Derek Wolfe, on Chargers’ quarterback Rivers: ‘He’s always complaining, but he’s a leader’

Nov 10, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) is hit as he releases the ball by Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) during the first half at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As the Denver Broncos got back to the practice field at the UC Health Training Center on Monday, defensive end Derek Wolfe took to the podium to address the struggling team’s situation — and how they’ll look to remedy that against the rival Chargers on Sunday.

“I think we’re getting back to our roots—doing what we do, instead of anticipating what they’re going to do. We make them anticipate us,” Wolfe said. The Broncos, offensively and defensively, have been oddly reactive this season instead of proactive — the league’s best team dictate the pace of the game to their opposition. “[Chargers running back] Melvin Gordon is definitely one of the best backs in the league — we’ve got to stop him. If we stop him and make them one-dimensional, then you’ve got to beat [quarterback] Philip Rivers. It’s definitely going to be one of those games where if we shut that run game down and start getting after the passer, we’ve got a good chance of winning.”

Wolfe feels that the Broncos have too much talent to be where they are, and believes the team has improved. On Monday, he suggested that the Broncos were closer to success than their record makes them look. “I think it’s those one or two plays a game that we usually make that we haven’t been making,” Wolfe said. Indeed, the Broncos have lost three games to theRams and the division-rival Chiefs — two of the league’s elite teams — and played both of them to surprisingly close finishes. “We’re losing a ton of close games. That shows you that we’re a lot better team than we were last year. It’s just one of those things where the ball doesn’t roll our way sometimes. We’re losing by two or three points — dumb penalties, dumb mistakes… just things that we need to get cleaned up. Us leaders need to step it up.”

For Wolfe and the Broncos’ defense, ‘stepping it up’ means finding a way to stop Rivers, a longtime thorn in Denver’s side. “He’s a great competitor,” Wolfe said, of Rivers. “Any time you get to play against that guy, it makes you better, because you have to be on top of your game. It’s always a fun game.”

Rivers, of course, is a renowned talker on the field; his fiery demeanor can be either endearing — or annoying — depending on which sideline you’re on. Wolfe, no stranger to fiery play himself, knows that it’s better not to engage in a war of words with the wily, 36-year-old veteran. “I try not to. I try not to talk to anybody out there, but sometimes you just can’t help it,” Wolfe said. “…He’s always complaining, but he’s a leader. He’s out there just trying to get the calls his way — trying to get pass interference calls, trying to get roughing-the-passer calls. He’s always trying to get you offsides. He’s a great competitor, so you’ve got to be on top of your game when you play him.”

But following a long bye that’s made the Broncos even hungrier for a win after losing six of their last seven, Wolfe is raring to go. “It feels like forever since we’ve won a game. I don’t care who it is, I just want to win. I just want to win next week and take it one game — one play, one series — take it one game at a time.”