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Upon Further Review: Broncos-Chargers

The play that effectively sealed the Broncos' fourth consecutive AFC West title was one of many examples of a defensive game plan that kept the Chargers off-balance from start to finish.

And it was all about cornerback Aqib Talib watching Philip Rivers and suckering the Pro Bowl quarterback into a throw to wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who ran a route that is usually the Bolts' most reliable tool, but in this case was their undoing: the dig.

"We just know Rivers loves to throw digs," said Chris Harris Jr. "He threw me a dig the first game and he came back and threw Talib a dig so that was great film study by him.

"We just know what he likes and we took that away."

The coverages changed, but the emphasis remained the same: get pressure with the front four, take away the intermediate routes that Rivers relies upon, and force him into checkdowns to his running backs.

Those backs accounted for four of the Chargers' seven longest pass plays, all of which covered between 16 and 20 yards.

"[Rivers] found a running back leaking a lot. That was our game plan, man: to play press and challenge the receivers," Harris said. "Talib locked down Floyd and I locked down Keenan Allen, and that was the goal."

And with a 19-10 lead and under five minutes remaining, the Broncos knew Rivers couldn't settle for the checkdowns anymore -- and baited Rivers into the throw. He glanced to his right and kept his gaze focused on that side. Talib gave Floyd space, and then anticipated the throw.

"I looked at Philip the whole time," said Talib. "He probably thought we were in man (coverage), but we [were] not."

"I was just undercut [the route] and it really was (Defensive Coordinator) Jack (Del Rio). It really was Jack. He called a great call."

Del Rio's game plan had a similar goal as in recent weeks: limit explosive plays. Although the Dolphins gashed the Broncos on the ground in Week 12, they never had a play covering 25 or more yards. The same was the case for the Chiefs in Week 13 and the Chargers last Sunday.

The Bills' 35-yard pass from Kyle Orton to Sammy Watkins in the third quarter of the Dec. 7 game is the only gain of longer than 26 yards the Broncos have allowed in the last four games -- which came on the heels of allowing three gains of that magnitude in the 22-7 loss at St. Louis.

In Weeks 1-11, the Broncos allowed an average of 1.8 25-plus gains per game. In Weeks 12-15, the pace slowed to 0.25 per game.

And as with its offense, Denver's defense has demonstrated that it can win in multiple ways, with an array of coverages and different levels of pressure -- a valuable asset considering that it now confronts life without both Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall until the latter's foot sprain heals.

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