When the New England Patriots limp into Mile High Stadium Sunday night they will only have one of their top receivers fully healthy. If the Patriots are to remain unbeaten against the Denver Broncos, wide receiver Brandon LaFell will have to step up and become a reliable target for Tom Brady.
LaFell, who came up big during the Super Bowl run a year ago, has made his way back from his own injury and getting into the flow of things. With Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson out, he will not only have to take on more of a role in the offense, he will have to play more of a leadership role.
“More is expected of everyone on this offense,” LaFell said Friday via NESN. “We’ve lost a few guys these last couple weeks, but everybody knows every week we’ve gotta step our game up and every week these games mean even more. Because hey, it’s crunch time.”
The Broncos will present the Patriots toughest challenge thus far this season even with Peyton Manning sitting on the sidelines. With no Edelman, Amendola or dynamic running back Dion Lewis, Brady will rely healingly on Rob Gronkowski and LaFell. Both players, however, are likely to be focused on by the Broncos defense.
If successful, that will leave tight end Scott Chandler, running back James White and receivers Keshawn Martin and rookie Chris Harper as sources that will have to step up and make a contribution. According to LaFell, making that happen will depend n mental toughness, focus and playing smart.
“To me,” LaFell said, “mental toughness means, ‘Hey, man, don’t let any tough situation get to you. Don’t let penalties get to you. Don’t let the environment, the crowd noise, being behind, don’t let anything get to you and get you off your game. Stay focused, stay strong, play smart, play physical and trust yourself and trust your teammates.’”