Jan 13, 2014 12:38 AM by Jordan Mason
DENVER BRONCOS HEAD COACH JOHN FOX
"Update on the injuries, Chris Harris [Jr.], cornerback did leave the game, did not return. We don't have any updates on that. That was our only and most significant injury."
On Harris Jr. going out hurting the defense
"Our defense has improved quite a bit over the last few weeks. That group out there is a very good offense-one of the better offenses in the league. Any time you lose a starter, you are going to have a couple struggles, and we did. All in all, I thought our defense played one of its better games."
On facing the New England Patriots next week in the AFC Championship Game
"Well, I think I'm just going to enjoy this one first. It hasn't sunk in. We'll dig into that tomorrow. We'll enjoy it tonight for what it is. We're very honored and pleased to be in that position."
On converting third downs and if he was more aggressive than he was last year in the playoffs
"I'm not going to bite on that one, other than I think you kind of adjust to your football team as you go. Our guys have proved to be pretty efficient. We knew it was going to be a big part of the game tonight-our third-down conversions both ways, defensively and offensively. It was a little bit of a bugaboo last time we met the Chargers. Time of possession also. First and second-down run attempts-I thought our offense ran the ball a lot better. We've got a good passing game, I think our regular season stats kind of proved that on the season. I think it showed a little bit tonight, even in some tough conditions."
On if there was any debate in passing versus running on third downs
"No really. We discuss, and we were pleased with the results."
On WR Eric Decker returning punts
"Just a little bit of a changeup. Their punter put a lot of air time on the ball in the first two meetings. We didn't get a lot of opportunities to get returns. Eric's a little bit of a rangier body, covers a little bit more ground. Just giving him the opportunity, and I think you saw some pluses in that tonight."
On how the defense has improved
"Playing the side of the football. It's just about doing your job and doing it under pressure. I think we've gotten better at that. We're going to have to get a lot better even moving forward."
On Manning leading two big third-down conversions last drive
"It's huge. In crunch time, that's what you needed to do. I think he's done that for a long time, and he did another superb job tonight."
On if he feels now that they've advanced to the AFC Championship game they've "exercised those demons" of last season
"I don't really understand that question. There's only one happy team at the end of all this and that's the one hoisting that Lombardi Trophy at the end. So yeah, I'm sure it feels better."
On if there was a strategy to have a balanced run and pass game
"I think that's the strategy every week. I think every offense in the league looks to have balance. You kind of adjust to what the defense does, kind of what they give you or take away. All in all, tonight I think we played well up front on both sides of the ball. We stopped the run much better than we did in some earlier meetings. I thought we ran the ball with more efficiency, especially our first-down percentage-we didn't have a lot of negative runs. That's a tribute to the payers executing."
On how WR Wes Welker did in his first game back
"Again, I haven't looked at the tape yet. But just looking at it I thought he did a good job. I'd like to say congrats to [San Diego Chargers Head Coach] Mike McCoy I think they had a great year. I thought they really fought hard tonight. It was a tough game, and that's what happens in playoff football. I'd like to thank our fans as well. I though our fans were superb. They definitely helped us all along the way. Thank you very much."
DENVER BRONCOS PLAYERS
QB PEYTON MANNING
On being more aggressive on third downs today
"We have worked situations all week. I feel like that game last year forced us to address those types of situations all season long. We've worked it in training camp, we've worked it in the season and Coach Fox has called for it in situations. He doesn't exactly tell you what the situation is going to be-offense vs. defense. So you're having to kind of play that game in practice. It was nice that all that hard work paid off for us in that situation. The third-and-15, certainly it was a no-brainer there what you had to do. It was really disappointing that we were even in that position. We had been so good on first and second down the entire game, and we had a penalty, had run for a negative loss, had an incompletion. Great play call by [Offensive Coordinator] Adam [Gase]. Really was a big-time play call. Got them in the right look and a good catch by [TE] Julius [Thomas]. The second one was another good route by Julius. I thought you saw that all game, Adam putting different guys in different positions. Certainly two huge third-down conversions, which were the difference in the ball game."
On playing the Patriots next week
"We're going to address that on Wednesday. This was a pretty intense game. [Chargers QB] Philip [Rivers] got hot there in the second half. I did not want to give him the ball back there at the end. There was some real want-to on our offense's part to stay on the field on that last series. We'll certainly talk about them plenty on Wednesday. But, we'll enjoy this one. You're supposed to enjoy these wins. They're hard to come by, and we'll start working on the Patriots tomorrow."
On whether there was pressure all year to win a playoff game
"I really think the team needs to be commended for even getting to this point. There are a lot of teams that had disappointing losses last year. Atlanta, Washington-everybody says in that locker room, ‘Let's get back next year.' It just doesn't happen - it's hard to get back. You have injuries, things happen. I talked to the team last night-I said you need to be commended for getting back to this point. We've been through more this year-it's hard to explain all the stuff we've been through, offseason and in-season. To get to this point, was really hard work and to win this game was really hard work. We are proud and happy to be at this point and we certainly want to keep it going."
