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Chargers' success has a Rivers running through it

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Nov 12, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/9797565/2">CBS Sportsline</a>

    By Pete Prisco

    <img width="215" height="296" align="left" alt="San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws a nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna in the third quarter of their NFL football game with the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2006, in Cincinnati. Rivers threw for three touchdowns and 337 yards in the Chargers 49-41 win." title="San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws a nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna in the third quarter of their NFL football game with the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2006, in Cincinnati. Rivers threw for three touchdowns and 337 yards in the Chargers 49-41 win." src="http://us.news2.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/ap/20061112/capt.73a1726f010b47e3960b9cd8292a42b4.chargers_bengals_football_pbs110.jpg" />CINCINNATI -- They came into the locker room Sunday down 21 points -- on the road no less -- against a 2005 playoff team. But instead of panic, instead of packing it in for the day like some teams would have done, the San Diego Chargers offensive players went back on the field and heeded the advice of their coordinator.

    "We're going to throw it around in the second half," Cam Cameron told them.

    Down 28-7 to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chargers went to an up-tempo, no-huddle offense, putting the ball into the hands of first-year starter Philip Rivers. All he did was lead them to 42 second-half points, and the Chargers rallied to a 49-41 victory at Paul Brown Stadium that serves notice to the rest of the league that this offense is for real.

    Better yet, Rivers is for real.

    Caught up in an old AFL-type shootout, the kind I loved in my youth, Rivers responded by completing 24 of 36 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns, all three in the second half. Carson Palmer threw for more yards (440) and had the same number of touchdowns, but in the end it was Rivers who won a huge road game for his 7-2 team.

    It's the kind of game that validates the Chargers decision to let Drew Brees leave for New Orleans in free-agency, which allowed Rivers the chance to play. Rivers looked every bit the polished veteran during the comeback, almost giving off a Peyton Manning-like vibe, which is the highest compliment a quarterback can get.

    "Every time he takes the field, he amazes this team," Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "He's young, but he makes so many smart decisions out there it's like he's been in the league for six or seven years."

    A third-year player who spent the first two seasons mostly watching, Rivers is the son of a coach. That means while he was watching, he was learning. He might not have the strongest arm or the prettiest release, but he understands where to go with the football. In the NFL, that's a major part of being a great passer.

    From a visual standpoint, comparing Rivers to Palmer is like comparing a pretty down-home country girl to a sleek, trendy model. The country girl gets it done, but lined up next to the model the real beauty might be overlooked, which is a shame.

    But in evaluating Rivers, it's more than just the physical. In addition to his ability to see the field, he also has that ability to relate to his teammates. All-World tight end Antonio Gates said Rivers' sideline demeanor against the Bengals impressed him.

    "He's over there telling us they're going to have to score more than 28 to beat us," Gates said. "He never got down at all."

    The Bengals, who might have been playing for their playoff lives at 4-4 coming in, jumped all over an undermanned San Diego defense. Playing for the second consecutive week without linebacker Shawne Merriman, the Chargers were carved up by Palmer. The one knock on the San Diego defense is that it has a so-so secondary, and without Merriman creating problems for Palmer, he ate them up.

    Palmer completed 20 of 23 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Chad Johnson, who finished with 11 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns, had seven for 112 and a score.

    It didn't look like the Chargers would ever stop them. That's why it was all on the offense at halftime.

    The reality is that it's been on the offense a lot this season. San Diego might have a reputation for being a defensive team, which is what you'd expect from a Marty Schottenheimer-coached club, but it came into this game third in the league in total offense and first in scoring at 31 points per game. Their seven touchdowns against the Bengals mean they now have a league-high 35 -- better than Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

    "We've always felt that we were an offensive team," wide receiver Keenan McCardell said. "Look at the talent on our offense. We can play with anybody. If we have to play games like this, we can. We can score on anybody. We have so many weapons that it's so hard for teams to defend us."

    In Tomlinson, they have the best back in football. His four touchdowns give him 18 on the season, including 14 in the past five games. His presence forces teams to bring an extra player into the box, which helps open up the passing game. The Bengals bounced off him all day as he ran for 104 yards.

    He was nearly stopped for good as he walked to the locker room when a cart carrying cases of beer nearly ran him over, causing one security guard to say, "You can't run over the franchise."

    No, he runs over you.

    In addition to Tomlinson, the Chargers also have arguably the game's best tight end in Antonio Gates, and a good, solid group of receivers. Gates didn't even get that involved against the Bengals, catching five passes for 69 yards.

    That's because Rivers spread it around. He hit eight different receivers, throwing two touchdown passes to backup tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. The second one, which proved to be the winning score, said a lot about the way Rivers plays.

    Faced with a third-and-goal with just under three minutes left and his team leading 42-41, a pass play designed to go to Tomlinson was called. But he was covered, and Rivers was forced out of the pocket, which is interesting since he isn't exactly the most fleet-footed quarterback. Rolling left, he appeared on his way to being sacked when three Bengals came rushing at him. At the last second, he flipped the ball to Manumaleuna for the touchdown.

    Tomlinson was asked his thoughts when he saw Rivers running.

    "Oh geez," Tomlinson said. "I just didn't want him to get hit and get hurt."

    That's because he's the guy who can decide if this is a Super Bowl team. The Chargers players loved Brees. He was tough, he was a fighter and he made plays in the passing game. When he left, some questioned the decision, but others had an idea what they had in Rivers.

    "You could see he was going to be a player," McCardell said. "He had that special feeling you get from all the good quarterbacks."

    That's why when they were down 21-0 in the first quarter and then 28-7 at the half, there was nothing ugly happening on the sidelines or in the locker room.

    "It was more like disbelief." Rivers said. "We couldn't believe we were down 21. But there was no panic."

    The cool third-year quarterback then went out and backed that up, winning a good, old-fashioned shootout.

    "When I say AFL to you, does that make a point?" Schottenheimer said. "This was a shootout. When I looked at the scoreboard and saw two teams in the 30s, it immediately took me back to the old AFL days."

    The Chargers have had some of the great offenses in league history, from John Hadl to Lance Alworth to Dan Fouts and Air Coryell. But this Chargers team was known more for its defense entering the season, a young quarterback making many theorize that the running game and that defense would be what keyed this team's playoff and Super Bowl push.

    They can change that opinion now. On a gray, cold day, Philip Rivers showed the rest of the NFL that he's more than capable of putting a team on his shoulders.

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