The Pressure Dynamics of the NFL Playoffs – Do TEAMS feel it?

Pressure

2. constant state of worry and urgency – powerful and stressful demands on somebody’s time, attention, and energy, or a demand of this sort.

                They were under constant pressure to achieve increased output targets.

3. force that pushes or urges – something that affects thoughts and behavior in a powerful way, usually in the form of several outside influences working together persuasively.

I’ve been asked repeatedly about the “pressure” that faces the Denver Broncos heading into this weekend’s divisional playoff game against their long time rivals the San Diego Chargers.  Who’s under the most pressure?  Who will handle it the best?

TGC San Diego vs Cincinnati

Certainly the Chargers have felt some sort of pressure to win over the past five weeks.  Just one loss in the final quarter of the 2013 regular season would have eliminated them from this discussion all together.  Then to go on the road and defeat a Cincinnati Bengals team that was undefeated in “The Jungle” over eight home games had to have defied the very definition of the word.

Denver comes off a well earned “bye week” and heads into the game a proverbial favorite based upon a 13-3 regular season and a record setting offensive attack the likes we may not see for a long time to come.  But the Broncos held the number one seed coming out of 2012 and squandered any chance at a Cinderella comeback season for Peyton Manning with an agonizing fourth quarter meltdown and overtime loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.  Is pressure clad in orange and blue?

Living and working in the environment that is professional sports could be considered a constant continuum of pressure.  There really is nothing but “black and white” performance parameters.  You either do or you don’t.  You either win or you lose.  It’s difficult to ascertain any shades of gray when it comes to surviving in the National Football League; owner, general manager, coach, or player.  The demands of success are so heightened that pressure is nothing more than the constant state of norm, and therefore becomes an accepted way of life.

TGC Frustrated John Elway

Organizations don’t buckle under pressure, people do.  So to say that the Denver Broncos have more pressure than the San Diego Chargers to win this weekend is like saying either organization has the ability to manifest any emotion; love, hate, anger, animosity, happiness, sadness.  Collectives are incapable of “feeling”.  So the question of pressure falls on each individual.  The 2014 playoff version of the Denver Broncos doesn’t feel the pressure of the 2013 club’s loss to the Ravens.  There are members of this team that weren’t even around the Mile High city when Jacoby Jones took off on his 70 yard TD catch.  There are players with the San Diego Chargers that had nothing to do with the 2nd half spiral against Denver in 2012 that sent them on a ride to sub .500 mediocrity.

Pressure is felt and manifested by the individual, it can be tempered and controlled at the individual level as well.  Those players and coaches that have done all they can do in preparation for Sunday’s contest will understand that much of what determines the final outcome is beyond their own control.  To worry or fret over outside dynamics only plays into definition #2, and therefore creates pressure.

TGC Mike McCoyIs John Elway under any pressure to WIN this game?  I think not.  I’m assuming he’s done all he can personally do to ensure his team has what it needed to get ready for the “Bolts”.  Does Mike McCoy feel any more pressure to WIN in his first season as head coach?  Perhaps under the circumstances tied to making the right decisions over the course of 60 minutes of the unknown.  But is either TEAM feeling this force dynamic more than the other?  Probably not.  Both understand the ramifications of losing, both realize that winning only buys you another week.  And so they compete for the right to move on.

TGC Raheem Moore & Jacoby JonesThe ultimate outcome will ride on a very few that let their own perceived enormity of the situation get the best of them and hinder their performance at any given point.  A ball may be dropped, a tackle may be missed, an assignment may be blown, and the result could spell defeat for an entire team that was ready to play.

The Broncos and the Chargers won’t succumb to the pressure, but one or two of their players will.  What colors will pressure wear on Sunday?

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