FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Think Saturday night’s AFC Divisional playoff game between the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots and Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos generated some interest?

Well, the Patriots press box at Gillette Stadium had an overflow crowd, with many media members spilling into the lobby behind the three press rows and into the auxiliary press box one level below.

And it wasn’t just mainstay sports media attending the game. People Magazine and The New Yorker each had a seat. GQ magazine, which has featured Brady on its cover, had two seats. Time Magazine also had two seasons.

And, get this, Good Morning America sent three folks to Gillette simply to meet with the Broncos media staff so they could get clearance for any future interviews. Apparently, they were turned down this week.

The game garnered worldwide attention with writers from Reuters (the London-based news agency), the German Press Association, Toronto Sun, Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan and La Cronica de Hoy in Mexico City.

And there were plenty of U.S. papers here as well, from Chicago, Miami, Newark, Palm Beach, Washington and New York (Daily News, Post and Times each with two seats, Newsday with one).

* * *

Tebow came out on the Gillette Stadium turf about two hours before the start time to warm up, throwing while wearing football pants and a sleeveless gray t-sthirt. The temperature was about 30 at the time, maybe a little lower.

Tebow even ran a couple of deep pass patterns.

* * *

Brady’s touchdown pass to Wes Welker capped an amazing 80-yard drive in just 1:51 to start the game.

It gave Brady a touchdown pass in 18 consecutive postseason games, second all-time to Brett Favre’s 20.

* * *

Logan Mankins, the dominating left guard who missed the Patriots regular-season finale with a knee problem, was active for the game. But right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was not, meaning rookie Nate Solder was likely starting at that spot. Vollmer has had injury issues all season and Solder, who has played exceptionally well, has started 11 games at right tackle,.

Also inactive for the Patriots were quarterback Ryan Mallett, defensive back Nate Jones, running back Shane Vereen, linebacker Gary Guyton, offensive lineman Donald Thomas and defensive lineman Ron Brace.

For the Broncos, safety Brian Dawkins – once considered among the NFL’s best at his position – was out for the third time in four games with a neck injury. He also missed last week’s wildcard win over Pittsburgh.

Also out for Denver was former Patriots long snapper Loni Paxton (for personal reasons), linebacker Mike Mohamed, tackle Ryan Harris, tight end Julius Thomas, wide receiver Eric Decker (knee, suffered last week) and defensive end Derrick Harvey.

* * *

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez set an NFL record for most receptions by a pair of tight ends on the same team, with 169, 24 going in for touchdowns.

Gronkowski led the way with 90 catches for an NFL-record 1,327 yards. Hernandez had 79 catches for 910 yards.

Early in the week, Belichick was asked by a Denver reporter how rare it was to have a team with two tight ends who can catch.

His response was priceless: “I see it every day in practice. We have to defend it every day in practice.”

* * *

Game time temperature was 24 degrees, with a wind-chill of 12.

That was good news for the Patriots, who are 31-7 in games when the temperature is 34 or lower.

That includes a 7-2 mark in the playoffs. Of course, the last two playoff home games, against Baltimore and the New York Jets, were both played in those conditions – and the Patriots lost both.

Coldest game ever?

A Divisional Playoff win over Tennessee (17-14) at Gillette when the temperature was 4 with a wind-chill of minus-10.

 


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