Why the Broncos both hate, and respect, Philip Rivers

play
Bruschi: Don't overlook the Chargers (0:58)

Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson both say the Chargers will be too much for Denver to handle on Sunday. (0:58)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For most of Philip Rivers’ previous 13 seasons as the Chargers' starting quarterback, he has earned his own unique position among many in and around the Denver Broncos.

Maybe it has been all of the fist pumps between touchdowns, or the fevered chirping at the officials, or just what looks like, from the outside, the biggest trash-talker the Broncos see on any field in almost any season.

“He might be the only quarterback who truly talks smack the whole game," said Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who has faced Rivers 15 times in his career, playoffs included.

The Broncos get their 26th crack at Rivers on Sunday in the StubHub Center -- the divisional-round playoff game after the 2013 season included in that substantial list -- and this time around, Rivers just might be doing some of his best work right now. He is the league’s No. 3-rated passer, behind only Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes, to go with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions with his team at 7-2 and on a six-game winning streak.

And if history is any guide, he again will have some things to say to Broncos defenders in his own unique way. Because while Rivers’ actions and facial expressions may suggest the words coming out of his mouth are more than R-rated, he rarely even rises to the level of PG.

“I just love his competitive spirit," said Broncos nose tackle Domata Peko. “You don’t have to curse and stuff to be tough. You can be just as tough without cursing. But that’s the type of person he is -- he’s a great leader, he leads this team. He’s been leading this team for years now. One of the best quarterbacks in the game, I think."

Even Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who always professes to love “to bring people together," said Rivers was an acquired taste. Rivers was already in his sixth year as a starter and in his eighth year overall when Miller was the Broncos’ first-round pick in 2011.

And Miller said it took from that rookie season until the Pro Bowl after the 2016 season for him to change his mind.

“I really didn’t like the guy until two years ago at the Pro Bowl," Miller said. “When I met him, when we just kicked it at the Pro Bowl, I was just blown away by what type of guy he was on and off the football field. I got a lot of respect for him just being around him at the Pro Bowl ... You’re riding the bus, at the Pro Bowl you’re riding the bus, in the locker room, you’re just around the guys and you’re like, ‘This guy is cool. I like the guy.'"

The Broncos, however, have different feelings about his on-field antics.

“His trash talk doesn’t really bother me -- ‘I got the first down, sucker’ -- it doesn’t really bother me. Some guys it does, but I like playing against Philip," Miller said.

“[It's] because he whines a lot on the field -- he does whine a lot," Harris said with a smile. “I would say guys probably get tired of him whining, but other than that ... I could play with him just because you know he’s going to do whatever he can to try and will his team, try to get every call from the ref. That’s just how Rivers is, man. He’s going to be screaming at the ref just as much as he is at us."

But that’s all just parsley on the plate for the Broncos this week, because they all concede Rivers’ level of play at the moment is the real problem. He hasn’t been sacked more than twice in any game this season and has at least two touchdown passes in each of the Chargers’ nine games to this point.

The Chargers have supported him in an offense that has rushed for 127 yards per game (No. 8 in the league) and a defense that is among the league’s top 10 in sacks and interceptions. The Broncos simply see a Chargers team built better than in some recent years.

But in the end, the Broncos know what they’re going to get, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We want to beat him and you know he wants to beat you bad," Harris said. “He’s probably drawing up something to fool me right now, just to get me. I’ve got to be ready for anything."