Denver took the first contest, a 28-20 victory in which San Diego made a late charge to pull within a score in the fourth quarter. The Chargers surprisingly took the second contest in Denver, 27-20, dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Now the Chargers face the daunting task of playing the Broncos a third time in one season, with a chance to play for an appearance in the Super Bowl on the line. Making the task more difficult, the Chargers face Peyton Manning on two weeks rest and plenty of time to game plan for his opponent.
"You have to do what you do best when you go out there," San Diego coach Mike McCoy said. "Every week, regardless of who it is, you’re going to put a few new wrinkles in there. And that’s all part of game planning. You’re more familiar with the opponent. You have a good idea what they’re going to do, but you have to adjust on the fly.”
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said with the endless amount of game tape and statistical information at their disposal, it’s important to not get bogged down with minutia.
“You can almost out think yourself or out plan,” Rivers said. “As a quarterback, I can out think myself, and you out think what they might do or did there, what they did on this situation or that.
“So I think it’s important just to plan like you always have, prepare like you always have, study the same and be prepared for something new. ...You prepare for a wrinkle, and the way you prepare for something new is just by saying that they’re going to throw something new at us. You can’t chase ghosts and start trying to dream up what they may do new.”
The Chargers can lean on the fact that they have had some success in the postseason against Manning. San Diego is 2-0 against Manning-led teams. The Chargers defeated the Indianapolis Colts 28-24 on their way to the AFC title game in 2007. A year later, San Diego beat the Colts in overtime, 23-17 in an AFC wild-card matchup.
The pressure is on Manning to put the finishing touches on a historic season by leading the Broncos to a Super Bowl win. Manning is 9-11 in the playoffs, and has been one-and-done eight times in the postseason, a NFL record in the Super Bowl era.
McCoy said his team is not focused on winning streaks, trends or facing a team a third time. McCoy just wants to win the game in front of him.
“It’s the next step,” McCoy said. “To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. And they’re the No. 1 seed. We are where we are at. And we know who they are, and what type of team they have. It’s going to be a tough test for us. We have to go out and play our best football game.”