Philip Rivers is the straw that stirs the Chargers drink, putting together his best statistical seasons among his 10 in the NFL. He completed a team-record, career-best and NFL-leading 69.5% of his passes for 4,478 yards (third-highest of his career) with 32 touchdowns (second-most of his career) and just 11 interceptions. When it was all said and done, he posted a career-best and team record-tying passer rating of 105.5 to earn his fifth trip to the Pro Bowl. Rivers parlayed a strong regular season into a terrific first round outing, completing 12 of 16 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown for a 118.8 passer rating. Look for Rivers’ air dominance to be balanced out by a strong rushing attack comprised of Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown.
On Offense for the Broncos
Denver possesses one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history (if not the most) behind the strength of one of the all-time greats, Peyton Manning. The Broncos quarterback set the NFL’s single-season passing-yard record with 5,477 yards and finished the regular season with 55 touchdown passes, also the most in a season in NFL history. With 491 touchdown passes and 5,532 completions, Manning now trails only Brett Favre (508 TDs; 6,300 completions; 71,838 yards) in the three major career passing categories. The Broncos have a bevy of dangerous weapons, including wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, as well as tight end Julius Thomas and running backs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball.
On Defense for the Chargers
The Chargers played some of their best football of the season on defense down the stretch, recording 10 total takeaways in the last six regular season games. They kept that going with four against the Bengals, including interceptions by Shareece Wright and Melvin Ingram, a forced fumble by Donald Butler and a fumble recovery by Jahleel Addae. The leader of the defense is Eric Weddle, who was just named to his second Pro Bowl. Weddle had an outstanding all-around season, topping 100 tackles to lead the team for the second year in a row, while eclipsing the century mark for the third time in seven professional seasons. He tied for the team lead with two interceptions during the regular season and he was second on the squad with 10 passes defensed.
On Defense for the Broncos
The Broncos possess an active defense, and were led by linebacker Danny Trevathan with 128 tackles. Former Charger Shaun Phillips led the team with 10.0 sacks, while Malik Jackson had 6.0 and Robert Ayers 5.5. In the turnover department, Trevathan, Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie and Chris Harris each had three interceptions for nine of Denver’s 17 picks on the year while they also forced 16 fumbles.
The Chargers and Broncos have met 108 times in the past, but this is the first ever playoff game between the two teams. Denver leads the all-time series 58-49-1, but the Bolts won the last game 27-20 in Week 15.
By the Numbers
In 2013, the Chargers ranked fifth in total offense (393.3 yards per game), fourth in passing (270.5 ypg), 13th in rushing (122.8 ypg) and 12th in points (24.8). The Broncos rank first in total offense (457.3 ypg), first in passing (340.2ypg), 15th in rushing (117.1 ypg) and first in points (37.9).
Defensively, the Bolts ranked 23rd in total defense (366.5 ypg), 29th in passing (258.7 ypg), 12th in rushing (107.8 ypg) and 11th in points allowed (21.8). Denver ranks 19th in total defense (356.0 ypg), 27th in passing (254.4 ypg), seventh in rushing (101.6 ypg) and 22nd in points allowed (24.9).
Accolades from the 2013 Season
Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle have both been selected for the 2014 Pro Bowl to be played Jan. 26, 2014 at Hawaii’s Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. It’s the fifth-career Pro Bowl appointment for Rivers and the second for Weddle.
Twice this season, Philip Rivers has been named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. He earned his first award of 2013 in Week 2 after leading the Chargers to a 33-30 come-from-behind victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia. He then won it again after leading the Chargers to a 30-21 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 29. He passed for 401 yards and completed 35 of 42 (83.3 percent) in helping the Chargers rally from a 21-10 deficit for the win.
Keenan Allen is a rou4-time winner of the Pepsi Next NFL Rookie of the Week Award. He earned his first in Week 6 with a 107-yard effort on Monday Night Football against the Indianapolis Colts when he scored the game’s lone touchdown. Allen won it a second time following a Week 12 win at Kansas City, contributing game-highs in both receptions (nine) and yards (124). His third award came following the Week 15 victory over the Denver Broncos when he caught two touchdowns. Finally, the earned his fourth award in helping the Bolts reach the postseason in a Week 17 win over the Chiefs.
D.J. Fluker earned his first NFL Award on Oct. 25 when he was named Pepsi Next NFL Rookie of the Week for Week 7. When the Chargers found themselves down to five healthy offensive linemen at Jacksonville, Fluker shifted from right to left tackle after the Chargers lost both of their left tackles due to injury. Fluker hadn’t played left tackle since he was in high school but he handled the move seamlessly as the Chargers did not allow a sack with him protecting Philip Rivers’ blind side and he helped the team’s backs rush for a then season-high 158 yards.
Nick Novak twice took home the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Award. The first came after the Chargers’ 19-9 win when Novak scored 13 of the Chargers 19 points, connecting on four field goals against the Colts. That included a 50-yarder with 1:55 left in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory. Novak earned his second award after the Bolts’ Dec. 22 win over the Oakland Raiders in which he hit 4-of-4 field goals, including a 48-yarder late in the third quarter.
From the First Two Meetings
In the two games against the Broncos this season, Rivers combined to complete 31 of 49 (.633) for 384 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 107.9 rating.
Keenan Allen caught six passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns vs. Denver.
Ryan Mathews ran for a then season-high 127 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 29 carries in a Week 15 win.
The Bolts defense held the Broncos to their two lowest yardage outputs of the year.