Tale Of The Tape: San Diego Chargers At Denver Broncos
- QuarterbackThe Chargers outplayed and outschemed the Cincinnati Bengals in their wild-card victory. Philip Rivers threw just 16 passes in the win, but the Chargers took advantage of Cincinnati turnovers to advance. Rivers is an accurate passer who can buy time and wait for his receivers to break open. He completed 69.5 percent of his passes and had a 32-11 TD-interception ratio.The Broncos have the most prolific offense in the game and Peyton Manning is coming off a record-setting season in which he threw 55 TD passes. Despite his overwhelming success, the heat is on Manning because the Broncos lost in the divisional playoffs last year and he has only won one Super Bowl ring.
- OffenseThe Chargers need to get a solid contribution from Ryan Mathews if they are going to keep the ball away from Manning and the Denver offense. Mathews ran for 1,255 yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry this season. Keenan Allen caught 71 passes during the regular season and can make game-changing plays while tight end Antonio Gates caught a team-high 77 passes.The Broncos scored an NFL record 606 points and are capable of stringing touchdowns together and blowing open any close game. Knowshon Moreno is a solid back who ran for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas caught 92-1, 430-14 this year and 66 of his catches went for first downs. Eric Decker and Wes Welker are versatile threats who combined for 21 TD catches.
- DefenseThe Chargers are not the most impressive defense from a statistical perspective as they ranked 23rd in yards allowed, yet their defense played a key role in their wild-card victory over the Bengals as they blanked Cincinnati 20-0 in the second half. Safety Eric Weddle had a team-high 115 tackles and 10 passes defensed. Corey Liuget had 5.5 sacks during the regular season.The Broncos are vulnerable on defense and Rivers may be able to pick apart the Denver secondary, which ranked 26th against the pass. Linebacker Danny Trevathan had an excellent season, as he led the team with 128 tackles and he also had 13 passes defensed. Defensive end Shaun Phillips led the team with 10.0 sacks, while strong safety Duke Ihenacho is one of the hardest hitters in the league.
- Special TeamsThe Chargers have been solid in their punt and kickoff coverage all season, and Danny Woodhead is capable of producing big plays with his quickness and change-of-direction. Placekicker Nick Novak made 34-of-37 FG attempts this year and Mike Scifres dropped 30 of 61 punts inside the 20.The Broncos have a game-changing returner in Trindon Holliday, who returned both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown. However, their coverage teams have been vulnerable to big returns this season. Matt Prater made 25-of-26 FG attempts and has overpowering leg strength.
The Chargers turned their season around when they beat the Broncos in Denver in Week 13. They will not sneak up on Manning & Co. Look for the Broncos to start the game in an explosive manner and put the Chargers on their heels. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor