In most respects, this is a brand new Broncos team.
But some of the old hands are spreading the word to the new guys, in hopes of avoiding the kind of historic collapses they’ve endured.
Since the end of the 2005 season, the Broncos are 22-32 (.407) in regular season games played from November to the end of the season.
So while they can throw a hammer-lock on the AFC West with a win over the Chargers, veteran players know not to take anything for granted.
“The biggest key right now is to just keep doing what we’re doing,” cornerback Champ Bailey said, via Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post. “It’s easy to get caught up in things. We’ve had some success. But we’ve seen this before. You can’t let the little things get away from you. The little things lead to the big things.
“Right now, we all need to just keep working every week to do what we’re supposed to do, week in and week out, and don’t let things get away from us.”
The Chargers have been the chief culprits, winning four straight division titles, passing the Broncos each year from 2006-09. The 2008 collapse was the most dramatic, with the Chargers erasing a three-game deficit with three to play, ending the Mike Shanahan era. The Chargers have also won three straight in Denver, so there’s no lack of motivation.
“It’s important we all kind of just keep our heads down and work,” wide receiver Brandon Stokley said. “You always remember when things like that happen. I think as I get older, I really understand, and even this offseason when I didn’t think I would be playing this year, you just don’t get many opportunities to make great seasons. You can’t let any get away, and think, ‘Oh, we’ll just get that one back,’ because you never know.
“They are hard to make in the first place. They’re even harder to get back if you don’t make the most of it.”
The presence of guys such as Peyton Manning and Von Miller, who know nothing of those pitfalls, makes this a different team. But history has a funny way of repeating itself, which will keep the Broncos on edge until it doesn’t.