ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Defensive end Shaun Phillips is the Broncos' team leader in sacks with 10 of them for 77.5 yards lost. He's registered 13 quarterback hits, defensed five passes and forced a pair of fumbles this season.
He's become a leader on the Denver defensive line.
But a year ago he was a Charger, and Sunday his path will cross with San Diego's for the third time this season. Only this time the stakes are much higher.
"For me, it doesn't matter what team it is," Phillips said. "It just happens that it's the Chargers on the schedule. But of course I'm excited – it's your old team. You always want to play against them. And they're playing good football right now, so it's going to be a great challenge for us and it's going to be a great challenge for them."
In the first meeting between the two teams this season – Phillips' return to San Diego – the Broncos won 28-20 and Phillips sacked his old teammate, quarterback Philip Rivers.
When the two teams met again in Week 15, Phillips again sacked Rivers, one of his two tackles on the night. Phillips is looking forward to continuing that streak Sunday against a player that he has been competing with since before they both entered the NFL in 2004.
"We go back from the Senior Bowl, we used to jaw at each other, to me beating him at dominoes," Phillips said. "He's just a competitor and he hates to lose. And that is good. That is what makes him a really good quarterback. But we also have a bunch of guys on defense that hate to lose, as well. So that is why it's going to be a fun challenge for both sides of the ball."
Phillips was drafted in 2004 by the Chargers and played the first nine years of his career as a division rival of the Broncos. In the offseason before the 2013 season, Phillips signed with the Broncos with fellow Chargers Louis Vasquez and Quentin Jammer.
Sunday he'll line up across from the Chargers again, something that he said is a motivating factor for him – evidenced by his two sacks of Rivers this year.
"Yeah, it's definitely a chip on my shoulder," he said. "I think I've had good games both times we played them. I always want to play well every game. Again, for me, it's no hard feelings because they're a great organization. They brought me in, they drafted me and they treated me well. So I'm not saying anything negative at all.
"But of course, anytime you play against your old team, you always have a little chip on your shoulder, a little extra edge to get after them. And that is what's going to happen."