AFC West: San Diego Chargers

SAN DIEGO – Leading his team to a comeback victory on the road against the San Francisco 49ers helped San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers earn this week’s AFC Offensive Player of the Week Award, the league announced Wednesday.

Rivers completed 33 of 54 passes for 356 yards, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. With San Diego trailing by 21 points in the second half, Rivers was particularly effective, finishing with 273 yards and three touchdowns in the second half and overtime. Rivers was 5 of 5 for two touchdowns in passes to Antonio Gates after halftime.
SAN DIEGO – Win and they are in.

The San Diego Chargers continued to receive good news after a dramatic come-from-behind victory against the San Francisco 49ers Saturday evening.

At 9-6, the Chargers are now tied with the Baltimore Ravens (9-6), who lost on Sunday to the Houston Texans. The Kansas City Chiefs (8-7) also lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5), which means all the Chargers need is a victory at Kansas City next Sunday to clinch the team’s second straight appearance in the postseason. The Steelers clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Chiefs.

San Diego is currently the No. 6 seed in the AFC wild-card race. The Chargers are 6-4 at Kansas City since 2004.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- One player was a CFL standout who grinded to make the back end of the roster in August. The other rejoined the team two months ago as experienced depth at a position of need.

Receiver Dontrelle Inman and running back Ronnie Brown were unlikely contributors who made critical plays in Saturday's 38-35 comeback, overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers that gave the San Diego Chargers a chance to continue chasing postseason dreams with just a week left in the regular season.

Inman, 25, was active for just the sixth time this season due to Keenan Allen being out with a broken collarbone. Inman’s work ethic has been noted in the past. He’s usually the last one to leave the practice field during the week, getting in extra work with Eddie Royal on pass routes and catches on the JUGS machine. That work paid off Saturday.

After seeing minimal playing time early on, Inman was placed in the starting lineup to open the second half. And he responded with seven catches for 79 yards. The most critical catch came on a curl route on fourth-and-10 from San Francisco’s 26-yard line with less than a minute left in regulation for a 17-yard gain. The play set up Malcom Floyd's 11-yard touchdown catch that tied the game at 35-all, sending the contest into overtime.

“You never knew when he was going to get an opportunity to play,” Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. “But he’s a guy every day that shows up and works his tail off, and it paid off.”

Added Inman: “It’s awesome to have a Hall of Fame quarterback trusting you. You can’t ask for anything better.”

Brown rejoined the Chargers in October as added depth with Ryan Mathews out because of a knee injury. Needing someone to grind out yards to close out the game Saturday night, the 33-year-old runner finished with 33 yards on seven carries, including 22 on the final drive of the game to put the Chargers in field goal position for Nick Novak's 40-yarder for the win.

“He just leads in there,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said about Brown. “He does his scout team work and just says, ‘When y’all need me, I’ll be there.’ And he had two big catches on the drive for the touchdown, and then he obviously closed the game out the way he ran the ball.”

Brown said he was just fulfilling his role on this football team Saturday.

“It’s a game of opportunities,” Brown said. “When your number is called, you want to go out and do whatever you can do to try and make the team better in whatever your role is, and try to do it to the best of your ability. I try and keep that mindset. And that’s the character of this football team.”
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Players with bad backs and painful rib injuries aren't supposed to play like this.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers looked like a guy operating with injuries early. He threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, as his Chargers fell behind by three touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night.

"In the first half it was just throw it to the other team and stand on the sideline, unfortunately," joked Rivers.

But something changed at halftime. Rivers said he got into a better rhythm in the second half. He felt healthier this week than last week after limiting his practice reps, and that renewed energy showed in a 38-35 overtime victory.

While not demonstrating the mobility of a track athlete like Colin Kaepernick, Rivers sidestepped the rush at times to buy time. And he showed better accuracy and more patience in letting his receivers work themselves open down the field.

