In his fourteen seasons in the NFL, Champ Bailey has stared down his share of productive quarterbacks. His 11 Pro Bowl selections, most ever for a cornerback, suggest he's won the majority of those battles.
So it means a little something extra when a player of Bailey's caliber and accomplishment essentially admits his defense had no answer for an opponent, which is exactly what happened Sunday night in Foxborough.
"What can you say?," Bailey said after the Broncos came up on the wrong end of a 45-10 score against the Patriots. "He's Tom Brady. He's been around the block a few times, and if you're not ready to punch him in the mouth, he's going to eat you up all night."
Which is exactly what happened to the Broncos' pass defense, which ranked 18th in the NFL during the regular season. Brady completed 26 of 34 passes for 363 yards and a postseason-record-tying six touchdowns.
Five came in the first half when the Patriots built a 35-7 lead, and one got the sense he could have shattered the record, previously accomplished by Steve Young in 1994 and Daryle Lamonica in 1969, had the Patriots set their mind to it.
"They just got rid of the ball so quickly,'' said Broncos defensive end Jason Hunter. "They knew with out edge pressure with Von [Miller] and Elvis [Dumervil] that they had to get rid of it in a hurry, and that's what they did. When you are playing against a team like that, you have to be spot-on."
The maligned Patriots defense was sharp as well, limiting Tim Tebow to 149 combined yards rushing and passing.
"They played a terrific game," said Broncos running back Willis McGahee, who was one of the Broncos' few bright spots with 17 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. "They had us figured out from beginning to end. I think we were all just caught up in the moment at first when they went up on us. We had a couple of fumbles and things like that but that's no excuse. We were supposed to go out and play good football and we didn't in the first half.''
Despite the ugly ending, Broncos coach John Fox had nothing but praise for his team, which began the season 1-4 before an improbable midseason surge helped them earn a postseason berth.
"I was very proud of them," Fox said. "I thought we came a long ways, with a football team that had no offseason, no OTAs. You know, really, I was as proud of them as any team I have ever coached."
Fox didn't make any promises when he was asked whether the Broncos would run a similar offensive scheme next year tailored to the strengths of Tim Tebow.
"Every year has it's own personality," Fox said. "We are officially starting our offseason now and we will do whatever it takes to get better. So, whether that is scheme, personnel, all the same things that teams that didn't make the playoffs are already working on."