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January 14, 2014

NFL Boilers: Brees looking to help; playoff notes

With his salary expected to take massive hits on the salary cap over the next three seasons, Drew Brees says he's willing to restructure his deal in an effort to help out.

Brees' salary will hit the Saints hard in coming years, counting $18.4-million vs. the camp in 2014; $16.4-million in '15 and more than $27 million the next season. The Saints, who were eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday at Seattle, are already over the cap next season, with All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham hitting free agency.

Brees might have incentive to help out. The former Boilermaker turns 35 on Wednesday, and knows that his window for another Super Bowl is shrinking.

"It's always tough to sit up here now when you know the season is over - the 2013 season is over - because No. 1, you know how close you got. It stings even more," Brees told ESPN.com. "Like last year, you walk away 7-9 and you didn't have a chance at the playoffs. You weren't that close. It hurts. The closer you get, the more it hurts, the more it stings. You also realize in this league, in this day and age, there are some of those guys that you're not going to be playing with anymore. Every team changes. There's a lot of turnover from year to year. So there's guys perhaps that you played with for a few years that you formed a special bond with that all of a sudden they're gone. It's a different team. You've got to re-establish that identity each and every year.

"And also, this was my 13th year. You just don't know how many more opportunities you have to play this game, to compete at this level and have a shot at a championship. You certainly can never take it for granted. We're so blessed to have these opportunities, but we know they're getting fewer and fewer. That's what makes it so tough standing up here right now having to talk about that."

Shaun Phillips had plenty of motivation for Denver's first game of the playoffs Sunday.

The former Boilermaker was facing his former team in the San Diego Chargers, with a chance to help his current team, the Broncos, advance to the AFC Championship game.

And Phillips came through big, collecting two sacks of Philip Rivers as Denver defeated San Diego 24-17. The Broncos will host New England next weekend for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

"Anytime you get a hit on a quarterback it's always good because you get a sack, that's one less completion that they could have completed or a touchdown," Phillips told media after the game Sunday evening. "It's always a tempo setter. The more you can keep pressure the more your quarterbacks get fidgety in the pocket."

Phillips came to Denver in the offseason after spending the first nine years of his career in San Diego. After not being resigned by the Chargers, he felt he had something left to prove, and proved it. A one-year, $1-million contract with Denver had incentives that included nearly $1-million additional money in bonuses and he's reached them. He had 10 sacks in the regular season and two more in the playoffs.

Nick Hardwick started at center for San Diego Sunday after being cleared only two days before.

The Charger had been injured in the first series of San Diego's Wild Card win at Cincinnati the week before, but passed his concussion test on Friday morning.

The 10th-year veteran did not miss a game this season.

Mike Neal, who had a break-out season in 2013, wants to re-sign in Green Bay.

Neal, who fought injuries during his first three years in the league, had 47 tackles and five sacks last season.

The following is a look at the NFL Boilers playing in the 2014 playoffs and their Divisional round statistics.

Carolina Panthers (12-5, 23-10 loss to San Francisco)

No.Pos.PlayerRoleGame Statistics
#99DTKawann ShortReserveFive tackles

Denver Broncos (14-3, 24-17 win over San Diego; host New England at 3 p.m. Sunday)

No.Pos.PlayerRoleGame Statistics
#90LB/DEShaun PhillipsStarterTwo tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH

New England Patriots (13-4, BYE; 43-22 win over Indianapolis; play at Denver at 3 p.m. Sunday)

No.Pos.PlayerRoleGame Statistics
#50LB/DERob NinkovichStarterOne tackle, 2 QH

New Orleans Saints (12-6, 23-15 loss at Seattle)

No.Pos.PlayerRoleGame Statistics
#9QBDrew BreesStarter24-of-43 passing for 309 yards, 1 TD / 0 int., for a 86.3 QB rating

San Diego Chargers (10-8, 24-17 loss at Denver)

No.Pos.PlayerRoleGame Statistics
#61CNick HardwickStarterChargers gained 65 yards rushing; line allowed four sacks

Seattle Seahawks (14-3, 23-15 win over New Orleans; host San Francisco at 6:30 p.m. Sunday)

No.Pos.PlayerRoleGame Statistics
#56DECliff AvrilReserveOne tackle, 0.5 sacks, 2 QH, 1 pass defensed

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