"He's going to miss a throw," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "He's going to throw another interception at times in his career. But he's one of the best in the business. And we're very fortunate to have him here."

Rivers was especially precise on fourth down. The Chargers finished a perfect 3-for-3 on fourth-down conversions in the final half, including two on their game-tying drive to force overtime. San Diego entered the game 1-for-5 on fourth-down attempts, the worst conversion rate in the league this season.

On fourth-and-8 from San Francisco's 43-yard line, Rivers found Eddie Royal on an out route down the sideline that he scooped up for a 17-yard gain and a first down. Four plays later, Rivers stuck a throw in the chest of seldom-used receiver Dontrelle Inman on a curl route on fourth-and-10 from San Francisco's 26-yard line for a 17-yard gain.

Two plays later, Rivers hit Malcom Floyd on a slant route for an 11-yard touchdown to tie the game.

Rivers finished 33-of-54 for 356 yards, with four touchdown passes and three interceptions. He was sacked twice, posting an 82.0 passer rating. Rivers didn't play lights out, but he was surgical when the game mattered most.

The victory was Rivers' 19th fourth-quarter, come-from-behind career win.

"He gets into a rhythm, and you can't stop him," Chargers safety Eric Weddle said.

San Diego's defense also lived up to its end of the bargain. Yes, the Chargers gave up a ridiculous 355 yards on the ground, the second most in franchise history. But in the second half, San Diego limited the 49ers to seven points and forced two fumbles -- a strip sack by Ricardo Mathews and Dwight Freeney that Corey Liuget recovered for a score, and a forced fumble by Weddle that was recovered by Sean Lissemore -- leading to Nick Novak's game-winning 40-yard field goal.

"Top-five craziest games that I have ever been a part of in my career," Chargers outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "It was not by any stretch our best game, but we found a way to win, and that's all that matters now. It is awesome."

Just like last season, when the Chargers made their improbable postseason run, things are falling San Diego's way. They still need help, but if the Chargers can find a way to win on the road against Kansas City on Dec. 28, they could find themselves in the postseason for a second straight year.

Rivers won't allow himself -- or the rest of his teammates -- to look beyond Kansas City. Over the past 10 years, the Chargers are 6-4 at Arrowhead Stadium.

"First of all, we know what it is to go to Kansas City and win," Rivers said. "That's hard. But, if after that we found a way to win that one and it's not enough, then it's not enough. We have to make sure we hold up our end of it and find a way to get to 10-6. In most organizations they would say that's a pretty positive year."
SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews will miss a second straight game because of a severely sprained ankle.

Mathews was ruled out for Saturday's game against the San Francisco 49ers on Friday. Mathews did not practice for a second straight week and will miss his ninth game this season.

However, the Chargers will likely have the team’s franchise quarterback. Philip Rivers (back, chest) was a full participant in practice for a second straight day on Friday and is listed as probable on the team’s injury report.

Along with Mathews, receiver Keenan Allen (shoulder, ankle) and punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) also were ruled out.

Defensive tackle Corey Liuget (ankle) and tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, ankle) were full participants for a second straight day and are questionable. Defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) also was a full participant and is probable.
SAN DIEGO – With two games left in the season and fighting for their playoff lives, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has not been an active participant in the early portion of practice available to reporters this week.

Rivers
Rivers was in uniform, but did not do any individual drill work on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Rivers was not on the field during the early portion of practice available to reporters.

No reason was given for Rivers’ absence from practice by the team on Wednesday. However, Rivers was listed as having a chest and back injury on the team’s injury report last week. Rivers has started 142 straight games, the NFL’s second-longest active streak behind Eli Manning (166).

Along with Rivers, running back Ryan Mathews (ankle), receiver Keenan Allen (shoulder), defensive tackle Corey Liuget (ankle), tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, ankle) and punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) were not on the field for the early portion of practice on Wednesday.

