Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's game, the Chargers' season will be over after they play the Broncos. Particularly because of injuries to key players, it's been a disappointing season for San Diego, who will go into the game with a 4-11 record.
When asked what his message to the team has been, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy replied: "Finish strong.
"That's been the whole last month of the season, is to finish. That's the way that we've approached it. I think our players and the staff have done a phenomenal job of fighting through a very difficult year. The coaches and the leaders of the team, with the way that they've put things together, you look to the bitter end of every game. They've fought their tails off. We have to go out and finish the right way this weekend."
For the players who aren't motivated by a rivalry that the Broncos have dominated by winning eight of the last nine regular-season or playoff matchups, they still have the desire of simply winning for themselves and for their team.
"I think it's the combination of that [playing for the city of San Diego] and just your own self-pride," tight end Antonio Gates said. " Just having pride as a player. Honestly, I have been a big part of San Diego my whole career. I love the city, I love the organization, but for the most part it's having a sense of pride. I think that's something that's vocal throughout the locker room. For this team, it's just despite what the record is we just want to find a way to get a division win, if that makes sense to you."
A bright spot for Rivers amid season's disappointment
Keenan Allen, who still ranks as San Diego's top receiver with 725 yards despite being available for only the first eight games of the season, was placed on injured reserve with a lacerated kidney on Nov. 3. Eight-year veteran Stevie Johnson has missed five games with hamstring and groin injuries.
They still have Gates, who has provided the Chargers with so much production in his 13 years, running back Danny Woodhead, veteran receiver Malcom Floyd and Dontrelle Inman, but the group is a shell of what they were at the beginning of the year.
Still, despite the disappointment the season has brought, Rivers is on the cusp of breaking a prolific franchise record. With 238 passing yards, he will pass Hall of Famer Dan Fouts' single-season passing yardage record.
"Despite all of the stuff that we've been through, I think it's always good to shine a light on things that are going positive," Gates said. "We've been through tough times over these past four, five, eight weeks to two months. There have been a lot of good things that have been done that are not really valued at this point because of the record.
"I think it's always, like I said, good to be able to value something that players are doing that normally would be talked about had we had a winning season. You don't ever discredit any individual's hard work or any goal that a person achieves in this profession because it's so hard to do."
However, whether Rivers will be able to appreciate it with the season the team's having is another thing."Philip wants to win. That's all it's about—winning—to Philip Rivers," McCoy said. "[He's] one of the best of all time. What he does, his preparation, his will to win every week—give him a ton of credit. It's been a brutal year on everybody here, but Philip hasn't skipped a beat. Philip shows up every Monday the same guy, prepares like nobody else. It's not just this year, look at the last three years at what he's done for this organization. The guy means the world to this place. I'm very happy for his success. I just wish that we had won some more games because he deserves to have all of the success in the world."