"It's a tough matchup, but at the same time, the focus, as much as we're going to study them, as much as we're going to try and know everything they do, the focus is not how they play. The focus is how we prepare, the things we do, and how we're playing that day. We know we're confident that if we play to our best with the players we have on this team, we can beat anybody."
Especially with Rivers playing the way he did last Sunday in the win over the Titans.
Much has been made of Rivers and his so-called sophomore slump this year. But at the end of the regular-season, Rivers had led the Chargers to an 11-5 mark and their second straight AFC West title.
And then he played brilliantly in the second half against the Titans, when he rallied the team from a 6-0 deficit to a 17-6 win.
Was Rivers' play a rite of passage for a young quarterback and does that carry over to Sunday in the RCA Dome?
"I think for everyone in the organization to get their first playoff win but to step up and play the way Philip did, I believe he got a lot of people's attention," coach Norv Turner said. "It's so easy to be nitpicky in this day and age and it's so easy to take four or five bad plays from a season and show them over and over and over on these preview shows or postgame shows. But Philip's had a lot more good plays than he's had bad and he's really had an outstanding year."
Rivers needs to be sharp Sunday if the Chargers are to upend the defending champ. But he's not putting too much into his game against the Titans, looking ahead instead of backward.
"I think we move on from there," Rivers said. "It's time for all of us to get ready for the Colts and that's where all our focus is. Nobody is satisfied with just winning a playoff game. It was certainly big but we certainly have our goals set a lot higher."
The Chargers' road to their second Super Bowl couldn't be tougher. First is a tangle with the Colts in the rowdy RCA Dome and then possibly a road trip to New England, where the Chargers have already had their doors blown off this season.
But first is the Colts -- and that's enough for any team hungry to win two playoff games in the same season for the first time since 1994.
"They're the champs," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "You can throw out regular-season games. They play totally different in playoff games. They've had a lot of success in playoff games. They are a veteran group, very experienced. We're not even thinking about what we did against them the last two regular-season games."
The Chargers not only beat the Colts here on a rainy Nov. 11 night but two years ago, they gave the 13-0 Colts their first loss at Indy.
All that is great. And all of that will mean absolutely nothing come Sunday. Even if Peyton Manning did throw a career-high six interceptions in their last meeting.
"As good as he is, maybe one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, our goal is not to go out there and make him throw six interceptions because we know it's not going to happen," Rivers said. "He's too good. He's too much a student of the game. He's going to realize what his mistakes were and he's not going to make them again.
"At the same time, that game it was individual guys making great, great plays. So right now for us, it's make sure we have a great plan together and make sure we eliminate all of the mistakes. We can't go out there and have mental mistakes, have lapses in coverages, because those are things that will hurt you against a guy like this."
The Chargers know the pain of falling one game short of the AFC title game -- they were at this exact same spot last year when they did their face-plant against the visiting Patriots. They don't want to feel it again, and realize they can afford few mistakes against a healthy and well-rested Colts squad.
No matter the previous results against the Colts or how the Chargers did earlier this year in any outing, it's the lose-and-go-home playoffs staring them in the face.
"To be honest with you, I'd take the first 17 games we've played and forget about them," Rivers said. "Other than learning from what we did well and what we didn't do well and what we need to do to execute to win this game, I don't think you can put a lot of stock in them. How are we today? Then prepare and be ready for Sunday."
The Colts will be waiting.
RB Darren Sproles
--The Chargers have been hearing it from opposing players and now the national media -- do they go too far when celebrating a big play?
"It surprises me there is because we play on the road too and guys are demonstrative when we play," coach Norv Turner said.
"I look out there and guys are excited about playing. I want our guys excited about playing. The one thing I've made a strong point of with our guys is, hey, if you're going to celebrate, don't celebrate in a manner that is disrespectful to the other team. You don't see our guys getting into people's faces. You saw guys getting away from a pile and jumping up and getting excited. I was with a bunch of guys in Dallas who got awfully excited. They did it before they won championships and they did it after. I think the biggest thing is, people say, 'hey, these guys haven't won a championship. How can they be that way?' Well, it's exciting and it helps them play better. We're not the only guys that jump up and go back-to-back after a big play. Our guys, it's become a thing when each of them has a little bit of a deal they do after a big play. And I believe this, if you're (not) doing (it) in a manner that is disrespectful to the other team -- our fans come to see excitement. Our fans come to see our guys get excited about playing. If we ever did anything that I thought was disrespectful then yes, I would get in the middle of it."
--OLB Shaun Phillips will have a familiar face in the crowd Sunday -- his mother. Phillips wouldn't let her come to the first-round game because she came to her son's previous two playoff games and the Chargers lost them both. "She was 0-2, so she couldn't come," Phillips said. "She'll be in Indy."
--It doesn't sound like TE Antonio Gates will be healed in time from his dislocated toe to be active this week. "He's making progress and he's going through his treatments," Turner said. "We'll see where he's at later in the week. I have hope that he will be able to play."
And if he can't? "He's such weapon and can do so many things that he draws attention away from other people," Turner said. "Some of the looks we get on the outside, single coverage and those type things might be a little different. The one thing we don't lose is the threat of the run. That helps us a great deal. We just have to balance it out in our personnel grouping if he can't play and see if we can't pick up the things he brings to us from other people."
--FB Lorenzo Neal practiced for the first time since breaking his leg on Nov. 18. "I think that it's not necessarily the rustiness," he said.