Chargers need to get off to a fast start vs. 49ers

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
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ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams talks about the team getting off to a fast start offensively to dictate tempo against 49ers.
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SAN DIEGO -- On his second and final interception of the afternoon, another ill-advised pass intended for Antonio Gates picked off by safety Rahim Moore, quarterback Philip Rivers could barely run in pursuit.

Rivers has been listed on the San Diego Chargers' injury report with a chest issue since Gates mistakenly revealed his quarterback had been dealing with a rib injury in mid-November. A back ailment was added to the injury report in addition to the chest injury this week.

But Rivers refuses to use the nagging injuries as an excuse for his recent poor play.

"It's not limiting," he said. "The opposing defenses in the last two weeks have been the biggest reason."

Facing an AFC Super Bowl contender for a second straight week in a 22-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, Rivers and San Diego's offense predictably struggled. San Diego also had to deal with the absence of the team's top running back, Ryan Mathews, who had to sit out due to an ankle injury.

Rivers finished 24-of-41 for 232 yards, one touchdown pass to Gates and two interceptions. Rivers was not sacked, so he had good protection most of the game. But even with enough time to find receivers down the field, he posted a 62.2 passer rating.

San Diego's offense scored just two touchdowns in the last eight quarters of work. Put together by offensive coordinator turned head coach Mike McCoy, the Chargers were built from an offensive mindset.

But lately the defense has been shouldering the load. San Diego's defense held two of the highest scoring offense in the league to an average of 22 points a game. But the Chargers still lost.

Rivers acknowledged what most NFL observers already knew: The Chargers cannot compete with the AFC's elite.

"We're not in their company yet," Rivers said. "We're just not. That doesn't mean I don't believe we can be, or don't believe we can beat them. I believe we can. But those are the two teams that beat us in the last two weeks.

"They're first and second in the AFC, so it's not like we've lost to the bottom of the barrel."

McCoy, former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and current offensive coordinator Frank Reich have been rightly praised for getting Rivers back to playing like an elite quarterback.

However, at times Rivers appears to have regressed back to some of bad habits that got him in trouble in the past.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers was 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) on throws 5 yards downfield or shorter, tied for his lowest completion percentage on short throws in a game this season. He was 9-of-17 with two interceptions on throws deeper than 5 yards downfield, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt -- almost 4 yards shy of his season average (10.1).

Rivers did not complete a pass in the first quarter (0-for-3) -- the first time since Weeks 15 and 16 of 2006.

McCoy said the Rivers is not injured or broken – it's just a matter of the entire offense doing a better job of executing.

"It's everybody," McCoy said. "Everyone's got to look at the film. We'll evaluate it. There's pluses and minuses for every player, every game. As an offense, you always want to look at the quarterback when you win and give him credit.

"When you lose, you take the blame. That's part of the business, and we've got to play better as an offense, not just one player."

The Chargers have to get things turned around quick. San Diego takes to the road for contests against the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. And the offense has to play better for the Chargers to have a chance to make the postseason for a second straight season.

"We just have to continue to fight," receiver Eddie Royal said. "It's not always going to be pretty. Playing against a good defense -- good on good -- there's going to be some tough matchups, some tough catches and physical runs.

"We just have to keep fighting."

W2W4: San Diego Chargers

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
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SAN DIEGO -- In the team’s final regular-season home game, the San Diego Chargers (8-5) host the Denver Broncos (10-3) at 4:05 p.m. ET at Qualcomm Stadium. The Broncos will clinch their fourth straight AFC West title with a win.

Here are three things we’ll be watching for with the Chargers on Sunday.

1. Improved O-line execution: Whether Ryan Mathews can return from an injured ankle or the Chargers go with a combination of Donald Brown and Branden Oliver, San Diego’s offensive line has to play better than it performed last week. That means rookie center Chris Watt has to do a better job of communicating the line calls up front and the Chargers have to get a consistent push in the run game and protect quarterback Philip Rivers. San Diego will not consistently move the ball against a talented Denver defense if the Chargers do not get better line play up front.

