FOXBORO -- After 17 years with Bill Belichick, Tom Brady has very likely heard more than his fair share of Lawrence Taylor stories.
Brady's seen plenty of Taylor, too, and when he watches Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller on tape, he sees some qualities of Taylor's game.
"I never played against Lawrence Taylor," Brady said, "but I watched a lot of Lawrence Taylor, and they’ve got the same number, or two digits from one another, but they look like they can go kill the quarterback, so he’s done a great job of that."
Brady would know. In two games against Denver last season -- including a Patriots loss in the AFC title game -- Miller recorded four sacks, three hits and six quarterback hurries.
His play at the end of the conference championship helped push the Broncos into Super Bowl 50, where he was named MVP two weeks later.
"I think he’s pretty great every single play, every game," Brady said. "I think he’s actually gotten better in all phases of the game, not just as a rusher but dropping into coverage, covering guys, playing the run. He’s a phenomenal player."
This season Miller's recorded 13.5 sacks, he's forced two fumbles and he's broken up three passes. Combined with DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray, Miller helps make Denver's pass-rush among the most formidable in the NFL.
"I mean, if it’s just one outside guy that’s one thing. When you’ve got to deal with two, it’s hard to get help in both places," said Belichick. "You can help there but then you have no passing game and you run out of guys to throw it to . . . They have a well-balanced rush, although Ray and Miller have I think probably over half the sacks, probably over half the pressures, but again, it’s hard to get both guys, again, unless you don’t send anybody out, which you could do that. But there’s a consequence to doing that."
One advantage the Patriots will have this weekend versus the last time they were in Denver is that left tackle Nate Solder is healthy and available. He missed both games at Mile High last year due to a biceps injury that ended his season, but he'll be back on the field, where he'll see plenty of Miller -- an old foe.
Solder has matched up with Miller five times over the course of their careers, but that's not the full extent of their shared history. They matched up in college once, with Solder's Colorado squad edging Texas A&M, 35-34. They met again at the Senior Bowl, and then they shared an agent leading up to the 2011 NFL Draft where they were both first-round picks.
Might that familiarity help Solder on Sunday?
"I’m sure there’s something to that," Belichick said. "I mean, I don’t think there are any linemen in the league that are sitting there saying ‘Oh, good. We’ve got Von Miller this week. This will be a little breather this week.’ I mean, nobody’s saying that."