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Can Tom Brady overcome playoff missteps to beat Tim Tebow?

Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos didn't stop Tom Brady last month. But the Patriots' quarterback has a history of recent playoff losses to overcome.

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The Patriots figure to pose a much tougher challenge. That's why they're two-touchdown favorites.

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The Broncos, on their home field, already have lost to them this season. Denver rushed for 167 yards in the first quarter, led 16-7, but committed three turnovers in the second and lost 41-23 on Dec. 18.

"We made mistakes. They exposed those mistakes. Obviously, our tackling in space needs to be better," Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. "Obviously, we've got to get more pressure on Tom Brady somehow, someway, and affect him more. I think we hit him a couple of times in the pocket, sacked him twice, but we didn't really affect him enough in the pocket, and we've got to find ways to do that."

That's where linebackers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil come in.

"Those guys are fast and explosive," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "They can go inside, outside, power rush, occasionally drop into coverage, make a lot of plays from behind. They're strong at the point of attack. They're very good, very good."

Against the Steelers, rookie Miller got only his second sack in the five games he's played with a cast to protect a torn ligament on his right thumb. He had 11 1/2 in the regular season and said his thumb is feeling better.

But before he can tackle Brady, he has to get to the quarterback.

"He stays pretty shallow in the pocket," Miller said. "You've just got to be able to beat your guy quickly."

In the regular season, the Broncos did a decent job on stars Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, limiting each to four catches. But tight end Aaron Hernandez stepped up with nine receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown.

"They've got a lot of weapons," Dumervil said. "We also feel confident with our guys. We've just got to play sound, play smart and, I think, no blown assignments. Everybody does their job and executes, and it will give us a good chance."

Safety Quinton Carter said the Broncos made many mistakes on their pass coverage assignments.

"There were a lot of big catches and guys wide open with nobody defending them," he said.

Belichick hasn't seen a tight-end combination with such receiving skills very often in his 37 NFL seasons.

"I see it every day in practice," he said.

Now its Denver's turn to face that formidable pair a month after its first encounter.

"They've got tough matchups They're all great players," Broncos coach John Fox said. "Tom's as good as anybody at finding those matchups and it will come down to that again this time, I'm sure."

Brady didn't do enough of that in his last two playoff games.

Two years ago against the Ravens, Brady threw for 154 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and was sacked three times.

Last year, the Jets sacked him five times, he threw an interception on his first series and he never got the lead back after New York went ahead 7-3 five minutes into the second quarter.

Light isn't sure how much those two losses hurt the quarterback whose blind side he's protected since 2001.

"I haven't talked with him about it, but he doesn't typically take losing too well," Light said with a grin. "I've noticed that over the years."

QUIZ: Are you smarter than Tom Brady or Tim Tebow? Take the QB quiz.

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