ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Once asked why the NFL was a copycat league, former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan responded, "Well, because it works."
And seven days after a lackluster 23-10 loss to the New York Giants this past Sunday night, the Broncos will see just how much the Los Angeles Chargers took from the Giants' plan. Because the Chargers have the roster to do what the Giants did, and, perhaps -- if the Broncos don't have a good enough response -- to even do it a little better.
"We lost a game," linebacker Von Miller said. "We've got a big rivalry game coming up this week against the Los Angeles Chargers. They've strung together two wins and it'll be a tough one. Every week is a tough one. You've got to be desperate to win. We've got to get this win ... against the Chargers."
With three wide receivers on injured reserve and a fourth out of the game against the Broncos because of injury, the Giants were able to pound out 148 yards rushing against what had been the league's No. 1 defense against the run, and they made just 11 pass completions -- directed largely at tight ends and running backs --work well enough to rather easily control the tempo of the game.
It's relevant because the Chargers have a running back they like to hand the ball to in Melvin Gordon, who also happens to lead the team with four touchdown receptions and is second in catches with 28. The Chargers also have two tight ends in Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates who can win plenty of matchups in coverage.
Henry is second on the Chargers with two touchdown catches, and Gates is Gates, as in an eight-time Pro Bowl selection who has been a long-time thorn for the Broncos. The Chargers also have far more big-play pop available at wide receiver than the Giants did this past Sunday with Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin.
"We've faced them a lot, we know them, they know us," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "We have to look at (the Giants loss) and make sure we don't do that again."
Giants quarterback Eli Manning completed just 11 passes in Sunday's win against the Broncos, six of which went to tight ends and three to running backs. Rookie right end Evan Engram, a difficult matchup because of his speed (Engram ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the scouting combine last February), caught five of the passes, including the Giants' only touchdown on offense.
In the Chargers' 21-13 win against the Broncos in San Diego last season, Henry caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Henry did not have a catch in the season opener -- he was not targeted in the game by quarterback Philip Rivers -- but the Broncos can expect the ball to go his way this weekend.
Gordon caught five passes in the Sept. 11 season opener against the Broncos, but Denver's defense limited the damage to 25 yards combined on those five catches. But until the Giants' Orleans Darkwa romped 47 yards, it was Gordon who had the longest run of the season against the Broncos defense -- a 21-yarder on the Chargers' first play from scrimmage in Week 1.
"It's a hard league," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "We have a chance Sunday to play the L.A. Chargers and be 3-0 in our division. We have a big opportunity on Sunday."