time Patriots list for catches in a season. He became the first Patriots player not named Wes Welker to reach the milestone since 2001 and Troy Brown.

“I don’€™t know what the significance is,” Edelman said. “I do know that we went out there and played a pretty solid game. There were mess-ups, which, I mentally was the guy who screwed up that formation in that four-minute offense situation. I’€™m a little bummed about that, but it was definitely a good team-win and it was good to clinch that first-round bye.”

Edelman also eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark with a five-yard catch in the opening quarter, becoming just the 10th player in franchise history to do so, as he finished the year with 1,056. While the accolades are special, Edelman maintains helping the team win is more important.

“I mean, it’€™s cool and everything, but you really go out there and play for other things, like playing in the last game of the year and winning that game,” he said. “We put ourselves in an opportunity to go one step closer to that. It is definitely kind of cool, just with the road; it’€™s been a crazy road. It’€™s definitely been kind of cool.”

Playing in just 11, 15, 13, and nine games respectively in his first four years in the league due to injury or players ahead of him on the depth chart, Edelman’€™s record-breaking day did have some special meaning to him.

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Kyle Arrington on M&M: Wes Welker ‘one of the most talented guys I’ve matched up against’ 11.25.13 at 1:32 pm ET
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Patriots defensive back Kyle Arrington joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to discuss his team’s  34-31 comeback win in overtime against the Broncos on Sunday night.

Kyle Arrington

Kyle Arrington

After trailing 24-0 at halftime, Arrington and New England’s defense stymied Denver in the second half and paved the way for a Tom Brady-led comeback.

“We just rallied behind each other, played for each other and had confidence not only in ourselves but in our teammates,” Arrington said. “We were just battle-tested, and we’re going to fight to the very end.”

The Patriots scored 31 unanswered points to start the second half, then eventually won on a Stephen Gostkowski 31-yard field goal in overtime.

“It’s hard to play a complete 60-minute football game, but just credit our guys who just kept battling and fighting,” Arrington said. “As long as there’s time left on that clock, we’re going to battle.”

The New England offense lost three fumbles in the first quarter, putting the defense in a number of inauspicious positions.

“[There was] naturally a little frustration, because we dug ourselves quite a hole, but to come back and win it in that fashion, it’s very rewarding,” Arrington said. “To be in a hole like that, and just crawl our way out of it slowly but surely, it’s a testament to the character of the guys in our locker room.”

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Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We were a pretty mentally tough team, and that’s what it took’ to beat Broncos at 10:37 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, following Sunday night’s 34-31 overtime victory over the Broncos.

Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown during Sunday's victory over the Broncos. (AP)

Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown during Sunday’s victory over the Broncos. (AP)

The Patriots trailed 24-0 at the midway point but rallied in the second half, then capitalized on a Broncos turnover late in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.

“It was a great win,” Brady said. “Anyone couldn’t really have expected the way that one would go. It was pretty sweet.

“We really got off to such a poor start and then stormed back, and then kind of played a little bit of defensive football there in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and got a good break there at the end. It was a great team win, everybody contributed. We were a pretty mentally tough team, and that’s what it took last night. We’ll enjoy it, then we’ve got to get back to work, ’cause that’s the way it is in the NFL.”

While the Patriots were being dominated on the scoreboard in the first half, Brady said the team didn’t lose confidence, because Denver’s points were the result of Patriots mistakes.

“We had 200 yards of offense at halftime. So it wasn’t like we had 70 yards of offense and we weren’t doing anything,” Brady said.  “You make those critical errors like fumbling the ball and putting the ball on the ground like we did, and we’re not going to score a lot of points. We knew if we took better care of the ball that we’d have a better chance.

“Weather played a factor. We punted to them before halftime and it ended up being a turnover; we got it, we didn’t do anything anything with it. Then late there in the game, just tough to field some of those plays and we got a few bounces. That was really a great way to win the game.

“It was a tough battle, it was two good football teams. It obviously could have gone either way, but I’m glad it went our way.”

Brady said the team did not overreact at halftime, nor were there a lot of tweaks that had to be made to the game plan.

“I think we always take our cue from coach [Bill] Belichick as a team,” Brady said. “There wasn’t much to be said, truthfully, because we had done nothing. It wasn’t like there was a bunch of adjustments. We kind of thought the game — they played the game the way that we thought they would play it, and we just weren’t doing anything to execute.

“We just talked about making some good plays and seeing if that could turn into something. It turned into one touchdown, then it tuned into two touchdowns, then in turned into a field goal, it was another touchdown. We got the ball rolling, and that’s what we needed at that point.”

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