Even Peyton Manning with his 55 regular-season touchdown passes is unlikely to test Aqib Talib on Sunday. Few quarterbacks have since Talib has emerged as the bedrock of the New England secondary. Talib played a decisive role in at least three Patriots victories this season, including a win over the Jets in September, and New England is hoping he can do the same against Manning and the Broncos in the AFC Championship game this weekend in Denver. “It’s been huge,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the importance of Talib to his defense. “It’s been a huge plus for us to be able to maintain that kind of consistency at corner.” Talib was a steal for the Patriots, too, coming from the Buccaneers in a 2012 trade because then-Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano apparently grew tired of his off-field legal woes. Coaches and teammates say Talib has been a model citizen off the field and in the locker room since coming to New England, and his play on the field has been nothing short of spectacular. The Kansas product’s greatest hits this season included intercepting two Geno Smith fourth-quarter passes to secure a 13-10 Patriots win over the Jets in September, breaking up a throw to Julio Jones in the end zone to seal a victory over the Falcons later that month, and holding Saints tight end Jimmy Graham without a catch in a victory on Oct. 13. Talib also played a significant role in holding Manning to just 150 passing yards and two touchdowns — an off night, by the Hall of Famer’s standards — in New England’s 34-31 overtime victory over Denver in late November. That was the first time Talib had ever faced Manning, and the Patriots defender thinks that experience will help him in the rematch when he likely will shadow Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas. Don’t look for Talib to be intimidated by Manning’s reputation or imposing credentials, either.
Patriots’ Aqib Talib ready for Broncos’ Peyton Manning
New York Post | Jan 18