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The Chargers' Manning kryptonite

San Diego is uniquely suited to stopping Denver's Super Bowl dream

Updated: January 7, 2014, 9:10 PM ET
By Field Yates | ESPN Insider

To both oversimplify the situation and steal a cliché, the best way to beat Peyton Manning is to keep him off the field.

His 2013 regular season was nothing short of magnificent -- transcendent, even -- which is why some believe that Manning is under as much pressure as any other player this postseason to secure his second Super Bowl win.

He took his first step by earning a first-round bye through a 13-3 regular season. He can take his second step on Sunday afternoon by beating a team that in December beat the Broncos on their home turf for their only defeat at Sports Authority Field at Mile High all season.

In the opening round of the playoffs, the San Diego Chargers capitalized on yet another uninspiring postseason effort by Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, clipping Cincinnati in the wild-card round, a game they sneaked into with a wild series of events during the closing moments of Week 17.

Beating the Bengals is one thing, but toppling Peyton twice in one month -- something the Chargers can do with a win this weekend -- would qualify as a major upset.

And while the Chargers are the AFC's lowest seed and tied the Packers for the most losses among playoff teams this regular season, they just might have the blueprint to beat Denver again.

How to do it? Keep Peyton Manning off the field. What will it take? Let's examine.


A closer look at regular-season matchups

The Chargers played Denver close in two regular-season matchups, digging their way out of a 22-point third-quarter deficit to make their first game a one-score affair by early in the fourth quarter.

In their second matchup, they neutralized Denver's passing attack, holding the Broncos to 20 points, their lowest output of the season.

The common denominator in those meetings? Holding the Broncos to fewer than 22 minutes' worth of possession. Those were, by far, the lowest time-of-possession outings for the Broncos this season. The latter matchup was a dominant effort, as it was paired with outstanding San Diego defense.

"We didn't play well, didn't stay on the field, didn't have the ball much, and, when we did, we didn't do much with it," Manning said after the second game.


How to sustain possessions

The Chargers led the NFL in average time of possession this season at nearly 33 minutes per game, and it wasn't by mistake.

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