Back on the Field After 'Get Better Week'
Between the team's Week 17 win at Oakland and the club's AFC Divisional Round matchup versus San Diego this Sunday, the Broncos had the Wild Card Round off.
While some people called that a bye week, Head Coach John Fox said he liked to refer to that time as a "get-better week."
"You use it as a time to get some guys that have nicks – get them healed up," Fox said. "There are always things you can work on schematically. Maybe problematic areas or things you can improve on, as well as prepare for the opponent."
While the week off gave the players a chance to rest their bodies and minds, watching the Wild Card games served as motivation to make sure those were the only playoff games they would be watching on television.
"Sitting there watching these teams play really makes you realize that you don't want to be there the next few weeks watching the teams play," defensive end Malik Jackson said, acknowledging that the rest was still helpful. "It kind of let us rejuvenate our bodies and our minds and now we're ready to go out to get these one-week seasons going."
Win or Go Home
Now that the page has turned from the regular season to the playoffs, each game could be the last for the eight teams that remain.
Even though it's the postseason, the players are approaching it the same way they have all season, because that's what has gotten them to this point.
"That's why it is just like another week in that respect. I mean, we've been playing hard all season. Every game has been big to us," tight end Jacob Tamme said. "I think everyone understands what is at stake. We've been playing that way all year. Guys are ready to go. Guys are going to prepare hard all week, go out there and let it loose on Sunday."
Winning on Third Down
Sunday's game could come down to which team finds more success on third down.
The Chargers lead the league, converting on 49.03 percent of their third-down attempts. The Broncos were right behind them at 46.34 percent.
That success on third down is a major factor in why San Diego led the league in time of possession, averaging 32:59 with the ball this season.
"That's why you have all the sustained drives," Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy said. "That's critical in any game, to win the time of possession, and to nurture downs."
In the two games between Denver and San Diego this season, the Chargers held the ball for 67:52 compared to 43:08 for the Broncos.
"First down, they're getting three yards; second down, they're getting four yards, and they're giving themselves third-and-3, third-and-4, and it's manageable," said defensive tackle Terance Knighton. "When you've got somebody like (Antonio) Gates and (Danny) Woodhead, those guys are capable of getting three or four yards every play.
"So we've just got to limit (Ryan) Mathews on first and second down and not give them any cheap yards or anything like that, and force them into third-and-long. That's when it's easier to get after the quarterback."