What the Broncos are expecting when they face the Patriots on Sunday

They've installed a completely new game plan this week.

Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock takes part in a drill during practice. David Zalubowski/AP Photo

The Patriots and Broncos are scheduled to meet this Sunday at 1 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.

They were originally slated to face off in Week 5, but coronavirus concerns pushed the matchup to Week 6. The game is on as of Thursday afternoon.

Here’s a closer look at New England’s opponent, including what the Broncos expect from the Patriots, how their injured players are coming along, and more.

They’re preparing to face Cam Newton.

New England removed quarterback Cam Newton from the COVID-19/reserve list Wednesday. He returned to practice Thursday, and the consensus is that he’ll likely start against Denver.

The Broncos are preparing to face Newton while knowing there’s an outside chance they’ll be up against either Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham.


“(Newton) had the whole COVID stuff and all that, but I feel like if he’s going to be out there playing then he went through everything and passed all the tests,” Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb said. “It shouldn’t be one of those things that’s up in the air.”

Chubb called Newton “one of those guys that you watched growing up” and “one of those guys you want to get your hands on.”

Denver defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said a lot of New England’s offense is the same regardless of who’s playing QB, but there are certainly ways the Patriots bring out Newton’s strengths when he’s out there. The defense has to be ready for quarterback-driven runs and other play-calls that accentuate his game.

Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said that if a backup QB ends up playing, that quarterback will be in a better spot this week than in Week 4, because both have game experience this season and an extra week of practice behind them.

They’re ready for a lot of man coverage.

Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said the Patriots are “very effective” at playing “a heck of a lot of man coverage.”

“That’s been the challenge all the time when playing against Bill (Belichick),” Shurmur told reporters.


Shurmur added that the Patriots’ fronts tend to be multiple, like most teams, yet they do it in a way that makes most sense for their players. One week, a spot might be filled with a defensive back, and another week it might be filled with a linebacker.

The crux of the issue, Shurmur said, is for the offense to adjust to all the looks the Patriots present and adapt on the fly.

“Like most teams, they probably have ways of defending and taking away the things that we do well,” Shurmur said. “I think that’s why it’s important that multiple guys have to touch the ball and be productive when given their opportunities.”

They know Bill Belichick makes things difficult.

Chubb called Belichick “one of the greatest coaches to ever do this” and said his resume speaks for itself.

“When he was at my pro day with all the guys we had, it was one of those things like, ‘Alright guys, we’ve got everybody on notice,'” Chubb said. “It was just one of those things where we went out there and did what we had to do. It was a cool experience. It was fun, but now I’ve got to beat him.”

Fangio was just as complimentary, praising Belichick for his success over the past few decades.

“Bill is obviously one of the greatest, if not the greatest head coach of all time,” Fangio said.

Drew Lock is hoping to play.

Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, who missed 11 games in 2019 and has been out since Week 2 of this year, said his shoulder feels “really good.”

He was a full participant at practice Wednesday, and the Broncos will keep tabs on how he’s progressing prior to Sunday’s game. Regardless of who starts against the Patriots – between Lock and Brett Rypien – that quarterback knows he’ll be in for a challenge.

Lock, however, appears to be excited about the prospect of potentially playing.

“I am ready for the first hit, just to get it out of there, let it happen, let everyone hold their breath for a couple seconds and when I get up everything is just fine,” Lock said.

Lock did note that he has to learn the art of avoiding sacks. He said that’s a part of his game he can work on, adding that he spent some time over the past few weeks studying older quarterbacks and their habits.

In other injury news, tight end Noah Fant (ankle) also returned to practice Wednesday and is “trending in the right direction” to play Sunday. Fant, who was limited Wednesday, has caught 19 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns in three and a half games this season.

They’re installing a new game plan.

Fangio said the Broncos are installing a new game plan this week rather than fine-tuning their initial plan.

They’ve adjusted their meeting times and practice schedule, but other than that, they’re “starting from ground zero.”

“Obviously, there will be some recall from the work that we did last week but we did want to start all over,” Fangio said.

Some Broncos have expressed their frustration with the change in schedule, but Fangio has greater concerns than scheduling.

His daughter, a nurse at a military hospital, previously contracted and recovered from COVID-19, he told Football Morning in America’s Peter King.

“She’s in the military and she came down with COVID because she’s a nurse at a hospital,” Fangio said. “She’s high-risk. She was real fatigued for three, four days, lost her sense of taste and smell. I’m just thankful that she has fully recovered from that. So, you know, that’s why I don’t get worked up about this stuff.”

Melvin Gordon III’s status is up in the air.

Fangio said the Broncos plan to make a decision regarding Melvin Gordon III’s status in the coming days. They held him out of practice Wednesday as the team tries to get to the bottom of the situation after Gordon was charged with DUI on Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed, but my own two kids have disappointed me at some points in their life, but I never stopped loving them anymore,” Fangio said. “He’s one of us. We’re going to love him, but there will be some consequences to what happened.”

Gordon and Patriots running back James White go way back to their University of Wisconsin days, and Gordon said he was there when White and his wife, Diana, “started their little love connection.”


“The coronavirus stopped me from seeing him,” Gordon said. “I couldn’t see his son and go over there as much as I would’ve liked to.”

Von Miller will be a noticeable absence.

Star pass rusher Von Miller underwent successful surgery to repair a tendon in his left ankle Sept. 11, and he’s out for “a while” and potentially the whole season.

A healthy Miller, who is widely considered one of the best players in the NFL, would have made life more difficult for Newton and Co. Miller checked in with his fans Wednesday night and made it clear he’s doing all right but isn’t close to returning to action.

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