ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Most things the Broncos do on the field are right the first time, but they're even better when you give them a second chance.
Knowshon Moreno, for example, came back from knee surgery to become the first running back in team history to top 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving. He also scored a career-high 13 TDs.
Nobody has been able to pry the football from his grasp since Atlanta linebacker Stephen Nicholas stripped him on Sept. 17, 2012, which resulted in Moreno's two-month banishment to the scout team.
That penance left Moreno determined "if I ever do get that call again" to let neither the opportunity nor the football slip away again.
The same is true of quarterback Peyton Manning, whose entire tenure with the Broncos is a second chance that followed neck surgery. He has 97 total touchdown throws since being released by the Indianapolis Colts and joining the Broncos, including a regular-season record of 55 scoring passes in 2013.
Manning also has a remarkable record in rematches against teams that beat him earlier in the same season: It has been six years since he lost such a rematch.
That statistic was true last week, as Denver held on to a lead to beat San Diego in the AFC Divisional game 24-17. Now, the team hopes to continue the trend as they face a New England Patriots team that beat the Broncos 34-31 in overtime in November.
Julius Thomas is also succeeding in his second chance. Thomas had just one career catch coming into this season, his third in the NFL, and he had gotten hurt on that one reception, no less. He even briefly considered giving up his dream of playing football.
But this season, he broke Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe's team record for tight ends by catching 12 TD passes and it was his emergence that freed up Manning's other targets — Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, along with running back Knowshon Moreno — who all joined him with 10 or more touchdowns.
Thomas, who didn't play in the first matchup against the Patriots because of a knee injury, finished with six catches for 76 yards Sunday, but none was longer -- or bigger -- than his 21-yarder.
"Third-and-17 was the play of the game," Elway said. "We had to pick it up, keep the chains moving, keep them off the field and not give them a chance and so that's where it was tremendous. The offensive line did a great job of protecting Peyton, Julius Thomas made a great catch dragging his feet on the sideline.
"But who knows where the game goes if we don't make that play? Those are the types of plays you have to make in playoff football to be able to advance."
And make the most of second chances.