DENVER (AP) – The Denver Broncos were the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl when the playoffs began. Consolation for their bitter double-overtime loss to Baltimore comes this weekend in the form of a trip to Hawaii.
John Fox and his staff will coach the AFC in the Pro Bowl, and they’ll see more familiar faces in Honolulu this weekend, too, as guard Zane Beadles and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas were added to the AFC squad on Monday.
Thomas replaces Wes Welker and Beadles replaces Logan Mankins. The Patriots players withdrew due to injuries following their loss to the Ravens in the AFC championship Sunday.
Thomas and Beadles will be making their first appearance in the all-star game, where they’ll join teammates Peyton Manning, Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey. Left tackle Ryan Clady was chosen to start but will sit out because of a shoulder injury.
A third-year pro from Utah, Beadles played every snap on offense and allowed just one sack. He credited his breakout season to his work with a sports psychologist last offseason that helped him hone his skills.
“Just taking care of my mind and body,” Beadles said. “This is the best I’ve felt since I’ve been in the league, so both of those things combined really helped.”
So did the arrival of Manning last March, he said.
“He’s the type of guy that elevates everybody around him. Yep. So, I mean, I can’t deny that,” Beadles said. “I don’t know what exactly goes into that and what it kind of contributes to, but I think there’s definitely a valid point there.”
Thomas, who was dogged by injuries in his first two seasons, also had a breakout season in his third year. He said earlier this month that Manning helped make him a much better receiver, saying he knew he had to be sound in his route-running or he wasn’t going to be targeted by the four-time MVP.
“I kept it in my head: you’ve got to do this right or you’re going to get no balls. So, I’ve got to pick this up,” Thomas said. “He came here for a reason. We didn’t want to make him look bad. And we all got better for it.”
Playing in all 16 games for the first time in his career, Thomas had 94 catches for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He also had a 17-yard TD catch-and-run in the playoffs that gave Denver a 35-28 lead over Baltimore midway through the fourth quarter on Jan. 12, a lead they would fritter away when defensive backs Tony Carter and Rahim Moore allowed a 70-yard TD completion from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones in the final minute of regulation.
Fox has taken a lot heat around Denver for having Manning take a knee afterward even with two timeouts and 31 seconds left in regulation.
He’s staunchly defended his decision — as has his boss, John Elway — saying the Broncos were so stunned by the long touchdown that it was best to regroup and take their chances in overtime.
The Broncos also were cautious after allowing a long TD in the final minute of the first half following Matt Prater’s missed field goal try. They had all three timeouts and 35 seconds left with the ball at their 27 when Jacob Hester ran for a yard and then the Broncos jogged across the field and into their tunnel, tied 21-all at halftime.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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