CARSON, CA-It seems like every game, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers continues on his own drumbeat as he marches his signature career into the Hall of Fame. Of course, that won’t happen until Rivers officially hangs up No. 17, but the math keeps adding up to his overall totals that will make it a no-brainer of one day that he will be seeing his bust at Canton, Ohio.
While the Chargers defense stepped up its game for the second consecutive week, Rivers was having a typical Rivers outing. This time he decided to carve up the Oakland Raiders defense for his 59th career 300-yard passing game in leading the Chargers to a 26-10 win at StubHub Center. Rivers completed 22 of 27 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns during the matinee collision with the Raiders.
“He’s amazing, isn’t he? He’s a great player,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “Great player, great competitor. He and [Chargers Offensive Coordinator] Ken Whisenhunt, they have been working together for a while and they’ve got a pretty good handle on what they’re doing.”
This is the second time this season that Rivers have hit the 300-yard plateau. He finished the game with a passer rating of 143.4, the highest mark he has ever posted against the Chargers AFC West division rivals. But it took Rivers and the Chargers some time to get cranking. A Caleb Sturgis’ 49-yard field goal was the only points the Chargers could muster after one period.
The boom play came for the Chargers when Rivers connected with running back Austin Ekeler on a 44-yard screen pass that turned into a touchdown in the second quarter.
“I just saw the pressure coming off the edge and it was a hot ball so it’s coming to me right away,” Ekeler said. “I ended up just catching the ball and looking downfield from there.”
For a game that was mired in what looked like would be a defensive battle, the Rivers-to-Ekeler connection opened things up offensively for the Chargers. Rivers said that play probably changed the momentum of a very tight game.
“I think so because we weren’t really playing that great on offense,” Rivers said. “We were playing okay. First [drive] it was better, we didn’t go three and out, finished with points, but we weren’t playing great. We had some third downs where we weren’t great, and then that kind of sparked the whole deal. At least it felt that way. Then we got another stop, then we got another big screen to Melvin [Gordon III] and punched that one in. Then we felt the control the rest of the way.”
For Rivers, who have completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,495 yards through the Chargers first five games, consistency has been his best friend. In the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, Rivers completed 34 of 51 passes for 424 yards and three scores. He followed that up with three consecutive 200 plus yards through the air against Buffalo (256 yards), Los Angeles Rams (226 yards), and San Francisco (250 yards), before going Route 339 against the Raiders.
Rivers’ passing consistency has a lot to do also with the fact he has been the Chargers’ Iron Man for a long, long time. The contest against the Raiders was the 197th straight game Rivers has taken the field as a starter.
“I don’t see any age in him at all,” Ekeler said. “He’s still playing at a super high level, which is what we need. He’s a super competitor, so I love having him out there.”
Having Rivers out on the field has benefited the Chargers in the win-loss column. The Chargers are now 3-2 on the season before they hit the road for little over a month with games against the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks, and the Raiders before they play the Denver Broncos at home on Nov. 18.
“That’s a good team win. I thought all three phases were solid,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “When we don’t give teams anything and we make teams go through it, I think we’re a tough team to beat. That’s what we expected.”
After falling to the Rams, the Chargers have now won two straight. The team is in a much better place than they were last season when they started 2017 off going into an immediate hole after losing their first four games, Rivers said.
“It definitely feels better and I think we’re kind of in that spot now, where what are you going to do — can we string something together here through the bye and not to look ahead? It’s all one at a time, can we string a couple together and get to 5-2 at the bye? I think if you had told us 5-2 — if you had told me, I don’t know if I’d feel that way because you always want to win them all, but if you told me 5-2, I’d take it, before the season started,” Rivers said. “We’re not there. We’re 3-2 and we have a tough Cleveland team this week who only gave up 12 points I guess in 70 minutes of football. That’s going to be a tough challenge at their place, and Tennessee, who I think gave up 12 or 13 today against Buffalo. So, we have two tough guys defensively, just to speak of their defenses, and both [away from home]. So, I’m not trying to get ahead of myself, but I think it’s good to look at the big picture and see what we’re trying to get done and find a way to make it happen.”