DENVER (CBS4) – Unlike most of the players on the Broncos, Sunday will be the first time tight end Julius Thomas will experience the thrill of playing in a playoff game.
The Pro Bowl tight end wasn’t able to suit up for the Broncos loss in the playoffs to the Ravens last year, and it tore him up inside to watch his team lose such a big game.
“Watching my teammates come off the field and seeing how hard it was for them — and even how hard it was for myself not being able to be out there — that was something that was difficult for me,” Thomas told CBS4’s Vic Lombardi on Xfinity Monday Live. “I was just wishing I could make a play for my team to maybe help us out. Knowing how hard we had worked all that season and then coming up short has definitely been a reminder for us throughout this season.”
Thomas said the Broncos know their AFC West opponent the Chargers will be ready for what will end up being this season’s rubber match between the two teams. San Diego has won five straight, including their Dec. 12 win in Denver and Sunday’s surprise 27-10 playoff win over the Bengals in Cincinnati.
“I think I heard Phillip Rivers say that they’ve been in playoff mode for a really long time. We understand that for a while now they’ve had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive,” Thomas said.
So how do the Broncos halt that Chargers win streak on Sunday? According to Thomas, it will be playing consistently well in all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams. And then there’s that little thing called turnovers.
“You’ve got to have a positive turnover ratio. You can’t have the offense have two or three turnovers and the defense creating one. Then you’re in a negative turnover ratio. In the playoffs, as long as you have a positive turnover ratio you’ve got a chance to win the game,” Thomas said.
Against Cincinnati on Sunday the Chargers had two interceptions and recovered two fumbles.
“They’ve been playing at a high level, executing, and their defense is really coming through for them,” Thomas said. “They do various things to create pressure. You see multiple blitzes from them. They have good personnel. They’re not a playoff team for no reason. They’ve got guys up there that are getting the job done. They’re playing very physical, aggressive and the guys on their defensive line have a lot of drive.”
On Dec. 12 the Broncos only gained 18 rushing yards against the Chargers. Thomas said the team knows it’s an area where they need to improve, and his blocking will be a key part of making that happen.
“Blocking has become something that I like doing,” he told Lombardi. “When I first started playing, it was something that was so new it was pretty difficult so I didn’t really like it. Now that I’m starting to figure it out more it’s fun for me. I get a chance to do something to help out my team. You’ve got guys like Montee Ball, Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman running behind you. One of my favorite things is getting a good block and you just see those guys take off. Fighting for those extra yards — that’s something that I’ve really come to enjoy a lot more.”
Thomas (65 catches for 788 yards, 12 touchdowns) said he’s excited to be one of five Broncos chosen for the Pro Bowl, but he’s actually hoping he doesn’t have to make the trip to Honolulu. That’s because players on the Super Bowl teams don’t play in the Pro Bowl.
Watch more of the video with Julius Thomas in the Xfinity Monday Live section.