"I think it's mostly just confidence, just being out there, you know, getting back in the feel of the game and just knowing your assignments. I mean, football doesn't change. You've got to just know who you're blocking and just work on the technique. Today was just one of those days you just wanted to get, for myself personally, just get my feet back under me and get my timing back and just go out there and execute and minimize my mental mistakes and that's what it's about. Come Sunday, hopefully I'll be able to play, and play not just to say that I'm playing because I don't want to be a selfish player and say, 'I'm playing out here just to show everyone that I'm able to come back from injury.' It's not about that. It's about the Chargers. It's bigger than me. It's about winning and I'm not going to go out there if I don't give my team a chance to win. I feel that, I believe if I go out there on the field, I'm not holding back. I'm going to pull the trigger."
--The Chargers landed three players on the All-Pro team: CB Antonio Cromartie, LaDainian Tomlinson and Neal. "The All-Pro selection is an honor because it's the whole league," Tomlinson said. "It's not just the AFC or the NFC, but it's combined. Obviously, when you look at an All-Pro team, that's the team that people would say you would thin out; that's the best in the league. If we had to go play another country, for example, like Team USA Basketball does, these are the guys you are going to go do it with."
--Chargers GM A.J. Smith and Colts G.M Bill Polian were together with the Chicago Blitz in the USFL and then later the Bills.
--C Nick Hardwick and Phillips played at Purdue. Hardwick is from Indianapolis, where he attended Lawrence North High.
--Chargers G Kris Dielman played at Indiana University.
--Colts secondary coach Rod Perry held the same position for the Chargers from 1997-01.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- The Chargers' losses this season when playing two road games on artificial turf.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "No, I don't. In fact, rightfully so, we're playing against the Super Bowl champs at their place. So, us being an eight-point underdog. ... I'm just happy it's not 14." -- RB LaDainian Tomlinson, on being an eight-point underdog on Sunday.
TE Brandon Manumaleuna
The Chargers figure to lean on the running game more than usual with Antonio Gates probably not able to go with a dislocated toe. That means Brandon Manumaleuna will see increased playing time and he is no Gates.
While giving Tomlinson more work, the Chargers figure to continue to work the outside with Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson.
But if they can run the ball that allows them to do what they do best and keep the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--WR Vincent Jackson is coming off the best game of his career when he had 114 yards and a score against the Titans. But Jackson's problem has always been consistency and the Chargers are eager to see if he can do it in consecutive games.
--WR Chris Chambers didn't practice on Wednesday with what was likely general soreness -- it was a team decision, according to the injury report. Chambers was solid in his first playoff game with a game-high 121 receiving yards.
--CB Antonio Cromartie has no problem going against Peyton Manning. When they met earlier this year, it was Cromartie's coming-out party as he had three of the six interceptions Manning threw.
--QB Philip Rivers has done something in his second year no Chargers starting quarterback has done since Stan Humphries in the 1994 season -- win a playoff game.
--RB Michael Turner averaged 3.1 yards last Sunday on nine carries. In one of his visits to Indy, he rushed for an 83-yard score.
--TE Brandon Manumaleuna, who will see plenty of action on Sunday, had two catches for 18 yards in the last game.
OG Kris Dielman
The bottom line is get rid of the ball fast or this tenacious defense will be collecting short fields for Manning and his offensive juggernaut.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Chargers running game, with an eager LaDainian Tomlinson, vs. a Colts run defense that has been average, allowing an average of 106.9 yards per game.
Tomlinson was held in check in the Titans game as Tennessee was bent on stopping the run by stacking the box with extra players. Tomlinson managed only 42 yards on 21 carries, his third-lowest total of the season. But the Chargers made the Titans pay by burning them on the outside with wideouts Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson. Tomlinson could also be a lot crisper on the indoor carpet than he was on the soggy field at Qualcomm. The Chargers' front line will have to contend with active LB Gary Brackett (team-high 149 tackles) and S Bob Sanders, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.
Chargers run defense, which includes two inside linebackers playing in the second playoff game, vs. Colts RB Joseph Addai and a front line that is getting healthy again.
Chargers ILB Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm have held up well this year in taking over for Randall Godfrey and Donnie Edwards. But this week, they must contain a shifty and well-rested Addai -- he didn't play that much down the stretch. If Cooper and Wilhelm can win on the early downs, Manning will be forced into obvious passing situations. That is hardly a slam dunk toward winning the game, but making the Colts one-dimensional on some of their plays helps the Chargers cause.
Chargers return game with Darren Sproles vs. Colts coverage teams that gave up two touchdowns to Sproles in the earlier matchup.
Sproles can't wait to get his quick steps on that quick carpet inside the RCA Dome. And he does so with confidence after torching the Colts in the last meeting. Look for the Colts to use starters on special teams to get a handle on Sproles and to limit his damage on returns. In the earlier game between these teams, Sproles was down with a knee injury. He's healthy now and has been giving the return game a jolt. He averages 27.2 yards per effort and has a long of 89 for a touchdown. The Colts' kick coverage team is allowing an average of 24.2 yards. In a game that figures to be physical with yards hard to come by, the game could hinge on field position. And the Chargers are in position to win that battle if Sproles can set them up with some short fields.
--TE Antonio Gates (toe) didn't practice and is getting around in a walking boot. It's hard to see him playing on Sunday.
--Brandon Manumaleuna would replace him.
--K Nate Kaeding (leg) will be able to kick field goals on Sunday. Dave Rayner will likely handle the kickoff duties. Kaeding had limited participation on Wednesday.
--OLB Marques Harris (hand) practiced Wednesday and is available.
--DT Jamal Williams (hip, ankle) seldom works on Wednesday and this week was no different. He's fine for Sunday.
--FB Lorenzo Neal (leg) worked and has a shot of being active on Sunday.
--WR Chris Chambers sat out with what was termed as a team decision. He was walking around fine and should be a go for Sunday.