Chargers take mojo, bolo to Denver

January 9 - The Sports Xchange

SAN DIEGO -- Few are giving the San Diego Chargers a chance on Sunday when they face the Denver Broncos in an AFC Divisional Playoff game.

Beating the Broncos at Denver is a tall task -- doing it twice in one month is taller.

So the Chargers, among the hottest teams still remaining, take their mojo and loose attitude a mile high, hoping to upend another rival.

"Well, we have been the underdog all year," Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. "I have been the underdog my whole life, so it is no different."

The undersized Weddle did make the Pro Bowl again, and he typifies this year's edition of the Chargers. Instead of the team focusing on what it couldn't do, it zeroed in on what it could: be smart in the passing game and be tough against the run. All the while, keeping the faith that the roster as a whole was better than its individual parts.

"We are out to continue to believe in ourselves," Weddle said, as the Chargers won their final four regular-season games to qualify for the playoffs, then knocked off the host Bengals in the opening round.

"The great thing about this team is the struggles and the ups and downs have really molded us into what we are right now, which is a confident belief in each other. We are going to stick by each other."

It's easy to see why as the Chargers, the sixth seed, must tame Denver's record-setting quarterback, Peyton Manning, and Denver's ghost of last year's playoffs when it was shocked by the Ravens in double overtime.

The doubters, though, to the Chargers are just like so much background noise.

"We really have a sense and a belief that we are us and we could care less what the outside thinks of us," Weddle said. "It's great to be a part of, because we know everyone is focused on each other and getting better and ultimately to play the best we can. When you are worried about the outside your play suffers and it clouds your mind a little bit."

The Chargers are riding on Cloud 9 after being given up for dead when falling to 5-7 behind a rookie head coach in Mike McCoy. The narrative had been cast that this was step one in a rebuilding process that would take time as the depleted roster was re-stocked.

Instead, the Chargers went from missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year to being four quarters shy of the AFC Championship Game.

"It has been a joy to be a part of this team and to see our growth," Weddle said. "We have an ultimate challenge this week, but we are excited for it."

On offense, the leader is veteran, head-strong quarterback Philip Rivers, never known as a fashion plate but still stirring a new trend with his usual attire -- a bolo tie and boots.

"We went to coat and tie this year for travel attire," said Rivers, an Alabama native. "It was always slacks and shirt as the minimum, and I was always just slacks and a shirt. So we had to go to a coat and a tie this year, so that was my way to not have a neck tie. It is a tie. It is officially a tie."

And if the Chargers win in Denver, the bolo may become the official tie for San Diego.

They will need to overcome a lot of doubt. Despite them winning in Denver last month, the Broncos, the AFC's top-seed, are a 10-point favorite.

Notes: Few believed outside linebacker Melvin Ingram's promise to return this season after he tore his ACL in a May workout. But there was Ingram on Sunday in Cincinnati making a key interception in a critical juncture in the game, his fifth since coming back. "It's very satisfying because you know you put the blood, sweat and tears in and when you get to go out and make a play to help the team move forward, it's always a blessing.". . . This time last year McCoy was directing the Broncos' offense. He appreciates the education he received working under Broncos coach John Fox and others on his staff. "A lot of what we do here, the way I kind of run things, I learned from John and the rest of the coaches I have been around," McCoy said. "I have coached a lot of great players and have been fortunate to work around some good players and good coaches. I am very close with some coaches on that staff. I am here because of them."

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