Eric Decker, Denver Broncos hope to cool off Chargers

Eric Decker has enjoyed great success as one of Peyton Manning's many targets on the Denver Broncos.

Kyle Terada/Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Forgive Eric Decker and the Denver Broncos if they feel a sense of deja orange and navy blue.

The team will be playing host to a divisional playoff game and owns home-field advantage in the AFC, exactly like 2013. The Broncos want to make sure there isn’t a repeat of last season, when their Super Bowl dreams were dashed by the Baltimore Ravens.

 “After that loss to the Ravens last year that ended our season we really came into the 2013 season and OTA’s with added motivation and focus,” Decker told FOXSports.com. "From OTAs to camp and preseason and finally the regular season we did everything in our power not to repeat the same mistake and put ourselves in position to win a Super Bowl. That loss stung and we don’t want to have that feeling again.”

Sunday’s opponent is the San Diego Chargers, who come into the game with five straight victories. They are one of the hottest teams left in the playoffs, having won multiple elimination games.

If anyone has a blueprint for slowing the Denver offense, it is San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano. Not only have the Chargers held the Broncos to 10 points under their season average in splitting their two regular-season meetings, but they also do a great job of keeping Decker and the Denver offense off the field, controlling the ball for more than 35 minutes per game. They render Peyton Manning to the place where he is least dangerous: the bench.

I asked the wide receiver what the team’s mindset is coming into this rubber match against the Chargers.

“We have learned a lot in our three games against the Chargers,” Decker said. “We have to start fast and we can’t let them come in here and hit us in the mouth.”

Decker and the rest of the Broncos are not looking past Philip Rivers and Chargers. However, there is the possibility of a matchup that everyone expected to see last year in the AFC Championship Game with the New England Patriots.

That potential matchup is one game away – again — for both the Pats and Broncos. If both teams win, a Manning vs. Tom Brady championship game would be a rematch of the Week 12 game that New England rallied from  24-0 down at the half to win 34-31.

“It would be fun if we did get to play the Pats,” Decker said, “Peyton broke all of Brady’s records. Brady has been the winningest QB since he came into the league. We went to Boston and we didn’t finish them off, in the second half; they found a way to win the game. We have to finish games. Most importantly we are excited to play San Diego and that is the first step.”

This step could be Decker’s last one orange and navy blue. After spending four productive seasons in Denver, his contract is up at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

Decker, a Minnesota native, spent his entire life in the Land of 10,000 Lakes until being selected in the third round in 2010 and joining the Broncos.

“I want to stay in Denver but at the same time the NFL is a business,” the 6-3, 214-pounder said. “You just don’t know how much time you have left and you have to do what is best for you and your family.”

ICE BUCKET CHALLENGES

Decker continued, saying: “I am very excited to see what the future holds but I am a guy that grew up in Minnesota, and now I live in Denver. I am not used to moving around. It has been hard for me to open up to the idea of being somewhere new, but in this business I have to.”

That is typical Decker; he is a loyal guy. He mentioned that he thought at one time he would spend his entire career in Denver. While it is a possibility the amount of players that end up playing for only one team are few and far between. Even Petyon Manning couldn’t pull off the feat.

Decker is one of four talented receiving options in a high-powered, spread-out, wide open Broncos offense.

Wes Welker is considered to be the best slot receiver to play the game, and Peyton Manning has additional Pro Bowl targets in Demaryius and Julius Thomas. Decker, meanwhile, is quietly having the best season of his career and the timing couldn’t be any better.

Decker’s life has been interesting off the field, too. The E! channel carried a reality show based on the life of Eric and his wife, singer Jessie James.

The fun-loving couple opened up their lives. Eric having to reenact their proposal over and over again to Jesse, their wedding in the season finale and the grand announcement they are expecting a little girl were some of the highlights of the show.

Admittedly Eric was thrown back by the idea of a reality TV show.

“Once I understood the process and how much control we had of our portrayal I was more comfortable,” he said. “Jess and I are not about drama, our show is really a love story and a balancing act of both of our careers.”

E! channel picked up the show for another season. A small preview on what to expect: the joys and woes Jessie goes through while being pregnant, and the way her affection – but fierce on the field – husband is able to help her through it.

There could be more drama, too, as Decker will have to decide whether to test the free-agent market or whether he will sign a lucrative deal and remain in Denver. The next chapter in that story plays out on Sunday.