Keeping opposing teams out of the red zone has been a Jets defensive specialty, a big reason they've allowed a league-low 14.8 points a game this season.
"When you get in the red zone, especially when you get inside the 5, it's about who lifts the most weights," 6'3", 325-pound DT Sione Pouha told newyorkjets.com. "We don't want them to get in there. We take pride in that."
"You never know what could happen," said LB Bryan Thomas. "A fumble could happen, an interception, anything. I mean, the Bengals missed two key field goals in the game last week."
In the last seven games, going back to Week 12 and including last week's AFC Wild Card victory, the Jets have allowed opposing offenses in the red zone just 12 times. Out of those dozen opportunities, teams have scored TDs only four times (33.3 percent). For the regular season, the Jets allowed TDs on 42.4 percent of opponents' RZ chances, fifth-best in the NFL.
"Our coach has been telling us this from day one — 'They're not in till they're in.' That's the approach we take," said CB Lito Sheppard. "I think guys focus in a little bit more in those situations."
But then there were those gut-wrenching games in which opponents scored last-minute game-clinchers in the red zone earlier this season.
At Miami in Week 5, Ronnie Brown ran it to the end zone from 2 yards out with six seconds to play. Against Jacksonville, Maurice Jones-Drew kneeled at the 1 to set up Josh Scobee's winning field goal as time expired. And a fourth-down 6-yard touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez put the Falcons on top to stay with 1:38 left in Week 15.
"We know what we did and didn't do in those situations and why and what happened," said Sheppard. "I think as long as we learn from those mistakes, we can prevent them from happening again."
The Chargers don't want to get into a defensive battle with the Jets' stout D, so they will try to put points up on the board. And they finished fourth in the NFL in scoring offense with 28.4 points per game.
In their last six games they've ventured inside the opponents' 20 on 24 occasions, with 15 touchdowns. In goal-to-go situations, they've scored TDs on 10 of 13 opportunities.
"When you get down there, you want to score touchdowns and the Jets are one of the best in the league at keeping that from happening," Chargers QB Philip Rivers said on a Wednesday conference call. "From a touchdown pass standpoint, obviously only eight given up all yea, it's what you expect in the playoffs. It's good vs. good."
Rivers is a big reason for San Diego's efficiency. The sixth-year QB has scored a TD on 28.6 of drives that the offense has had the ball for. He's also passed for a TD in 13 straight games.
Another big stat for Rivers. Since becoming the starter in 2006, he's 28-7 at Qualcomm Stadium.
"He's a very smart and intelligent quarterback, so we're going to have to disguise well and try to pressure him," said S James Ihedigbo, who strip-sacked Carson Palmer of the ball, with Jamaal Westerman recovering, to finish off the Bengals last week. "I know he's the kind of guy that doesn't take sacks and, if he doesn't have anything downfield, he gets it to a guy like [Darren] Sproles or [Antonio] Gates early."
The Chargers have some big receivers, all of whom are at least 6'2", which may give Rivers the opportunity to throw some fade routes.
"That's just like trying to get a rebound. If you're 5'10" and another guy's 6'5", it's definitely going to present some problems," said the 5'10" Sheppard. "The one thing about this game is you can get a little bit more physical. I think that's going to be the key when we get put in those jumpball situations."