ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --When teams know each other as well as the Chargers and Broncos do, they talk.
Of course, it's not usually in a manner acceptable for a family audience. Unless you're Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. He talks. A lot. But to the amazement of many, his trash-talking doesn't cross over to profanity.
"I need to learn that," Broncos Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said, laughing. "Yeah no he's a strong Catholic boy. And I know he's very competitive, very fiery, but doesn't use profanities. So that's another reason to like the guy, really."
Added defensive end DeMarcus Ware: "He doesn't curse or anything like that but a lot of quarterbacks usually don't say much but he'll talk. But also if you hit him, he might say 'Hey, that was a nice hit' and pat you on the shoulder. That sort of [ticks] you off a little bit."
And it shows that it is possible to rankle and motivate without blue language. As Chris Harris Jr. noted this week, Brian Dawkins did that, and there was no question about the authority behind his words.
"Those guys, man, they're so good, they can get their point across easy," Harris said. "With Brian Dawkins, I mean, he would just say something like, 'Gosh darn it!' but it wouldn't be a cuss word, and it would get the point across."
So Rivers will keep it clean when he jaws at the Broncos. But they'll know his intent. And both sides will match each other's level. Games like these are the ones players treasure and everyone remembers, with both sides having earned the enmity from the other.
"He'll get under your skin but it's all fun and games at the end of the day," said Ware. "You're not trying to go out there and hurt nobody or talk trash to anybody. At the end of the day it's a game and we're out there playing and having a good time."
And as has usually been the case in the 21st century, the Broncos and Chargers will tussle with plenty at stake. What will determine the game? Let's take a look at this week's Three Keys:
- DON'T GET CAUGHT UP IN SAN DIEGO'S PRE-SNAP DECEPTION.**
The Chargers will show blitz, and then drop eight into coverage. They'll bring pressure from safeties, and drop a defensive end. There's very little that defensive coordinator John Pagano won't try, and the result is a chameleon-like unit that changes tactics from week to week and play to play. Thus, the Broncos must keep the focus on their own play, and not get caught biting on what the Chargers might show.
"There is a little bit of that. When you play any team, especially when you're as multiple as they are, you've got to make sure you're on what you're doing," said Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. "That's why sideline adjustments -- especially against a team like this and some of these teams that have very good defensive coordinators -- you'd better be on it on game day because you're going to see something different."
2. BREAK DOWN SAN DIEGO'S OFFENSE FROM THE INSIDE.
The Chargers have played five different centers this year, starting four. And while rookie Chris Watt offers some stability and is a potential long-term answer in the middle, the Broncos' best chance to get pressure is up the A-gap, which can happen in plenty of ways: stunting edge rushers up the middle. using Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe off each other with one drawing a double team to free the other, or by blitzing through the A-gap.
With Ware and Von Miller on the edge, this can force San Diego into pick-your-poison mode, and if running back Ryan Mathews does not play -- he's questionable and did not practice all week -- the Broncos might have the freedom to attack more often.
3. FORCE THE CHARGERS INTO THIRD-AND-LONG.
San Diego ranks fourth in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage (46.29 percent), a year after leading the NFl with a 49.03 figure. But as you'd expect, the Chargers are less effective with six yards or more to the line to gain (36.36 percent) than five or less (59.21 percent). That makes first and second downs crucial; the Broncos must first keep the Chargers out of third-and-makeable situations, and then use the pass rush to force quick throws that don't reach the sticks.
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