2. Win on third down: Defensively, the Chargers are playing well on the money down. Keeping Peyton Manning from moving the sticks will be important, so that means bottling up running back C.J. Anderson on early downs and finding a way to get stops on third down in order to get the offense back on the field. San Diego also has been playing well in the red zone defensively, holding teams to 37.5 percent inside the 20-yard line since Week 10, which is No. 7 in the NFL.

3. Create explosive plays: Either through the air or on the ground, the Chargers have to find a way to dial up some explosive plays to make it easier to score. San Diego managed just seven points on offense against the Patriots and the Chargers totaled just three plays of 20-plus yards against New England’s defense. San Diego has just five running plays of 20-plus yards this season, tied for No. 25 in the NFL.
SAN DIEGO -- Two impact players for the San Diego Chargers on offense and defense missed practice for the second day in a row Thursday.

Running back Ryan Mathews did not practice for a second straight day due to a right ankle injury, while defensive lineman Corey Liuget also did not practice because of an ankle issue. Liuget was seen at the end of practice wearing a walking boot to protect his left ankle.

Others not working with the team on the field Thursday included tight end Ladarius Green (concussion/ankle) and punter Mike Scifres (shoulder). Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (rest) returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday.

Defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) was a full participant for a second straight day, while Philip Rivers (chest) was also a full participant for a second straight day.
SAN DIEGO – Even though he limped off of the field at the end of the first half against the New England Patriots on Sunday and only carried the ball twice for minus-8 yards in the second half, San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy indicated to reporters that running back Ryan Mathews was held out the rest of the game because his team chose to use other options, not because of injury.

Mathews
However, Mathews did not practice on Wednesday because of an ankle injury, an ominous sign for the Chargers with the defending AFC West champion Denver Broncos coming to town with a chance to clinch a fourth straight division title.

“He was a little sore this morning, so we decided to hold him out,” McCoy told reporters after practice.

Asked if he hopes to see Mathews on the practice field later this week, this is what McCoy had to say:

“Yeah, like any player,” he said. “We’re going to take it day by day and see how he’s feeling, and go from there. I’m sure [Denver head coach] John Fox and all of them would love to know how he’s feeling.”

Mathews missed seven games earlier this season with an MCL sprain, including the first game San Diego lost at Denver earlier this year, 35-21 in Week 8.

The last time the Chargers defeated the Broncos was a Thursday night contest almost a year ago. Mathews finished with 29 carries for 127 yards a touchdown in a 27-20 victory at Denver.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he is aware of the impact Mathews provides when he’s in the lineup. The Chargers are 4-2 this season with Mathews in the starting lineup.

“There’s no doubt that we’re better when he’s out there,” Rivers said. “At the same time, we have confidence in Donald [Brown], Branden [Oliver] and Ronnie [Brown] when we’re in there as well. But when he’s rolling and we’re balanced, that’s when we’re at our best.”

Denver outside linebacker Von Miller agrees.

“When he’s on the field, he definitely changes the dynamic of the Chargers’ offense,” Miller said. “He’s a hard runner.”

Along with Mathews, outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (rest), tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, ankle), defensive tackle Corey Liuget (ankle) and punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday.

Rivers (chest) was a full participant in practice. And after missing three games, defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) returned to practice as a limited participant.

Melvin Ingram has best game vs. Patriots

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
10:00
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ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams talks about Melvin Ingram’s performance and how he can impact the team going forward.

QB snapshot: Philip Rivers

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
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A quick observation of quarterback Philip Rivers and how he played in the San Diego Chargers' 23-14 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 14:

Rivers
With inconsistent pass protection, along with playing against one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL, Rivers had trouble pushing the ball downfield against New England.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers was 2-of-10 on passes traveling more than 5 yards downfield. Rivers’ two completions on such throws are the fewest he has had in a game since he became a full-time starter in 2006.

The Chargers finished with just three passing plays of 20-plus yards.

