The idea of a “letdown” comes with every big victory in Broncos Country. It is not a new notion, but one that the players in the NFL denounce each time it is brought up. The Denver Broncos are coming off of an enormous team victory over the previously undefeated New England Patriots and the “letdown” theory is reemerging, in part because the last big win versus the Green Bay Packers was followed by the team’s only two losses this season.

“Some things went wrong in those games that we lost. We don’t think about a letdown. We just try to keep momentum rolling. We don’t think about it at all,” Derek Wolfe said Friday.

The “letdown” theory not only needs a big win in the previous week but an underperforming opponent the following week. The Broncos have that in their divisional rival, the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers sit at 3-8 and at the bottom of the AFC West, but all of their losses except two have been by eight points or less. Head coach Gary Kubiak certainly is not playing into the idea that the Chargers are a team to take lightly.

“What I’ve seen is that they’re playing, they’re playing well, they’ve been in every game and at the end of the game, some things have happened to their team,” Kubiak said Thursday. “Every week we worry about what we do. It’s like last week; we were playing New England and they had the No. 2 ranked rush defense in football. Well, we still have to find a way to run the ball. It’s about us. This week is no different. We’re going to have to play well to win and we know that.”

Offensively, the Broncos have a clear edge versus the Chargers. San Diego’s defense ranks 24th in yards allowed per game (377.6), 30th in points per game (27.9), tied for 22nd in passing yards per game (253.9) and 26th in rush yards per game (123.7). The Broncos balanced offensive attack from the past two weeks should be able to find success early against a Chargers defense that has only come up with 10 takeaways and seems to have no real strength from top to bottom. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison doesn’t see it that way.

“They play hard, I know that. They play really hard. You see they’ve got good speed, and they can bring a lot of different pressures. That’s our biggest challenge and our biggest concern,” Dennison said Thursday. “I don’t pay much into statistics. When the film goes on, I see them scrambling and making plays. We’ve got a challenge like every other week.”

The Broncos have stuck with the run the last two weeks despite some slow starts. It allowed the Broncos to keep defenses on the field and set up the pass on play-action. The Broncos are not looking so much to who they are playing this week but what they can do internally to keep up the recent success. Facing a Chargers offense that ranks second in passing yards per game (308.7), they may encounter an opportunity to get in a shootout. Emmanuel Sanders thinks that staying the course is the smarter decision.

“We don’t have to keep up with their passing game. We just have to be us. We have an identity and it is to run the football and make plays when it is necessary. We aren’t going in there saying we have to out-pass these guys but one thing we have to do is out score them. We have to play our game which is run the football and play-action so we are going to stay true to that,” he said Friday.

The Broncos offense has recovered from a slow start to the season and now sit near the middle in rush and pass yards per game. While averaging 102.1 rush yards (17th) and 244 pass yards (18th), the Broncos can pick the best matchups each week to suit their opponents. C.J. Anderson, the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, hopes they continue to keep opponents off balance, but also understands that things change on game day.

“We want to keep them on the field, keep wearing them down. We want to continue to run the ball successfully and do what we do best, but who knows. This week Brock [Osweiler] could go out there and throw for 500 yards. You just never know what type of game it could be.”

The defense will have the biggest challenge Sunday as they face Phillips Rivers, who is quietly having another fantastic season. The Chargers average 390.5 yards per game and are in the top 10 in third down percentage (43.7 percent) and red zone touchdown percentage (61.8 percent). The offense’s success is certainly something to fear and is a reason that Danny Trevathan and Company will not be taking them lightly.

“We are not focusing on their record or who they have played; we are focusing on our next game being our best game and most important game,” Trevathan said Friday.

The Chargers clear weakness would appear to be their running game as they average just 81.7 yards per contest. Rivers and the Chargers average 42 pass attempts to 23.8 runs per game. Brandon Marshall believes that they simply prefer to pass and it just means they need to focus their efforts on specific strengths of the Chargers offense.

“When you look at it they have almost been a one-dimensional offense all year,” Marshall said Friday. “Chargers, you can shut down the run but they want to throw the ball. We just have to be on point in the passing game.”

The Broncos defense has been phenomenal at containing wide receivers this season while allowing tight ends and running backs to make bigger impacts in the game. The Chargers do just that. Running back Danny Woodhead is the Chargers second leading receiver on the team and tight end Antonio Gates remains the Chargers biggest red zone target.

“He is still Antonio Gates so our job is to stop him and they are also getting the ball to the running back a lot. Whatever we have to do, we have to get it done to get the win.” Trevathan said of Rivers’ biggest weapons, “I’ll be heavily involved in guarding both of them, so it will be my job to minimize them as much as I can.”

The Broncos outlook for Sunday is great and Las Vegas has the visitors as 3.5 point favorites. The “letdown” theory among fans is certainly peaking, but Chris Harris Jr. put immense importance on Sunday’s game against a team with a losing record.

“We’re just focused on getting [win] No. 10. We’re not worried about any other teams or what anybody else is doing. We’re just focused on this game. Like I said, we treat division games like championship games. That’s the approach that we’re taking.”

The Broncos have won six of the last seven contest versus the Chargers, but they have all been by two scores or less. The parity of the NFL, not mental lapses, are what Broncos players attribute to what appears to fans as “letdown” losses. On paper and in the standings the Chargers game looks like a cakewalk for the Broncos, but the locker room is focused on personal execution while expecting another tough game when they head to San Diego for the two teams’ 111th meeting.

“When you go out there and play, anything can happen on that Sunday. They could come out there and play the best game of their lives against us this Sunday. We just have to focus on what you can do and our execution and if we play our ‘A’ game we should be fine,” Anderson said. “Their record says one thing but since I’ve been here there has never been a game when it was a blowout. It is always down to the wire. That is the type of game we are expecting Sunday.”

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