Patriots’ Secondary Going Into AFC Championship Game Against Peyton Manning With Swagger

Aqib Talib, Alfonzo DennardFOXBORO, Mass. — Denver Broncos safety Mike Adams said what a lot of defensive backs probably would like to say — if stirring up controversy wasn’t frowned upon in the NFL.

Adams claimed Monday that New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is a “one-speed guy” who doesn’t have the “ability or quickness” of Broncos wideout Wes Welker. Adams shot down the impact that Edelman might have in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game because the Broncos safety has confidence in his own skills.

The Patriots have their own swagger, though it’s a quieter confidence. They’ll feed the media all the positives about the Broncos’ offensive weapons, but behind closed doors, New England’s secondary knows it can stop Demaryius ThomasEric Decker, Welker and the Broncos’ receivers. They just won’t say it, for fear of head coach Bill Belichick‘s retribution.

“I can only speak for myself, but if you don’t have [confidence], you’re missing the key portion of an edge, just in order for you to play the game,” Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington said Wednesday. “If you don’t have confidence, I just don’t know how you would be out there if you don’t have confidence. That’s first and foremost for what’s important.”

The Patriots’ secondary has every reason to be confident going up against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. They held Manning to 150 passing yards in Week 12 and picked off Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck four times last week.

“That’s a big thing,” Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard said. “You gotta have confidence in your work.”

Dennard picked off Luck twice Saturday. The first interception came on Luck’s second throw of the game and the second was on the signal-caller’s last. Dennard was hurt the first time the Patriots played the Broncos, but he appeared close to full health against the Colts.

Dennard has the ability to wear down opposing wide receivers. He’s constantly poking and prodding his target down the field. Many wideouts probably would consider the second-year pro a pest.

“That’s my biggest thing,” Dennard said. “Just try to get my hands on the receiver as much as I can. Because that’s what the coaches want. Whatever the coaches want, I’ll just go out there and do it.”

Cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Devin McCourty earned All-Pro second-team honors this season. It was a well-deserved honor for both players, though it speaks to the high level of play for the entire secondary that they were recognized.

Talib’s confidence is apparent every time he steps on the field. If Talib didn’t have that belief in himself, Belichick wouldn’t put his No. 1 cornerback on the opposing team’s best receiver each game.

“It’s important for the DBs to go out with that confidence and that swagger every game,” Talib said. “We focus on that every game.”

Of course, going into a game overconfident can be just as harmful as going in timid. Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan has been able to find that balance in his short time in the NFL. Ryan’s combination of confidence and preparation has led to five interceptions this season.

“Everybody — to be at this level, you have to have some type of confidence in you to be a defensive back,” Ryan said. “At the same time, I don’t think we’re going to underestimate or under-evaluate our opponent. I think we’re all aware they’re a great offense and they have a great leader.”

The Patriots did a solid job against Manning and his receivers in their regular-season matchup, but the elements and setting will be different this time around. A little swagger could go a long way Sunday afternoon in Denver.

Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here.

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