Sunday in Cincinnati will be the first postseason game for the vast majority of Chargers players. Only 13 have been in the playoffs in their careers, with just six (
Still, that doesn’t mean the entire Chargers team is unfamiliar with playoff football.
Since falling to 5-7 after Week 13’s loss to the Bengals, the Chargers have been playing the equivalent of playoff football. It’s been do-or-die for the entire last quarter of the season, so being in an “all or nothing” situation carries a strong sense of familiarity for the team.
“It’s been that way for a month now,” said
Having to win four in a row and five of six in order to qualify, the Chargers are on a hot streak. While recently teams who have finished the season strong have gone on to win the Super Bowl, the Bolts are facing a Bengals team that has also been riding high down the home stretch.
“You want to go in winning games,” said Head Coach Mike McCoy. “That’s what we’ve done. That’s the exact same thing that Cincinnati has done. They’ve finished strong. They’ve won five of six entering the playoffs. It’s going to be two good teams playing each other.”
While the Chargers had to win out in order to qualify for the playoffs, many other teams had a greater margin for error. But now everyone is in the same boat and McCoy said his team’s mindset will remain exactly how it has been.
“You’re going to do whatever you can to win,” he said. “It’s all or nothing this weekend. That’s the mindset of 12 teams right now. It’s all or nothing so everyone has to go in there and understand the importance of every little play. That’s got to be your mindset. That’s something that we talked about the entire year. It’s one week at a time and let everything else take care of itself. We did a great job the last month of the season. We’ve been on a playoff run for the last month to be honest with you. We were 5-7 and no one gave us a chance. We said take care of the next opponent and see what happens. It’s going to be the same thing this week.”
Philip Rivers agreed with his head coach in that the intensity picks up, but it’s something the Bolts are used to.
“There’s no denying the energy and excitement level goes to another notch,” he said. “Other than that, I think it’s only different if you make it different. Everybody’s used to flooring it a little more. From our standpoint we’ve been in playoff mode now for a month. We were, in our minds, in playoff mode against Cincinnati here, but we let that one get away and you go to 5-7 and then you know for certain that you can’t lose again or you’re out… So we’ve kind of been in that playoff mode for a few weeks. It’s important for us not to change anything as far as how we approach this game. If we win, we’ll move on and if not, we’re done. That’s kind of what it’s been like, at least from my standpoint, for the last few weeks.”