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Broncos embrace challenge, reward of TNF

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos' romp over the 49ers had ended only minutes earlier, but the focus of the team was already turning toward the rapidly approaching Thursday night game against San Diego.

"They beat us last time on a Thursday night," Chris Harris Jr. said. "We'll definitely remember that."

Take a look at photos from the last time the Broncos played the Chargers at home in the regular season, Week 15 of 2013.

That 27-20 defeat to the Chargers would be one of only three losses the Broncos suffered in the 2013 regular season, and their first loss at home since Peyton Manning's third game as a Bronco, a 31-25 loss to the Texans in Week 3 of 2012.

With former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in his first year as Chargers head coach, San Diego limited Manning and Co. to season lows in points (20) and total yardage (295). More importantly perhaps, was that McCoy's gameplan produced long drives by the Chargers' offense, allowing Denver just 53 offensive plays and 21:11 in time of possession.

"We don't live in the past, as I've mentioned many times," John Fox said Tuesday when asked about the game. "If you spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, you crash, not looking ahead."

At the same time, Fox indicated that the team learned from the experience last year and should be well prepared for the quick turnaround into a crucial divisional matchup.

"I think we've obviously worked on it in the offseason; we don't have many better things to do so we looked at stuff," he said. "I think we'll see how it goes this time around and I think we'll do a better job as coaches and, in turn, I think our players will respond."

"We just want to be great," Harris said when asked about what's driving the team's focus. "And the leaders, we're making sure nobody's relaxed. And we can't be relaxed right now. The last time we played these guys, we relaxed and they came in and stole one. We have that in the back our minds. We're gonna be ready."

One member of the Broncos who is well acquainted with the effect of Thursday games is DeMarcus Ware, who played on Thanksgiving Day for nine consecutive years with the Cowboys. He said that players' complaints about Thursday night games are "overblown" and that the winner on the short week usually comes down to "who wants it the most."

"I think those are those type of heart games that you run into where at the end of the day, if you're playing against a guy that doesn't have that tenacity, you figure out how to beat them," he said. "It's just the whole team and it goes to the whole team mentality too."

"You just have to look at the game as a quick turnover, meaning it's a good thing or you check your oil on those type of games, on those Thursday games in saying, 'What type of team are we?'"

Count Ware's partner in crime, Von Miller, as another Bronco who is embracing the short week, which Miller sees as another opportunity to play under the bright lights.

"I enjoy it; it's another prime-time game," he said. "You just got to do the same things you would do on a longer week, just hop in the ice tub, get stretched, get some body work and you'll be ready to go."

Also on the plus side for the Broncos will be their familiarity with the opponent, a byproduct of the new Thursday night scheduling. While making all TNF games divisional matchups was likely done in order to foster more competitive games, it also pits teams against each other that won't need extra time to prepare for unfamiliar schemes and players. As Harris put it, "If you play the Chargers and Chiefs and the Raiders, I already know everything they're going to do."

Considering McCoy's history in Denver and the three clashes between the division rivals last year, that sense could be further heightened on Thursday, making the in-game execution crucial.

"You still want to have great preparation," Harris said. "But it's just about winning your battles, man. Next game: they know what we do; we know what they do. You've just got to win your one-on-one battles."

Regardless of the outcome, the extra time off before a Week 9 trip to Foxborough to take on the Patriots will certainly be welcomed, especially after Denver's bye week arrived so early this season.

"You get that Friday, Saturday (off), maybe come in Sunday, Monday, getting that Tuesday off," Ware said. "It's almost like a mini-bye to where you get guys coming back and feeling really good." "But it feels even better after a win."

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