ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Von Miller's motivation has never changed. The scenery and the context always shift, but what drives him never does — no matter how much is at stake.
"When I was a young kid, I never thought about the playoffs or winning a Super Bowl," Miller said. "I just wanted to play the game that I love. It's no different now. ... I went to Texas A&M, and we went to two bowls in four years, and I still loved playing the game. High school, we didn't win anything, and I still loved playing the game. It's no different. It doesn't matter what level we're at."
So even though the Broncos were eliminated from the playoff hunt in Week 15, Miller's not approaching the final two games with any diminished fervor. And neither are his teammates.
"Obviously, the situation is a little bit different," Case Keenum said. "But we still have the same goal every week, to go out and win the football game. No matter who we're playing, where we're playing — no matter what's quote-unquote 'on the line.' For me, in my head and in these guys' heads, everything is on the line.
"We want to win."
These final two games are not to be dismissed. Just because there are no playoff implications doesn't mean there aren't any implications at all.
"We've still got two big games," Miller said. "[OLB Bradley] Chubb is only three sacks away from breaking the rookie sack record, and I'm going to do everything I can in my ability to make sure that happens for him. I'm sure that other guys feel the same about me. We feel the same about everybody out there.
"We've still got a lot to play for. It's prime-time football games and going against a Chargers team with an opportunity to end the year with a 4-2 divisional record. There's a lot out there. The playoffs are everything, and winning the Super Bowl is everything, but where we are right now, there's still a lot of stuff for us to play for."
For these two leaders, this game and the one that follows will also be about heart.
"It doesn't even have to be 'Monday Night Football,'" Miller said. "It can be a regular football game. We've got an opportunity to play a football game in the National Football League, and it's a dream come true. If you don't feel like that, we're in the wrong place and we've got the wrong job."
This time can also be the foundation for future growth at both the individual and team level. For many players, success in the next season can begin now if they put down the building blocks and string together winning performances.
"I think you can look at it that way," Keenum said. "Obviously, with postseason being out of the picture, I think this is great opportunity with a lot of young guys to really build on what we've already built here, to continue to lay the foundation and really get some momentum going for the off season and for next season, for sure."