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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Broncos

Posted Jan 10, 2014

Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos.

Here are five keys to the game heading into this week’s Divisional Round playoff game between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos:

1. Pressure Peyton– The Bolts have had success against the Broncos this season because they have done a strong job of getting him off his mark.  Thinking back to the Week 15 win, there are two plays that come to mind.  One is a 3rd-and-short with the Broncos backed up near their own goal line.  Corey Liuget penetrated two offensive linemen, causing Manning to roll away where a blitzing Marcus Gilchrist was waiting for him.  Then, in the fourth quarter, Liuget hit Manning’s arm as he delivered the ball, causing it to pop in the air into the waiting arms of a sliding Thomas Keiser.  The Chargers know if you give Peyton time to pass he will likely carve you up, so as Melvin Ingram said, they need to get pressure on him:

“I feel like it’s very important. It’s very important because I feel like when he has time to sit back there and just stand in the pocket, it’s just like pass “skelly” (Pass Skeleton). And he’s one of the best to do it, so you’ve got to get him out of his comfort zone.”

 

2. Start Fast and Be Resilient–If forced to name an area the Bolts must improve upon during their recent winning streak, one area that comes to mind is the team starting off slow.  In their last four wins, the team got behind early and needed to rally with a strong performance to gut out the win.  It first occurred when they went down 7-0 after the Broncos’ first possession four weeks ago.  Against the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals, they were either tied or trailing at halftime, so a quick start would be a welcomed change of pace.  But if they fall behind again, the team will need to show their resiliency once again, which they’ve proven capable of doing. Overall, Ronnie Brown says the team can’t let the moment get too big for them:

“I think the biggest thing is that it’s still a football game at the end of the day. Don’t put any added pressure on yourself just because it is the playoffs. You approach it the same way and keep your same weekly routine. I think as long as you do that and don’t let your mentality change, knowing that when you get in the game it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be a lot of excitement for the game and the fans and everything, just stay within yourself and don’t get outside of yourself and think too much and let the game become bigger than what it is.”

3.  Limit the Big Plays – As noted on Thursday, the Broncos field an offense loaded with playmakers.  Denver notched an NFL record 606 points with an NFL record five players – Demaryius Thomas (14), Knowshon Moreno (133), Julius Thomas (12), Eric Decker (11), Wes Welker (10) - reaching double figures.  With Manning flinging the ball around, they are capable of a quick strike at a moment’s notice.  Thus,  Jarret Johnson knows they need to hammer the home run hitters and not let them convert many chunk plays:

“Obviously, they’re built around big plays.  They’re built around wearing you down, getting you to make a mistake and throwing it over your head, or hitting you with a screen. Their personnel, they have five homerun hitters on their offense. So it’s a huge task, but it’s kind of fun

 

4. End Drives with Touchdowns – Playing against arguably the greatest offense in NFL history, the Bolts offense will need to end drives with seven points, not just three.  In the first meeting which was a loss, the Chargers got into the red zone twice quickly but settled for field goals.  As a result, the score was 28-6 before they mounted a comeback that fell just short.  In the second meeting in which they came out victorious, the Chargers finished their drives with touchdowns at an efficient clip.  Two of those scores went to Keenan Allen while the third was on a Ryan Mathews run.  That offensive performance is one of many reasons Philip Rivers says he has confidence facing Denver for a third time:

“I think that gives you confidence to know that we can win when you know you’ve done it only four weeks ago. I don’t think we’ll have any problem making sure everybody realizes that it’s not just going to happen again and realize how hard that was and how well we played on both sides of the ball and how we capitalized and got touchdowns in the red zone. All those things are the reasons we won. We didn’t just go in there and win. So it’s going to be hard. They’re a No. 1 seed for a reason.

 

5. Pound It Again– Another key stat from the win in Week 15 in Denver was the Chargers ability to run it effectively.  Ryan Mathews tied his career-high with 29 carries for 127 yards, leading a tremendous day on the ground for the Bolts who totaled 177 rushing yards.  San Diego is also fresh off their third best postseason performance in postseason history with 196 yards on the ground last week against the Bengals and is running it as well as they have all year.  Whether or not the Bolts go heavy on the run once again will depend on the flow of the game according to Head Coach Mike McCoy, who says the team will do whatever is necessary based on the opponent’s defense:

"I think you need to try and take advantage of what your opponent does. That is why you game plan. There are certain things you are going to try and take advantage of. There are going to be certain tendencies or coverage or certain fronts, whether it is a red area defense, third down scheme, first or second down scheme or how the play certain personnel groupings. That changes from week to week. Then coaches make adjustments all the time during the game. They might be doing something different. It is the playoffs. There may be a new wrinkle here or there, but you see that during the season also, where you have to adjust as coaches on the fly."

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