Bailey wants to be a real champ
No Super Bowls on his stellar résumé
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Making the Pro Bowl for the 11th time was a tribute to his longevity and quality.
“It makes me feel like people still respect my game at this age, but I really don’t put a lot of thought in the Pro Bowl too much,’’ Champ Bailey said yesterday after the Broncos finished their final practice before tomorrow night’s clash with the Patriots. “I want to win a ring and that’s why I still play.’’
After 13 seasons with Washington and Denver, the 33-year-old cornerback has played in only five postseason games and never has made it to a Super Bowl. So for Bailey, who needs only one more appearance in the NFL’s all-star game to equal Randall McDaniel and Will Shields for most in a career, a trip to Foxborough means more than another junket to Hawaii.
“As a pro athlete, you live for these moments,’’ said Bailey, whose interception of Tom Brady and 100-yard return in the 2005 season divisional playoff game set up the killer touchdown. “This is why you play, to be on the big stage and get out there and show what we can do as a team. That’s what motivates me to keep playing this game.’’
Sunny skies returned to the Rockies after Wednesday’s snow squalls, and the Broncos worked outdoors yesterday morning. They will have a final walk-through this morning before heading east just before noon. The road actually has been kinder to the Broncos than their saddle-shaped corral in Denver, where they are 3-5 this season. “At this stage, when you get down to the elite eight, everyone’s got confidence, whether you’re at home or on the road,’’ said coach John Fox, whose club is 5-3 at sea level with overtime victories at Miami and San Diego. “And that would include our opponent.’’ . . . Lonie Paxton, the former Patriot who handles long snaps, missed the last two practices for personal reasons. “Right now it’s a family matter,’’ said Fox. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. He’ll be day-to-day just like all our injuries.’’ If Paxton doesn’t play, Fox may have to hold tryouts in the hotel parking lot since backup man Chris Kuper broke his left leg a fortnight ago and is on injured reserve . . . Receiver Eric Decker (knee) and safety Brian Dawkins (neck) also missed practice and are considered unlikely to play, while safety David Bruton (Achilles’ tendon), defensive end Elvis Dumervil (ankle), and tight end Daniel Fells (ankle) again had limited participation.
Catch ’em if you can
As much respect as the Broncos have for Brady, they’re equally concerned with what his targets do after they get the ball. “That’s very critical,’’ said Bailey. “You see a lot of short throws, then here you go - missed tackle here, missed tackle there, guy makes you miss. They’ve got a lot of good players who can run after the catch. If we don’t limit that, we’ve seen what can happen, because that’s what happened in the first game.’’ Three times in that meeting, tight end Aaron Hernandez busted short passes for long gains, each setting up a touchdown. “If you watch film, there were a lot of big catches and guys wide open with nobody defending them,’’ said safety Quinton Carter, whose unit was scalded for 310 passing yards.
The best defense . . .
All of the Broncos agree that the key to beating New England is to keep Brady on the sideline with long drives. They did it well enough in their first meeting, marching 80, 82, and 89 yards for their three touchdowns, but consumed only 10 minutes and 12 seconds doing it. The bigger problem was giving New England short fields after three second-quarter turnovers, which let Brady go to work from the 19, 40, and 17. “They do a good enough job beating you,’’ defensive end Robert Ayers mused. “You can’t beat yourselves.’’ Not that Ayers had any illusions about those 41 points. “We did some things that hurt ourselves and shot ourselves in the foot, but they beat us,’’ he conceded. “We couldn’t stop them. We couldn’t score and we couldn’t do anything on special teams. They definitely beat us.’’
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.