On Julius Thomas' first-down catch on third-and-17 on the final drive
"Julius was huge all game. He's been huge all season. I think there's been a lot of changes since last year. We are much more experienced. We've been through a lot and have been in different situations. Those were two huge plays. I really loved Adam's aggressive calls. Julius and I have spent a lot of time working on those particular routes - after practice, in-practice. To me, that is one of the most rewarding parts of football. When you put that work in off to the side or after practice and it pays off in a game, it really makes it feel like it was worth it. Those two plays specifically were certainly worth the hard work."
On third-down conversions on the final drive
"Third-and-17, you know you're going to have to hold the ball a little bit longer just to give guys a chance to get down the field. It was the perfect call against the perfect coverage, which you may get one or two of those a game. It certainly came at a good time. Adam dialed it up, it was something we worked on and it was nice we were able to execute."
On if he felt the pocket was going to collapse on that third-and-long
"Well, like I said, third-and-17, the best way to convert those is don't get in them. So once you're in it you know you're going to have to hold the ball and somebody made a move where I had to move just a little bit and you don't want to take a sack at that point. It was good to get the ball out of my hands in time and certainly nice to see Julius catch it."
On not punting for most of the game and then having to punt late in the fourth quarter
"I've been in a playoff game where we didn't punt and it was a good thing that time because the other team didn't punt either. We were able to win because I think we won the coin toss, is the only reason we won the game. So, we left some plays out there, I would agree, on both sides of the ball. But hey, San Diego is a good football team. They fight, [QB] Philip [Rivers] is a battler and they've got a lot of pride over there. [San Diego Chargers Head Coach] Mike [McCoy] has done a heck of a job over there. We knew it was going to be a 60-minute game and sure, you'd like to score on that series before the half and score on that series of the second half-it didn't happen. You've got to put it behind you and move on and find a way to win the game. So to run five minutes off of the clock at the end of the game, that was big-time football there."
On if it's weighing on his mind that there is an ESPN report saying that his future will be decided by an exam on his neck in a few months
"It's really not. What's weighing on my mind is how soon I can get a Bud Light in my mouth (laughter). That's priority number one. It was an intense game and up and down and a lot of emotions. Even the Patriots is (too far) ahead. And that question is way far ahead. I am not there. This team has been a one-week-at-a-time season. For all we've been through-losing our coach, losing different guys to injury, that approach has served us well and I think we need to keep that approach from here on out."
On converting on first and second down today
"It was critical. We stressed all week being productive on first and second down. We did not do that last time we played San Diego and got into some third downs and didn't convert those. We were good on third down because we were good on first and second down. That was the point of emphasis all week, and we carried that from practice field to the playing field. It was good to see that pay off. A mix of some runs and some short passes to keep moving the chains. So it was a good job by the guys up front. I thought [RB] Montee [Ball] and [RB] Knowshon [Moreno] both ran really hard."
On if he felt this was a complete playoff game across all three phases
"Every playoff game just has its own identity. I know everybody else summarizes, but I just don't feel you can do it. I feel everyone has its own identity. This was a good team win. [WR Eric] Decker made a big punt return. [K Matt] Prater hit a field goal. The defense-the biggest difference early in the game was the defense was getting them off the field and we were staying on the field. So it was a good team win. That's what you have to have in the playoffs to beat good teams, and certainly what we'll have to have next week."
On the Chargers recovering the onside kick in the fourth quarter
"Obviously, you prefer to recover it. But you're watching the clock, and you're immediately going into a different situation. You're saying, 'If they get a touchdown here, we're up three and maybe it changes how they play defense. If they get a field goal here, we're up seven and these are the defenses that we are going to expect.' Adam (Gase) and I are talking, you're always talking situations and getting prepared, and I learned a long time ago the game is never over, not until that final second ticks off. You're constantly playing the game in your mind and going through situations."
On how it felt to win a playoff game as a Bronco
"It always feels good to get a win at this time of year. Everybody wants to keep playing. You saw two teams get eliminated today and two yesterday. All the hard work those teams put it in, it's disappointing when it comes to an end. When you win, it's certainly gratifying, and it makes you want to keep working hard during practice to get a win the following week."
On his career intersecting with New England QB Tom Brady again
"Tom Brady has just been an outstanding quarterback for such a long time, but the game next week is the Broncos versus the Patriots. I know there will be some individual matchups that will get headlines, but it will be a battle between two good teams. Teams that have been through a lot, that have overcome a lot to get to this point, and that's where my focus will be-trying to help the Broncos get a win against the Patriots."
On if he noticed WR Wes Welker's bigger helmet out there today
"I didn't even notice. Was he wearing a bigger helmet? I didn't notice. It was good to have Wes back. You always like to have all of your guys back. It was the first time since November that we've had Decker and [WR Demaryius] Thomas and Julius and Welker were on the field together. We've battled through some injuries, so it was good to have those guys back. Wes made some big catches, and he drew a big pass interference. He would have been open would he not interfered. Always good to have him back out there."
DE ROBERT AYERS
On trying not to think about being one win away from the Super Bowl
"Yeah, that's the reality of it. We're excited. We're looking forward to (the AFC Championship). It is going to be a big game for us. Everybody is going to have to bring their ‘A' game for us to get this win."
On where the team's motivation comes from
"It is just the playoffs. We want to win this. All the other stuff in the past doesn't really matter. We are here now. We are a good team and we want to be the best-that is what we are thriving for. We are trying to win this championship. We're one step closer. We're going to have a great team coming in here next week, a team that beat us. We want to keep moving on, so we have to bring our ‘A' game to get this win."
On talking to Chargers QB Philip Rivers during the game
"You love his passion in the game. It was just a little moment where he was getting passionate. It is what it is."
On saving some fight for New England Patriots QB Tom Brady
"We're going to have a lot for Brady. We're looking forward to it. He's going to bring his ‘A' game, we're going to bring ours. It's going to be a tough match."
On being motivated to beat a team that beat the Broncos this year
"We could have played any team, a high school team, whatever-we want to go to the next round. The motivation was not to beat the Chargers because they're our rival, the motivation was to go to the next round. There was some familiarity with those guys and they knew us, we knew them. Going against their offensive line, they know what we like to do and sometimes we know what they like to do. The familiarity was there, but the motivation wasn't because it was the Chargers or because they beat us or because we beat them or whatever. It was because we want to go to that next round."
On being motivated to beat the Patriots because they beat the Broncos in overtime
"That's not going to motivate me. I can't speak for anyone else. That's not going to motivate me at all. That's the last thing on my mind. We have to go out there and try to win. Regardless of what happened last time, if we don't bring our ‘A' game, we're going to lose. We're just going to focus on bringing our ‘A' game. We are going to enjoy this victory for the night and tomorrow we're going to start back preparing and that is what we are looking forward to, just getting another win and moving one step forward."
CB CHAMP BAILEY
On if he exhaled after the game
"Yeah, absolutely. We have been in a position like this before except this time we found a way to get it done, and on to the next opponent."
On having flashbacks to last year's playoff game against Baltimore
"It takes focus for four quarters. I mean until that clock says zero you don't have the win. They were still in striking distance, so we kept our foot on the petal."
On the defense getting better
"It is, but it's still a work in progress. I know one thing, we can't get complacent where we are, and we have to be a much better team because we have a much better quarterback and team coming in here next week."
On getting over a mental hurdle
"That's you guys talking, I don't listen much anyways. It is what it is, the next opponent is who we have to prepare for, we don't look past that or look back behind that, it's just what's in front of us and let's take care of that."
On playing the best in New England next week
"Yeah, it's an obvious reason why we were the one and two seeds. Our regular season showed, but this is a new season. They gave us a good beating when we went up there a couple months ago, so we're looking forward to it. ."
On next week's game
"We have another opportunity to keep progressing and moving forward, that's what we're looking forward to just getting ready for this game."
On New England's running game
"Well, that's been their staple all year-they've run the ball well all year. They're going to do it if you allow them to; you just can't allow them to."
WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS
On if he was having flashbacks to last year's Ravens game
On the play of TE Julius Thomas
"He did make big plays, and we needed those. We always preach about someone making a play and Julius did that to help us convert and he did it twice. So that helped our offense to keep the ball and finish it."
On stepping up when it mattered the most
"That's the main thing, someone stepping up as a group. Julius made some plays and like you said [San Diego Chargers QB] Philip Rivers did make some plays and we knew they had an explosive offense coming in. We fought, we kept fighting and we came up with the win."
On San Diego's defense ripping at the ball at the end of the game
"Yeah, they tried to get it out. The main thing is to hold onto the ball and don't try to fumble and give it back to them, because if you give it back to Philip, you never know what can happen."
On the game against New England next week
"They have a great football team, and they beat us a couple weeks back and our main focus is to see what they do that's helps them keep winning. We're going to work on it this week and hopefully come Sunday, whenever we play, we get the W."
WR WES WELKER
On taking care of business against San Diego
"Yeah, and it's good to be out there. Being out there and competing with my teammates, coming away with the win it's big for us."
On winning today and moving on
"Any time you get a playoff win it's a big deal, and it's on to the next one and we have a really big one coming up next weekend."
On having any extra juice against New England
"It's the AFC Championship game, so there will be plenty of juice. Just going out there and executing the way we need to execute and come away with a win."
On if he was thinking about his concussion
"Not really, I was just out there just trying to execute my plays and trying to help the team win."
On his bigger helmet
"I have been practicing with it the last few weeks, so I got used to it; but it is kind of looking like the Jetsons out there."
DE MALIK JACKSON
On getting pressure on San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers
"Yeah, that was the game plan, to come out here and stop the first and second-and-shorts, and really get after Philip when he wanted to pass."
On what they learned from their loss to the Chargers in December
"We knew they wanted to run the ball and get the clock on their side, so we tried to come out there and stuff the run, we knew they wanted to get into third-and-short and second-and-short. That was our game plan, keep them out of that situation and get them into third-and-long and second-and-long and make Philip beat us with his arm."
On what changed in the fourth quarter
"They're a good football team, they get paid too. They came out and did a few things, which we'll get back and fix. They're a great team too and they put up good points"
WR ERIC DECKER
On the game
"I thought today was a hard-fought game and team victory. There are four teams left and it's pretty special to be one of them."
On playing power football
"That's what playoff football is about. It's about physicality, it's bringing it to the other team, especially playing at home we wanted to start fast and stay on top. Give credit to San Diego for fighting back and really giving us a test."
On the offensive line
"That's been our challenge to them-to step up. History shows that you need to run the ball in playoff football and those guys don't get a lot of credit throughout the year but they work their butts off."
On tripping on his punt return
"I guess it was that invisible fence again that got me, I got a little excited and tripped myself and I wish I could have that play back."
On the win
"We talked about it before we started this playoff run; every game is going to be close you have to know how to battle until the end. You have to know how to win the fourth quarter. I thought today with the challenge we had, playing four-minute football and having to run it to clinch it shows the character of every one of these guys."
On this team
"We know that every year is different. Coming into this year I felt like we were a confident team, I thought we had a good chance. Coming into these playoffs we knew if everyone does their jobs good things will happen."
On QB Peyton Manning and CB Champ Bailey
"You talk about Peyton, you talk about Champ Bailey, and you're talking about future Hall of Famers, and guys that have put in the work for 10-plus years. As a young guy to fight your tail off and do things right to give them confidence is huge."
RB KNOWSHON MORENO
On if he spoke with QB Philip Rivers
"No, just at the end of the game we congratulated each other, that was pretty much it."
On the offensive line
"Our offensive line did some great things, protecting Peyton was the main thing, and getting drives going and protecting the running backs while we tried to get yards."
On a balanced offensive performance
"We were just doing whatever they gave us, we were able to throw the ball at times and also able to run the ball. They did some good things on defense to stop us a few times but at the same time we were still able to put points on the board."
On the win
"In the postseason stats don't matter, it's all about whoever executes and most importantly who comes out with the win and that's what we were able to do today."
On his large amount of carries earlier this season against the Patriots
"Whatever the coaches decide, that first game (against the Patriots) was a big game, it came down to the wire and they came out the victor, they played better than us so we need to get back to work and see what we can do."
On the win
"It is what it is, there's no telling what's going to happen. We have to get ready for another good opponent next week that's the bottom line, that's all we're thinking about. That's all I'm thinking about, so let's get ready."
On Peyton Manning's fourth quarter
"Definitely clutch. The offensive line did a great job blocking so he could get the ball off, and you can't forget about the guys catching the ball in those clutch moments, so I think all around everyone did a good job."
On TE Julius Thomas' fumble
"Those kinds of things happen throughout the game, you can't be perfect all the time. Julius is the kind of guy that forgets those kinds of things and moves on after the play, whatever the play is and just focuses on the next play."
TE JULIUS THOMAS
On the Broncos' defense
"Our defense came out and did an excellent job. Hats off to them to hold them scoreless for such a long time, it was a great job by them."
On the running game
"Establishing the running game is something we've been trying to do the last couple months. Some games we get to it a lot, you've seen it against the Patriots and the Chiefs, but it was just working out so well for us today that we wanted to stick with it. Our running backs did a great job of running the ball and earning tough yards."
On finishing the game
"It's something we work on. It's something we talk about and focus on weekly, we work on the situation making sure we stay on the field and finish the game in victory formation."
On Peyton Manning
"He just keeps fighting. He doesn't get negative, he never gives up and he continues to fight and I think that's our motto as a team all year. We've gone through a lot, we've had a lot of key players go down but we just continue to battle."
On playing New England in the AFC Championship
"It's a great test for us. New England's had our number for a long time here, but it's a must-win tournament, so it doesn't really matter who we end up playing. We'll do what we have to do to give ourselves the best chance to win against a good team."
On the Broncos' drive
"We call it the four-minute drill, finishing with the offense on the field. We didn't want to punt the ball back to them and give them an opportunity. We knew that we needed to go out there and do what we needed to do so we could end the game in a victory formation. There's no better feeling for an offense than to go out there and kneel to win the game."
On the offensive line
"Hats off to those guys up front, they did an excellent job of creating running lanes for our backs who all ran the ball extremely well. It's a pleasure blocking for those guys, they're going to fight for every inch."
CB QUENTIN JAMMER
On if the Chargers did anything different in the fourth quarter that caught the defense off guard
"No I think we made some mental errors. I know me, myself, I made mental errors that led to three big plays. I sat on a route on fourth-and-three. I overthought everything. Me being a veteran player there's fourth and three, going against the wind I'm thinking a curl something just to get the first down and keep the chains moving (and I) let the guy run right by me. [WR] Eddie Royal on third and six, I'm thinking one thing and he runs a completely different route. There's a lot that we can clean up and there's a lot that I need to clean up."
On his emotions at the end of the game when the Broncos offense converted a couple third downs to win the game
"Relief, because I think you give up a couple of big plays in the game, you're just hoping that you get another shot to go out and prove that you belong. That's my mindset so I was excited when they were getting first downs."
DE SHAUN PHILLIPS
On the game
"We just want to play together-there's no statement. San Diego is a good football and obviously have been hot right now. They made a big statement saying that they were playing playoff football the last five games of the season and then into the playoffs. They were playing playoff football when we weren't and we were able to play playoff football today so that's why we came out with the victory. But they're a really good football team and we respect those guys so much and we're just thankful to get a win."
On getting after QB Philip Rivers in the first half
"Well, anytime you get a hit on a quarterback it's always good because you get a sack, that's one less completion that they could have completed or a touchdown, whatever you have it may be. It's always a tempo setter. I think me and [DE Jeremy Mincey] ‘Mince' got our sacks on the same drive. It's just tempo setters and as a D-lineman that's one of the things you look forward to is getting sacks. The more you can keep pressure the more your quarterbacks get fidgety in the pocket."
On what they did differently defensively this game compared to last game vs. San Diego
"I just think we didn't have a really good game plan (last game). We didn't know them as well as we knew them this game and that's our fault as defensive players. We should know a team better and also they executed well. They controlled the clock, they ran the ball well. We have to give props to them as well because they did do a good job."
On what it was like in the fourth quarter when San Diego made a comeback
"It was tough. We have to do better at closing the door on teams. You see what happened (when) we didn't close the door on New England and they came back and won. We attribute a little bit to them-they did well and we didn't do well. Bottom line, we got the win."
On the game next week vs. New England
"We're looking forward to it. Obviously we're the two best teams in the AFC because we're playing for the AFC Championship, so what more can you ask for? That's what you want as a football player. [QB] Tom Brady is my second favorite quarterback behind [QB] Peyton [Manning]. I really like Tom. I think he's a great player and a great person but what better way to do it? You want the two best teams going head-to-head and that's what's going to happen."
DT TERRANCE KNIGHTON
On what statement the defense made, especially in the first half
"Well, we just wanted to prove that we can play at an elite level. We did a good job the first half not allowing them to get in third and shorts. (We) did a good job on first and second down stopping the run. When their back is against the wall they have 3rd and long to go (and) that allows us to rush. We did a good job in that the first half we just got to watch the film now and see what we can do better to finish the game, not make it interesting."
On if it felt good to disrupt the Chargers offense in the first half
"Yeah, we came out with a lot of energy. We feed off the crowd and we just knew what they were going to come in and do and we just wanted to eliminate their run game and not let [RB Ryan] Mathews kill us, not let [RB Danny] Woodhead kill us and make them throw the ball, and we did a good job of that the first three quarters."
On how tense the feeling was for him and the group in the fourth quarter
"You're just happy about being in the moment, playing in the playoffs. But when it comes down to it it's just football and doing your technique and it's less room for error so you got to put in the extra studying during the week and make sure you're hitting on all cylinders."
On if thoughts of last year's Broncos playoff loss came to his mind in the fourth quarter
"Of course it did. I think it went in everybody's mind in the whole stadium, but the difference is this year leaders learn from it and we just stayed focus. We were up, we had the lead and our offense did a good job running the ball. No matter what we're going to come out with a ‘W'-that's our mindset."
On how much better the defense is given today's performance and the last two games of the regular season
"I think we finally came together as a group and decided enough was enough. After the second San Diego game we lost we decided as a group that it's time to play our best ball and we showed up. We went to Houston and it continued on now."
On if it gets under his skin that the offense gets a lot of credit
"No, it's supposed to be that way. The league is built that way for offense to put up points and as long as we're doing our job at the end of the day our goal is to put up that trophy and we all get rings so that's what we're worried about."
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS HEAD COACH MIKE MCCOY
"First off I'd like to congratulate [Denver Broncos Head Coach] John Fox, [Owner] Pat Bowlen, [EVP] John Elway and the entire organization, the players, the coaches, everyone involved there for getting where they are today. They played a good football game today. We got beat on all three phases at different times of the game. Against a very good football team we had to play better. We got out to a poor start. The character of our football team showed up as time went along. It got very similar to the way the season went. The players just kept on fighting until the bitter end. It wasn't good enough to win. But, congratulations to them."
On how they played against the Denver Defense today
"We didn't get it done. No excuses, we didn't get it done."
On his expectations for RB Ryan Matthews going into the game today
"We have a system in place that I think has been very effective all year long from the very first game. You change things as time goes along and you evolve as an offense as time goes along and you do what your players do best and we have a good system in place."
On testing Matthews' status in pregame warm-ups
"We've been in this mode for the past couple weeks with him-what we are going to do with him and if we can do certain things, and some weeks are shorter than others."
On the crowd noises affecting the Chargers, particularly in the no-huddle offense
"No. We have a lot of crowd noise at home."
On communication problems resulting in some called time-outs early in the game
"Well, I think we ran out of time and one time we called time out."
On the windy conditions having an effect on the game
"No, we're not making any excuses. We got beaten by a better football team today. They beat us."
On changing the game plan from the first half to the second half
"I think where we were at a certain point in time of the game we opened up a little bit to do certain things. Like any week we have a plan going in. Sometimes they work better than others in the first half, you make adjustments at halftime, and you do what you think is going to do best for the best opportunity to win."
On if he thinks they should have passed more
"I'm not second-guessing anything. The coaches have coached their tails off all year long and have done an outstanding job and the players have done an outstanding job executing. We got beat today."
On the Chargers' defensive performance
"We'll go back and watch the film and analyze it as an entire staff and go from there."
On bypassing an onsides kick attempt following the K Nick Novak field goal in fourth quarter
"Situation of the game. Two timeouts left, time on the clock. We could get a stop in good field position, get the ball back, go score, tie the game up."
On the team's character, not giving up while trailing
"Says a lot about the coaches, the players, the organization from [Owner] Dean [Spanos] all the way down. From what we've preached from day one here. As long as there's time left ever on the clock in a game we're going to play until the bitter end. It's the same way they've worked from the first meeting we had back in April, the first team meeting we kind of outlined some things, formed what we want to do and how we were going to approach it; as the off-season program went in we installed our kind of organizational philosophy and how we're going run things on a day-to-day business. Then we get into OTA (Organized Team Activities), through mini camps, training camps and you kind of build that as you go and they start to see the results of certain things and you keep on preaching the same message to them. How you want to do certain things and the results that will pay off. They don't always see them right away. And over time all of a sudden it's 5-7 on your season and you're preaching the same thing to guys. The way the veterans work they lead the football team. A number of great veterans on the team, and then you put yourself in a position like we were today."
On Denver's third-and-17 conversion in the fourth quarter
"It was a lack of communication on our part."
On using timeouts because players weren't lined up properly
"Yes, if we're not lined up right or we're misaligned or there's something or you can't hear something. I know one time we had a headset issue, that [LB] Donald [Butler] called time out, he couldn't hear what [Defensive Coordinator] John Pagano was telling him. But that's all part of the game, we're not making any excuses. We got beat today."
On having five neutral zone infractions today compared to three all season
"Yes, I wish I had the answer for you. (Was it frustrating?) Yeah, that's giving a very good quarterback a lot of freebies."
On assessing the season overall
"There's the ups and downs. After every game, you're going to look at certain things whether it's questions from you guys (media) or questions from us as an organization. Whatever it is there's going to be pluses and minuses to every game. You've got to learn from them. You try to increase the number of pluses you have on a week-to-week basis and minimize the minuses. There's going to be some mistakes in every football game. I think that the team's learned a lot about one another. We became a team in a hurry this year. It's nothing something that just happens overnight. But it's something that they've built over time, and it showed a lot about them, the way that they care about one another. We got a good group of guys. We've got a good group of people in this building."
On showing good potential for next season
"We came up short. We came up short of our goal. We've got to win more games next year and be the last one standing. That's the ultimate goal for every team. There's 32 teams in the league that have the same goal. We didn't get it done, but they did a lot of good things. I'll say that. Right now it's not the best time to talk about all the good things that they did over the year because everyone's down right now, but I told the players, ‘Keep your heads high.' They did a lot of really good things as a football team this year. We got a lot accomplished in a short amount of time, on a short clock with the new staff this year but they all bought in from the top down... Dean all the way down, a lot of people deserve a lot of credit. As a head coach I'm very pleased with the way the players played and the way they showed up every day and the way the coaches coached all year long."
On motivating his team on the sidelines
"(We told them) ‘Fight to the bitter end.' That's what we've said all year long. A lot of our games have come down to the very end the whole season. Like we said at halftime, ‘You're down a certain score, it's not the first time you've ever been down this many in your life. Just keep on fighting. The whole year-keep fighting, keep going and see what happens at the end. Put yourself in a position to win it at the end."
On holding Denver's offense to 24 points
"As long as we score 25. All I care about is winning and losing. We didn't score enough points to win the game."
On Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt facing distraction from head coaching candidacy rumors
"I'll stop you right there. Not one bit. I went through the exact same thing in the bye week last year. That was the furthest thing from my mind-taking another job-when we kicked off. Or the first day we went in after the meetings on Monday, after I did the three interviews. That was the last thing I was thinking about - getting another job. We have a lot of pride in this profession as coaches and you try to win. There's no guarantees, so you try to do everything you can for the organization you're working for, and that's who you work for. That was the attitude we talked about the whole time and that's all Ken did. He tried to put the best plan together with the rest of the staff like they've done every day of the week from the very first day we've been together, building this system together, putting game plans in. His number one focus was trying to find a way to win this game this week."
On the decision to start Johnnie Troutman at right guard
"Because of Jeromey Clary being out we put Johnny in there. Jeromey Clary was inactive today so we put Johnnie Troutman in right guard."
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS PLAYERS
QB PHILIP RIVERS
On the wind
"It was not ideal conditions, but I think that both teams threw it fairly well. It was definitely blowing. Like I said, I think both teams handled it pretty well."
On third-down conversions
"We didn't take advantage on our possessions. We would have it there at midfield and wouldn't do anything with it. We had a break with the face mask right at the beginning of the game and didn't do anything with it. We just didn't convert those third downs. We would be third and eight and then have a delay. Then we would be third and 13. We weren't very efficient on third down and we didn't manage first and second down all that great. We weren't in a rhythm. When you are going against that offense and our defense did a nice job holding them to only 14 points, but you look up and it is 14 nothing. That is not a place you want to be especially in this environment against this team. "
On the difference between the first and fourth quarter
"It is always easier after the fact. If you go that route in the first quarter and you throw three incompletions and then punt, you look up and see 14:33 left in the first quarter and you ran plays, you say to yourself, ‘goodness gracious, we need to go out and run the ball.' You know, it's always easier after the fact certainly. You wonder ‘what if' we spread it out a little more. Those answers are always a little easier after you get in that position. We got rolling pretty good and it could've turned in to a 30-nothing game. There is no consolation with losing. We got it going pretty good and they knew it. If we got it one more time, I believe deep down that we would've tied that thing up. Those are all a bunch of what ifs."
On the effects of Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr.'s injury
"They had a good plan. Give them the credit, they won the game. We didn't play our best game. Obviously, they had something to do with that. I have respect for that and [Broncos Defensive Coordinator Jack] Del Rio. They outplayed us today, especially in the first half. When you dig a hole like that, it's hard to recover."
On any surprises
"I don't think so. Maybe a little bit in coverage, but it was nothing new. It was definitely new wrinkles for them. They played base defense a little more and mixed it a little more. There was nothing that surprised us to put us out of rhythm. That's what these playoff games are. The executed better than us and we were too far behind in the second half that we couldn't do it. Not a good first half for us."
On the team's accomplishments this season
"It feels worse right now and worse than the past three years. We were one of eight left. Every team is going to feel like we do today besides the one team that wins it all. I don't think it is too early. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We fought together, played together, the way we compete, and the character of this team allows us to hold our heads high. That doesn't mean you are happy or think it is okay, but to bounce back from 5-7 and get in this position is nothing to be ashamed of. Obviously, we are not satisfied. There is just nothing to be ashamed of."
On RB Ryan Matthews' Injury
"I thought he did what he could in the run game, but just couldn't hold up for four quarters. I thought [RB] Danny [Woodhead] did good. He was fighting and I'm not sure how great he felt either. We fought hard. I thought our guys fought hard and it wasn't enough."
On the effects of having a healthy Ryan Matthews
"First thing, I do think we were playing pretty well the first half of the season. We didn't win as much, but we had chances to. We easily could have won some of the games that we lost. Ryan running the way he did and the offensive line deserves credit for lining up on front and we got some leads. When you have the lead, you get more carries. When you are playing from behind you don't. I think that was one difference. In the second half of the season we ran it better. We got leads and when you get a lead, you usually don't have to throw it forty times. "
On the character of the team
"There is no quit here. I know that as long as there are the handle of us that are here. That is one thing we won't do and I think the young guys we have, have that same makeup. That is the quality you want in a player on your team. We have a lot of guys with that same fight. When you look up, we give ourselves a chance. We lost the game, but we gave ourselves a chance."
On the benefit of young players
"You let them all know how bad it feels to feel like this. You don't want this feeling again. Playoff football is awesome. There is nothing better when it comes to the NFL. There is NFL, then there is NFL playoffs. It's in a separate column. You want to be in them. I think the one thing is giving the young guys hope. Letting them know it doesn't just happen. When you keep giving yourself opportunities in the post season then that gives you the chance to get a trophy. We have to make sure we stay hungry and we will and let the dust settle to get back up again."
On the onside kick after the field goal to get the ball back
"No I didn't, you know those were all things in hindsight. You know we had third and seventeen. They played out perfectly, they threw an incompletion we did not have enough time outs and a two minute warning and they did not slow us down for about three series in a row. So you know you hit the third and seventeen and you think ‘oh we should have taken the onside kick' you know, it is one of those deals. That is why you cannot second guess because you are always going to be right the second time. You know, our defense again, I know they will say they did not play as well as they wanted to, but we played that team that three times this year and they did not score over 30. And all three against the San Diego Chargers, and offensively I take that responsibility for this offense that we should score 30 if we have to, and we didn't."
On second guessing the running plays
"I think situations where we are ‘what's the score' and it wasn't ideal conditions, you know you see some of the drives they had early and it was a lot of handoffs and a couple of the balls thrown to the flat, it wasn't like they were throwing it and hitting seams and throwing it up the field. I do think that the conditions played into it early but when it gets to 14 and 17, it is like really we are getting blown out or we are going to go down fighting so we needed to stay on what plays we were calling."
On confidence of getting the ball back at the end facing a QB like Manning
"Like I said we got them on the third and 17. And the percentages of third and 17 converted in this league are pretty low for any team. So again, I am not putting it on our defense at third and 17, we got in the ideal situation and so it is easier to second guess and kick offside kicks but I think obviously you go with what you call and it's coaches decision and you know, you drive most of the time ."
On how proud he is of the guys, the season they had, and how they keep it rolling for the next couple years
"I think you learn a lot from this year. I think we better learn that when you are five and seven you are not going to be nine and seven very often, so that is not okay. The position we put ourselves in is not okay. Now the way we fought out of it is a quality that we have and maybe we can find a way, I don't know what that is to have that same backs against the wall, playoff mentality from week one. And maybe we would have won two or three of those games that we didn't win and we wouldn't have been in that position. But we didn't give ourselves a chance today that was good enough, and you know there was a play here or there at one time late in the third quarter we hit a first down and the pass interference that I had never seen in my entire life called and we got it. Offensively saying, that is not why we lost but we had a few things. We did not do enough and we didn't get any breaks and again we are not asking for breaks, and you know I am just hashing out my thoughts here, but we did not convert when we needed to offensively, I did not convert and throw the ball the way I should have early, and we had a few things that did not go our way and they had something to do with that so I think it was a combination of everything."
LB MELVIN INGRAM
On end of the game
"That's been our whole season. We always believe, just as long as there is time on the clock; we always believe. Third and long and third down, we just needed one stop and we couldn't get it done."
On neutral zone infractions
"They were doing a hard count, but that's not an excuse for us jumping offside. We need to be more disciplined than that."
On the season
"We didn't get it done. Obviously we lost today, so we didn't get it done. It's a blessing to have the opportunity to come back from an injury and play in the same year for me personally, though."
C NICK HARDWICK
On the game
"Denver had a good game plan and we just couldn't get the ball running. They had a plan to stop the run since we had been so effective running the ball in the past five weeks. When you aren't picking up first downs and staying on the field, it's tough to get into a rhythm. They just out-executed us."
On injuries affecting the team
"You always want to have your starters out there, but we always are prepared every game; everyone knows that they have a chance to get into the game, and throughout the season as it has been, guys have stepped up and performed well. That's just how it has to be. It is a rough sport, a combat sport, so you have to be prepared at any moment for an injury. It's next guy up."
On falling behind 17-0
"It's our job not to think about that and just go out and execute the plays. It took a while to get that ball rolling and start executing, but once we finally did, we started to pick up some steam. We gave them hell at the end there; it sure seemed like it was going to come down to the wire."
On season ending
"It always ends abruptly. This locker room has a lot to be proud of though. In one season we have turned around this organization and we are heading in the right direction. Guys have the right mindset about them; there is a lot of pride in this room, and a lot of tough guys in this room who fought through a lot of injuries this year and gave until they couldn't give anymore. This locker room is heading in the right direction."
WR KEENAN ALLEN
On a slow start by the Chargers
"I just think we came out flat and not how we wanted to. We couldn't capitalize on third downs coming out of the first half. We tried to make a turnaround, but it was obviously too little, too late."
On running game struggling today
"That's what we wanted to do; control the offensive side with the offensive line. They came out fighting pretty hard up front, but we just didn't get the job done."
On success after falling behind 17-0
"We started taking a couple of more shots down the field, and the offense started executing better. The offensive line stepped up, and we just got it going."
On whether San Diego sensed Denver was scared at the end of the game
"Yeah, once we started rolling and got that first and second touchdown, we knew we weren't going to be stopped. We just needed to get that third-and-17 stop, but we couldn't which was unfortunate."
On team's accomplishments this year
"We came a long way from where we started from. We put it together and found our team's character and saw what we could do. I think we proved a lot of people wrong, and really discovered our character."
TE ANTONIO GATES
On the Chargers having a slow start to begin the game
"You have to credit what they were able to do today. We just couldn't find a rhythm in the first half and I think we threw a total of five passes. We couldn't establish the run game and they just did a phenomenal job of putting us out of our comfort zone and being able to make plays."
On the offensive line for the Chargers struggling without RG Jeromey Clary in the game
"Yeah, we shuffled some guys in there and it's always difficult when you have to shuffle guys in the offensive line, but it was all Denver Broncos today. I can't say enough about what they've been able to do to disrupt the timing of the passing game and being able to stop the run today."
On if the Broncos did anything different this time around
"Yeah, they did a whole bunch of stuff different. They controlled us in the run game and to me it's always been the same formula from day one. They protected the football and they got after [QB] Philip [Rivers] with a couple of sacks and then put us in third-and-long. Generally, we are a team that really likes to be in third-and-short or third-and-medium where we have a better opportunity to convert on third down. You have to take your hats off to (the Broncos), they were able to disrupt the timing and put us in situations which deceased our chances of converting."
On if the Chargers were out of sync tonight or if the Broncos simply played better
"We got going late in the game offensively. We found a rhythm later on, [WR] Keenan [Allen] made some tremendous plays and guys stepped up. [WR] Eddie [Royal] made a big play and collectively we were able to get going eventually, but when you play a team like Denver it's just so hard to come back from a deficit like that."
FS ERIC WEDDLE
On if the Broncos did anything different this time around
"They were executing and we were missing some tackles, but we fought and we battled to keep us is the game. The offense came on late and gave us a chance, but hats off (to the Broncos). We created two turnovers, [LB] Donald's [Butler] was huge in the end zone. Obviously [FS] Jahleel [Addae] had the strip. It's tough, it's tough to grind it out and still play at a high level against them with all the weapons that they have. They ran the ball effectively throughout the game which makes it difficult to contain them. Give credit to them, they played well today."
On the defense jumping off sides multiple times throughout the game
"You'd think after a couple we would learn from it, but that's [QB] Peyton [Manning] being as great as he is. He was mixing it up between his calls and he kept us off guard throughout the entire game so it was exceptional by him."
On the Chargers still having pride even though they lost
"We're extremely disappointed and hurting. You work every day, every hour, every minute for a chance at the ultimate goal which is the Super Bowl and to have that goal not attained, it's hard to deal with and it will take a very long time to get over it."
RB DANNY WOODHEAD
On the Broncos doing a great job stopping the run today
"(The Broncos) have a great team and they ended up playing better than us and scoring more points. We fought as hard as we could and we came up short. They ended up beating us today."
On the Chargers going down 17-0 early
"I think it's hard to fall behind any team, but that happens and we didn't come out on top. They beat us."
On if the Chargers felt out of sync before the game began
"I think it was just that they are a great team. It's two really good teams going against each other and they came out on top. They scored more points."
On if he thinks the Chargers overachieved this year
"I think (the media) thinks we overachieved a little bit more than anything. We felt that we had a good team. Did it take a little bit longer to get things fully together than we would have liked? Yeah, but we got it together at the right time and we were definitely happy that we got this opportunity after starting the season 5-7 and making it tough on ourselves a little bit. I don't think we feel like we overachieved."