ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) When Tom Brady took a knee with 33 seconds left in the first half of the AFC championship and turned to trot toward the tunnel, Broncos tight end Owen Daniels wasn't buying it.
He stood on Denver's sideline pointing at the New England Patriots until they indeed disappeared into their locker room. Only then did he head off the field, passing his coach along the way.
''I got some comments about that on social media that I looked really confused,'' Daniels said Monday while basking in the afterglow of his two-touchdown performance in Denver's 20-18 dethroning of the defending champs.
Daniels wasn't confounded, just cautious.
You see, while he was in Baltimore last season, the Ravens came up with a scheme to fool the Steelers in the playoffs. If they had enough time, they were going to take a knee and fake like they were trotting off to their nearby tunnel only to run back to the line of scrimmage, snap the ball while the Steelers were walking off and run for an easy touchdown.
They never got that chance.
But, hey, if anyone else has thought of it, you can bet Bill Belichick has, too.
''New England has always got something up their sleeve,'' Daniels said. ''... So, I was just making sure I was ready to make a tackle.''
It's that football acumen that led coach Gary Kubiak to vouch for Daniels last spring when he and general manager John Elway mapped out their free agency plans and offered Daniels a three-year, $12 million contract.
Daniels has played for Kubiak his entire NFL career. He spent eight seasons with him in Houston and followed him to Baltimore in 2014 when Kubiak was hired as the Ravens' offensive coordinator following his firing as the Texans' head coach.
Together, they resurrected their respective careers before coming to Colorado.
Daniels caught 48 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns in helping the Ravens reach the playoffs, where he scored his first postseason touchdown against New England.
In Denver, Daniels caught 46 passes for 517 yards and three TDs in the regular season. He had TD grabs of 21 and 12 yards Sunday.
''As a coach when you bounce to different places and guys' names come up, you've got to be careful,'' Kubiak said. ''But there are certain guys you have no doubt staying up for, saying, `Put him on your team.' And he's one of those guys.''
Daniels brought pedigree to a position where Peyton Manning had lost Julius Thomas and his two dozen TD catches from 2013-14 to free agency.
He immediately received an invitation from Manning to attend his annual passing camp at Duke, where the 39-year-old quarterback picked Daniels' brain about Kubiak's offensive philosophy.
Then, Daniels tutored the rest of the offense.
''He didn't like directly order me to do that, but ... it kind of happened naturally,'' Daniels said.
Daniels had a disappointing start in Denver as the Broncos struggled on offense early on. They were getting used to a new O-line and Manning's left foot was bothering him. Plus, they had injuries that reduced their ranks at tight end and limited their options.
Then, Elway brought in Vernon Davis from San Francisco just before the trade deadline and everything changed for Daniels and Virgil Green.
While Davis has had problems with drops and caught just 20 passes for 201 yards, his presence really opened things up for the other tight ends.
''It's been great. Having Vernon here, obviously he's a super dynamic player who has been playing really well for a long time,'' Daniels said. ''Having him around, it's allowed us to do more two-tight end stuff. To have three guys that are really interchangeable out there, he's been a great asset for us.''
It's not just Daniels' production, but his football instincts that helped the Broncos (14-4) get back to the Super Bowl, where they'll face the Carolina Panthers (17-1).
Like his heads-up on Brady's kneel-down.
''We tried to do that to another team,'' Daniels said, ''so I was kind of alert to that.''
After the game, Daniels searched for Kubiak to soak in the moment.
''Coach Kube and I obviously, we've been together 10 years. Those years in Houston were satisfying because we helped take that franchise from where it was and turn it around to make it a winning franchise expecting to win every year,'' Daniels said. ''That meant a lot and then for us to just kind of be in this moment together. I was looking for Kube after the game. I couldn't find him until he was on the stage.''
After the trophy presentation, the two embraced.
''We had a little moment,'' Daniels said. ''I know it means a ton to him to be in this situation. It means a lot to me to share that with him.''
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