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Monday, January 6, 2014
Broncos have to turn rest into ready

By Jeff Legwold

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The video, shot by the San Diego Chargers staff and posted on the team’s website, is less than a minute long, but it provides a tidy glimpse into what the Chargers will bring with them to Denver this weekend.

They will bring the usual assortment of football items, but they will also pack a hefty helping of the why-not factor. And what’s the why-not factor worth? It’s been worth plenty in recent years since the last three Super Bowl winners played on the wild-card weekend and upset at least one of the top two seeds in each conference on the way to the title.

But it’s there, in a jubilant Chargers locker room immediately following the team’s 27-10 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium, when Chargers head coach Mike McCoy addressed the team with this:

Mike McCoy
Mike McCoy is motivating his team by framing the postseason as "us against the world."
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, we knew that for sure ... There is 53 of us in here that believed and everybody else in the organization. It’s us against the world and that’s all we need men.’’

Ah, us against the world. Yes, the 11 years McCoy spent on Fox’s coaching staff has shown itself a bit there. McCoy has used plenty of things from his experiences with the Broncos and the Panthers as he pushed the Chargers into the playoffs in his first year as head coach, including practice schedules, meeting schedules to go with several other day-to-day items.

And while the us-against-the-world mantra certainly was used long before Fox was a football coach, it is a foundation principle for Fox, no matter where his team actually sits in the standings at any given moment. Fox is fond of walking through the Broncos’ complex offering “we’re under attack men,’’ in relation to all of the outside influences that peck away at whatever the plan is on the drawing board, including media, endorsements, media, distractions, media and the like.

Wilt Chamberlain said “nobody cheers for Goliath’’ and the Broncos will certainly have to wrestle with the Goliath side of the equation this week. McCoy will portray his team as the why-not-us upstart that has won its past five games, including Sunday and six of the past seven to get this far.

Fox has already warned the Broncos the Chargers are the hot team, offered a reminder or two about the Chargers’ victory in Denver Dec. 12, the second victory of the current San Diego win streak.

“They’ve been playing hungry. I think from our game on, it’s been playoff football for them,’’ said Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker. “They’ve been playing well as a team. For us, our biggest thing is we’ve got to match them physically. We’ve got to bring some energy. I think that is something we didn’t do last time around. But again, that is in the past. We’re focused on the present and really our matchup this weekend at home.’’

The question of rest versus momentum is weighed in each postseason and over the past eight years or so momentum is winning the battle more often than not. Six of the past eight Super Bowl winners played on the wild-card weekend. That means in six of those eight years, the top two seeds in each conference, the ones who said they wanted that week off to open the postseason, who got at least one home game, did not turn those luxuries into a Super Bowl win.

Some in the league simply believe it’s a factor of free agency and the salary cap, that the separation of talent between the 12 playoff teams is wafer-thin and that translates into lower seeds winning Super Bowls.

Or that having a quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning or Joe Flacco -- the Super Bowl winners of the past three years -- makes you a contender if you can do just enough along with him.

Either way, the last time a No. 6 seed came to Denver for a playoff game, the Pittsburgh Steelers used a first-half dissection of the Broncos’ defensive game plan to power them to a win on the way to a Super Bowl victory to close out the 2005 season. Cornerback Champ Bailey is the only current Broncos player who was on the field that day and has repeatedly talked of the importance of a good team playing like a good team when asked to explain that game.

And that is really the Broncos' task this week. To handle being the favorite and then simply playing like it when it’s time.