FOXBORO - Brandon Lloyd appreciates the value of timing. It's a quality that helps wide receivers like him take their games to the next level when they develop a sense of synchronization with their quarterbacks.
So the Patriots' receiver was offering the highest compliment he could to Sun Chronicle photographer Keith Nordstrom when he cited the latter's internationally-renowned photograph from last Sunday's game in Buffalo for being the result of "just good timing."
Timing was everything for Lloyd and Tom Brady when the two hooked up for a 25-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 52-28 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Lloyd made a leaping grab for the ball and was at full extension when Nordstrom and several other photographers caught him with a broad smile on his face at the moment of the catch. The photo has since gone on to make the rounds of the Internet because of how it captured the unique expression on Lloyd's face.
You'd think Lloyd and his fellow members of the offensive unit would still be grinning over how well they played in the second half. But as he said in the Patriots' locker room Wednesday, there will be no resting on their laurels as they prepare to meet the 2-2 Denver Broncos on Sunday (4:15 p.m.; Ch. 4, 12) at Gillette Stadium.
"We need to do a better job of starting the game," Lloyd said, a reference to the Patriots' 14-7 halftime deficit, which grew to 21-7 early in the third quarter. "That's what we're focused on. Starting the game, staying out of long-yardage situations, being more productive on second and third down - that's pretty much what the focus is on.
"We're not going to sit here and take any more victories from how we performed in the second half," he added, "because our first half was not what we expected to play like on Sunday."
There will be new challenges ahead, and one of them is quite familiar to Lloyd. As a past member of the Broncos, he practiced every day against veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, now in his 14th NFL season but still playing at a high level.
"Champ is very talented when it comes to his film study and how he plays out there," Lloyd said. "I'm sure the coaching staff is going to do a good job of mixing up the routes and the combinations that we're doing out there on him."
Lloyd said that he became a better receiver because of the battles he faced on a daily basis in practice.
"There were good battles, and I learned a lot from him from a technique standpoint catching and finishing the play, because Champ is one of the only cornerbacks I've gone against where the play is never over," he said. "You catch the ball, and if you can't bring it in and you're not protecting it, he'll find a way to get it out."
Not surprisingly, neither Bailey nor Lloyd will be giving up any of their secrets about how to counter the other's skills.
"We never really talked about those, and I'm not about to start now," Lloyd said.
Lloyd accurately did not want to be drawn into the "Payton Manning-vs.-Tom Brady" storyline of the week because the two offensive units never face each other on the field. But he acknowledged that the perception of such a battle adds to the marquee quality of this week's game.
"Naturally, it's a matchup that fans are going to love to see," Lloyd said. He also offered a couple of qualities that set the two veteran quarterbacks apart from their peers.
"Preparation. Leadership and just the way that they hold themselves to a higher standard," he said. "And in order to be on the same team and compete with those guys, you have to do the same thing to earn their respect. They naturally elevate the play of the players around them."