DENVER - The man, the myth, the mouth is coming back to Colorado.

Philip Rivers owns land here, right off Interstate 25 and Colfax. He calls it Sports Authority Field.

Beating the Broncos is Phil's fave.

It's worth noting, however, before Rivers brings the bolting Chargers to play the Broncos in an all-AFC West, all-the-time, all-or-nothing playoff game on Sunday:

Rivers is not the problem for the Broncos.

Mike McCoy is.

Coaching matters. Familiarity matters more. Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense is Denver's meal ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Outside of the office shared by Manning and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, no one is more familiar with their offense than McCoy. He helped build it.

Gase's office is McCoy's old office. From 2009-12, which includes Manning's first season with the Broncos, McCoy was the offensive coordinator for the Broncos.

McCoy helped design the offense McCoy and Manning fine-tuned into a Gulfstream jet.

There's a rumor running around Colorado, like a little Danny Woodhead, that suggests Rivers was the reason San Diego upset the Broncos 27-20 three weeks ago.

Fun story, but it's false. McCoy did.

Rivers threw for 166 yards, his fewest in a game this season. The Chargers beat the Broncos, in large part, by shutting down their offense. At times it looked as if McCoy knew their offensive plays as well as they did.

The Broncos set an NFL record by scoring 606 points, an average of 37.9. In two games against the Chargers and McCoy's game plan, they averaged 24.

This theory's not for nothing.

Only one team this season was better than the Broncos in third-down conversions. In the loss to the Chargers, the Broncos were 2 for 9 on third down.

One of these does not look like other: 35, 51, 20, 37, 34. Those are the points scored by the Broncos over the final five games of the regular season. The Chargers held them to 20. In two games against McCoy's game plan, the Broncos averaged 24 points, two touchdowns below their average.

Given a choice, Gase is the best choice to coordinate this Broncos' offense. He wants to play fast, faster, fastest, and so does Manning. Broncos fans will take the play-calling of Gase over that of McCoy, and twice on Sundays.

But there's also a reason only two teams held the Broncos to 28 points or fewer, and both are from the AFC West (Chiefs, Chargers). The Chargers did it twice.


"This is the first time in four years we haven't worked together," Gase said prior to their first meeting, a 28-20 Broncos win, in November.

That's long enough to know an opponent as well as it knows itself.

The Chargers aren't as good as the Broncos. But they present the toughest obstacle in the AFC on the Broncos' road to a Super Bowl. Not because Rivers is 10-4 against the Broncos, or because he was 4-1 against Manning's Colts.

It's because of the Chargers' coach. He's the real McCoy, and he's the real problem.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette