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Denver Broncos' D keying on Chargers' run game

The Denver Broncos know the San Diego Chargers' plan for Sunday's tussle. They've seen the blueprint before.

"As a defense, we just have to go out there and stop the run, stop them from getting second-and-short, third-and-short and get (quarterback) Philip Rivers off his spot where he wants to pass," defensive end Malik Jackson said, per The Denver Post.

Chargers running backs gobbled up 168 rushing yards on 44 carries in their 27-20 win over the Broncos in Week 15.

Ryan Mathews was the workhorse that day, galloping for 127 yards on 29 carries. Philip Rivers has received all the praise -- deservedly so -- for his career renaissance, but Mathews merits credit for carrying the Chargers into Divisional Round Weekend.

During the four-game winning streak that allowed the Chargers to stay alive in the playoff race, Mathews gained more than 99 yards on the ground with 24-plus carries in each contest.

Mathews left San Diego's Wild Card Weekend win over the Cincinnati Bengals with an ankle sprain. However, he  insists he will play Sunday against the Broncos.

Denver defenders know that if they allow the Chargers to run the ball, it minimizes the opportunities for quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense. Defenders pointed to getting off the field on third down as crucial to success.

"They were like 50 percent (converting in Week 15), and that was the key," linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. "Anytime you play a good running team, if you're not off the field on third down then they can just continue to keep running the ball and control the clock."

Peyton Manning can cover for many of the Broncos' defensive flaws, but he needs the ball to do it. If the Chargers spend Sunday running all over Denver's defense, we'll get to witness more of those classic Manning sideline faces.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" featured a very special in-studio visit from Bears star Brandon Marshall.

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