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Playoff Mentality

Posted Jan 8, 2014

In the locker room Wednesday, players talked about the win-or-go-home mindset required in the postseason.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For the Broncos, the 2013 season has felt very business-like.

After each one of their 13 wins, there wasn't a lot of celebration in the locker room. Winning the AFC West for the third consecutive season? That was just the first goal. Earning the AFC's No. 1 seed? Goal number two.

But the ultimate goal was always there in the back of their minds.

"Every team wants to start the beginning of the year and set their sights on the Super Bowl at the end of the deal. It’s been no different for us," tight end Jacob Tamme. "We focus each week, but the long vision—the sight out on the horizon—is getting to the Super Bowl and finding a way to win that game. In order to do that, we have to find a way to win this one. And that is all that matters right now.”

That's why that business-like focus has been there this week, just as it has been all season.

But the team certainly knows it's not the regular season anymore.

“It’s the playoffs," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "The mentality, obviously, it’s turned up a notch. It’s win or go home for us and last time we played these guys we didn’t have the result we wanted. I thought that was a good wake up game for us just to get back as far as executing on third down, even first and second down—being more physical in the trenches. We’re excited about this opportunity. You take it one game at a time and you focus on the details at hand and you just make sure that, again, it’s all about execution.”

Even though no one in the locker room considers Sunday "just another game," the players are approaching it the same way they have all season, because that's what has gotten them to this point.

“That’s why it is just like another week in that respect. I mean, we’ve been playing hard all season. Every game has been big to us," Tamme said. "I think everyone understands what is at stake. We’ve been playing that way all year. Guys are ready to go. Guys are going to prepare hard all week, go out there and let it loose on Sunday.”

For Terrance Knighton, this week's preparations are an entirely new experience. The fifth-year defensive tackle has never been to the postseason.

He said this week is about controlling his emotions.

“Trying to hold them back, trying to save it for Sunday," he said. "Right now I’m just focusing on the process, going over the game plan and just trying to master that before Sunday.”

That mentality was echoed by tight end Julius Thomas and rookie defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.

Both said that the Broncos need to be themselves and play the way that won them 13 games in the regular season.

Denver finds itself in a nearly identical situation to last season's playoffs, when a 13-3 record earned them a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But Decker said things feel different this time around.

"I would say that there’s a lot more confidence in the locker room this year than last year," he said. "Last year we went on a little run there and I don’t know if we got comfortable but we didn’t finish. We were hungry this year as far as coming into the offseason, coming into training camp making sure that when we go out and play we make sure we finish everything we do. We’ve had some bumps in the road but I think that adversity has helped us as a team and grow together as a team. Again, our focus is making sure that every single person does their job so we can have that success.”

Head Coach John Fox alluded to a famous line from The Wizard of Oz, "There's no place like home," when asked about hosting in the Divisional Round for the second consecutive season.

But it's still up to the Broncos to play well regardless of location in order to move on in the tournament.

The first step will be taking on a San Diego Chargers team on a hot streak, having won five straight, including last weekend in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.

“We won 13 games this year, so I don’t know what you consider us if you consider them a hot team," Knighton said. "We went on our streaks here and there, we had our bumps in the road, and I think that’s made us a better team. We faced a lot of adversity this year and now it’s time to put up or shut up. All of the injuries and guys not playing or things like that – no more excuses.”

Decker said the team's goal is to get off to a quick start and get the Sports Authority Field at Mile High faithful going early. Using the fans to their advantage can only help the cause.

"I think," Tamme said, "it’s going to be a heck of a game.”