Published: January 6, 2014
ENGLEWOOD - Forget the Ravens.
Remember the Chargers.
Kickoff in the Broncos' AFC divisional round game this weekend comes exactly a year after Jacoby Jones' 70-yard last-gasp touchdown catch sparked Baltimore's upset of Denver in double-overtime.
But the Broncos don't have to go all the way back to their playoff pratfall against Baltimore for inspiration when they host San Diego on Sunday.
The Broncos, again the AFC's top seed after another 13-3 regular season, can draw plenty of motivation from their latest slip-up a month ago, when the Chargers (10-7) handed them their only home loss of the season, 27-20.
"We beat the Ravens in the opener, so we checked that one off our list already," defensive end Malik Jackson said Monday. "Now, we need to check the Chargers off our list."
The Broncos were held to their lowest output of their record-breaking season by the Chargers on Dec. 12, when Peyton Manning spent most of his night stewing on the sideline. Some of his teammates acknowledged afterward that they had their minds more on the long weekend of R&R that followed than on fending off a good team scrapping for a playoff berth.
The Broncos have the bye-week advantage this time while the Chargers had to play over the wild-card weekend, upsetting Cincinnati on the road 27-10 Sunday.
"That rest, it really helped a lot," Jackson said. These two original AFL franchises have met 108 times, but never in the playoffs.
The Chargers held the Broncos to an average of 24 points in their two AFC West matchups, almost two touchdowns below their 37.9 average.
Denver won at San Diego in November by eight points when Demaryius Thomas scored three TDs, but the Broncos were without slot receiver Wes Welker for the rematch and sorely missed him on third down. Welker is back from a concussion.
Ryan Mathews (127 yards on 29 carries) became the only running back to top 100 yards against Denver all season.
Mathews has been bothered by a sore ankle and had just one carry after halftime against the Bengals. The Broncos also shored up their run defense by signing Jeremy Mincey, who was released by Jacksonville. Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, Denver's first-round draft pick, has also picked up his play.