Rivers was sacked four times and pressured another seven by New England’s defensive front, so he never got comfortable enough in the pocket in order to have time to connect on those deep throws.

Darrelle Revis also did a good job of taking away Rivers’ favorite target, Keenan Allen. The second-year receiver was targeted just three times, finishing with two catches for 3 yards.

The Chargers will face another aggressive defensive front and talented secondary when the Denver Broncos travel to Qualcomm Stadium this coming weekend. It will be important for the offensive line to do a better job in pass protection and for the Chargers to have a better plan in attacking Denver down the field for explosive plays.
SAN DIEGO -- It’s no surprise the San Diego Chargers were most effective offensively Sunday against the New England Patriots when Ryan Mathews churned out yards running the football.

In the first half, Mathews carried the ball nine times for 52 yards, averaging a robust 5.8 yards per carry.

Mathews
However, with a little more than two minutes left in the opening half, Mathews appeared to suffer a right leg injury on the same leg that kept him out seven games this season with an MCL knee sprain.

On second-and-29 from San Diego’s 9-yard line, Mathews broke through the line cleanly and bounced outside. But as he sprinted toward the sideline, New England cornerback Kyle Arrington reached out and tripped Mathews with his leg.

Arrington was flagged for tripping on the play, resulting in an automatic first down for the Chargers. However, Mathews limped off the field and was late coming out for the second half.

Mathews carried the ball only two times for minus-8 yards the rest of the game. He’s still wearing a bulky brace to protect the injured knee, a sign that his stability returning from the injury is not 100 percent. The brace also appears to limit his mobility.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy indicated Monday that Mathews is healthy.

“He came back in the game and played,” McCoy said. “You saw him do some good things in protection, things like that. He was back in the game.”

However, Philip Rivers acknowledged the Chargers had trouble running the football in the second half. In order to run the ball effectively these last three games of the season against the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, the Chargers need Mathews at his best down the stretch.

“He was going pretty good early,” Rivers said. “It’s always easy after losses to go back and try and pick what we should’ve called, should’ve ran, where I should’ve thrown it. When you’re in the heat of it, it’s not that easy. It was just an overall below-average day for us on the offense side.”

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 23-14 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.

What it means: At 8-5, the Chargers fell two games behind the Denver Broncos (10-3) in the AFC West but remain alone in second place, as the Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) lost at Arizona. At 10-3, the Patriots remain the top seed in the AFC, while the Chargers are in the final wild-card spot.

No time for Rivers: San Diego's young offensive line struggled to protect quarterback Philip Rivers from a savvy New England defensive front. The Patriots harassed Rivers most of the evening and finished with four sacks. Rivers finished 20-of-33 passing for just 189 yards, his second lowest output this season. The Chargers were shut out in the second half.

Chargers tame Tom Brady: San Diego's defense held New England to a season-low 12 yards in the third quarter and forced the Patriots to punt four straight times. San Diego finished with nine tackles for loss. Safety Darrell Stuckey returned a fumble by Brandon LaFell 53 yards for a score. The Chargers also held New England to 1-for-4 in the red zone. New England entered the game scoring a touchdown 66 percent of the time in the red zone, third best in the NFL. However, up 16-14 with 8:41 left to play, the Patriots broke the game open when Brady connected with receiver Julian Edelman on a slant route he took 69 yards for a touchdown.

Stock watch: Up. Malcom Floyd continued his bounce-back year and finished with three catches for 54 yards, including a 15-yard reception for a score. Floyd now has five touchdowns this season.

A first for Te'o: Second-year linebacker Manti Te'o hauled in his first career interception on an underthrown ball by Brady intended for Rob Gronkowski. Te'o had a chance for another pick earlier in the game but bobbled the pass and couldn't hold on.

Game ball: Pass-rusher Melvin Ingram was an impact player for San Diego. He finished with six tackles, including three tackles for a loss, and a sack.

What’s next: The Chargers host the Broncos in the team's final home game of the regular season at 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday.

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