First Place Chargers Will Host Redskins Sunday
Chargers Beat Browns 19-10
December 7, 2017
The NFL is considered a young man's league, but don't tell NFL quarterbacks that. The top four passing offenses in the NFL are led by veteran quarterbacks: Tom Brady with the New England Patriots is 40 years old.
Philip Rivers of the Los Angles Chargers is 35 years old and will turn 36 on December 8. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints is 38 and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers is 35.
Rivers has been playing the best football of this group over the past three weeks. On Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson Rivers led the Chargers to a 19-10 win over the Cleveland Browns. It was the third straight win for the Chargers. Rivers threw for 344 yards and one touchdown, completing 31 of 43 passes.
For the past three weeks Rivers has completed 78 of 108 passes for 1,029 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has been sacked only twice in the past three games. For the season, he has been sacked only 13 times in 12 games. That is the best in the NFL.
The play of Rivers and the other top veteran quarterbacks has been almost exclusively from the pocket. For the season, Roethlisberger has rushed for 33 yards, Brady for 24 yards, Brees for 13 yards and Rivers for -7 yards. These are not mobile quarterbacks but highly successful quarterbacks nonetheless. These veterans play a more cerebral game at quarterback.
Rivers has only thrown seven interceptions in 12 games. Coupled with the great protection from the offensive line there has been almost no reason to run the football, other than to keep the defense honest. Because the offense has been playing so well the Chargers have had only four punts in the past three games.
When a quarterback is playing well he is usually being assisted by a favorite receiving target. On the Chargers that is wide receiver Keenan Allen. With Sunday's 10-reception, 105-yard, one-TD performance, Allen became the first player in NFL history to record at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and one touchdown in three consecutive games.
Over the past three games Allen has caught 33 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns. He has 42% of the receiving yardage and 42% of the passes caught from Rivers over the past three games. Rivers and Allen just seem to be clicking together these days.
Rivers is a big fan of Allen and his pass receiving ability: "He is just a guy that is so easy to feel as a quarterback when I am back there getting ready to throw it. His body language is very inviting as far as when he is coming in on his cuts. I can just see it easily and well. The guy's ability to beat man coverage and to understand what the defense is doing is up there with the best of them."
There was another wide receiver on the field on Sunday who has had similar historical success at wide receiver. Brown wide receiver Josh Gordon made his 2017 debut against the Chargers, catching four passes for 85 yards. Gordon was coming off an extended suspension from the NFL for violating the league substance-abuse policy.
In 2013 Gordon became the first wide receiver in NFL History with back-to-back games of more than 200 yards in receiving. He was All-Pro in 2013 with the Browns and looked as if he had not lost a step.
Gordon's return will be a boost for the winless Browns, who have lost 30 of their last 31 games. The Browns played hard and fought until the end.
As Charger Head Coach Anthony Lynn said after the game: "We knew that would be a scrappy game...We don't take that win lightly."
The Browns took a 7-6 lead just before the end of the first half on a touchdown pass of 28 yards from Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer to David Njoku with 1:55 left. Rivers then took the Chargers 75 yards in less than two minutes and kicker Travis Coons nailed a 22-yard field goal to give the Chargers a 9-7 halftime lead.
The Chargers received the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 75 yards in four minutes and 25 seconds, the drive culminating on a Rivers to Allen touchdown pass of seven yards. The Chargers had scored ten points at the end and the beginning of the half to take control of the game.
Later in the quarter Rivers put together a 12 play, 66-yard drive in seven minutes and three seconds, the drive ending in another Coons field goal. The Chargers had controlled the football from the end of the second quarter to the end of the third quarter, scoring on all three possessions and effectively putting the game away.
The defense finished the game with two big turnovers in the fourth quarter, an interception by Adrian Phillips and a strip sack by Joey Bosa, resulting in a recovered fumble by Denzel Perryman. The Chargers defense has forced 11 turnovers in the last four games. As Phillips stated: "We are hitting our stride right now, and I'm very proud of this defense. But we still haven't reached our ceiling. We still have a lot more to do."
The win over the Browns moved the surging Chargers into a tie for first place with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders at 6-6. After an 0-4 start the Chargers have gone 6-2 and control their own fate.
Only one team has started 0-4 and made the playoffs since the NFL went to six playoff teams per conference in 1990, that being the 1992 Chargers.
The Chargers will host the Washington Redskins in Week 14 at the StubHub Center. Kickoff is on Sunday, Dec. 10 at 1:05 pm. The Redskins are 5-7 and have been up and down this season, but have beaten the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks on the road, so this will another challenge for the Chargers.