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Make no mistake, Bill Belichick is the real adversary on Sunday

The long-time, and disgustingly successful head coach of the Patriots got much of his defensive coaching chops right here in the Mile High City.

The Broncos will finally get their game with the Patriots this Sunday - and this time it will be the Cam Newton Patriots against (hopefully) the Drew Lock Broncos.

But what every coach and player in Denver realizes is that no matter who is playing under center for New England - whether it’s Tom Brady, Jimmy G or even Newton - the most formidable opponent is the coach.

“Obviously, he is one of the best—if not the best—head coaches that the league has ever seen,” Vic Fangio said of Bill Belichick, noting that the Belichick-Josh McDaniels coaching duo is a big factor, as is having a quarterback like Newton. “With Cam Newton as their quarterback, they have adjusted and done a great job. I’ve been really impressed with Cam Newton with how he’s played and how he’s just executed his position. Ball handling and knowing where to go with the ball, you can tell he’s adapted well, which is a credit to him and their coaches. They’re always a great challenge.”

Not many Broncos fans may remember - or even know - that it was actually in the Mile High City where a young Belichick honed some of his meticulous coaching skills.

It was 1978 and then-Broncos coach Red Miller put Belichick on assignment with defensive coordinator Joe Collier.

As Jeff Legwold writes in his feature on Belichick this week, the then-26-year-old assistant had “a variety of entry-level jobs, including arduous film breakdown, long before digital video made sorting things like third downs and red zone plays just a couple of clicks away.”

Broncos’ Ring of Fame cornerback and member of the famed Orange Crush defense, Louis Wright, said even back then Belichick was all business.

“He was all ‘Just do your job’ about his job. And I loved that. He wasn’t just looking around at practice, talking to whoever was closest to him,” Wrght said. “Every time I saw Bill Belichick that year he was writing something down in a notebook I always saw in his hands. And I mean every time. He was always taking notes, writing, always writing. That man wasted no time.”

Wright also told Legwold that Belichick was always “a serious man with a serious plan.”

“And I’m going to say something, and people will say I’m biased, but Joe Collier is one of the greatest defensive minds football has ever known, and Bill knew that then and knows it now. I can watch the Patriots do some things on defense right now, especially in the red zone, on the goal line, and hear Joe Collier’s voice making that call in a meeting.”

Collier said that Belichick was way ahead of most young coaches and was “really sharp.”

“The thing I liked best was I could beat him at racquetball,” Collier told Legwold. I’m kidding, but you knew then he was going to win, be successful. You did. He just had that way, the way he approached things, dissected them, even then.”

This week Belichick recalled that year in Denver and noted how much he learned to “see the game” by studying under cornerbacks coach Richie McCabe and Collier.

“I learned to see the game through the eyes of Joe Collier,” the eight-time Super Bowl-winning coach said. “Joe was very skilled at analyzing offenses and what they did and how they did it. He could anticipate very well.”

Although the Broncos have not been much of a challenge for the Patriots in recent years, the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady showdowns were nothing short of exhilarating. And while the hype was always over Manning v. Brady, the true chess match came between Manning and Belichick - both with a talent to see the whole board and think a few moves beyond the immediate one.

Sunday’s match-up in Foxborough will once again be more of a checkers game than chess, but you can bet Belichick will be preparing like it’s the toughest game on the schedule - taking notes, breaking down film and wasting no time dissecting the Broncos’ strengths and weaknesses.

And he’ll be the Broncos’ primary adversary.

docllv’s pick of the day

'A student of everything' - What a 26-year-old Bill Belichick learned as a Broncos assistant
Belichick spent the 1978 season with the Broncos in a cramped office with a window that didn't face outside, learning lessons he still uses today.

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Kiszla: Broncos would much rather have Drew Lock than Cam Newton at quarterback. Right? – The Denver Post
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Cam Newton, Stephon Gilmore return to Patriots practice on Thursday - Pats Pulpit
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Everything we know about the Patriots’ Covid-19 situation - Pats Pulpit
The Patriots have had their first positive Coronavirus test. Let’s go through the timeline.

Moving on to K.C.: RB Le'Veon Bell signing with Chiefs
Running back Le'Veon Bell is moving on from a winless squad to the reigning Super Bowl champions. Bell is signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Jim Trotter reported on Thursday.

NFL CMO Dr. Allen Sills: Players will be held out of practice, games due to flu-like symptoms
NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told reporters Thursday that as the country approaches cold and flu season, people can expect to see players, coaches and personnel miss practices and potentially games due to flu-like symptoms in an effort to rul