Philip Rivers' upset over the Denver Broncos Thursday night was one that many did not see coming. There are some key takeaways that also have to deal with the lack of respect for the San Diego Chargers and how his performance impacts them this year and next year.
5. The Run Game Is Adding to Philip Rivers' Success
Ryan Mathews is helping Rivers out by taking some of the pressure off of the star quarterback. Rivers threw the ball a season-low 20 times Thursday night, mostly due to Mathews' success on the ground. Mathews racked up 127 yards and one touchdown in the win.
The ability to run the ball changes the way defenses have to play the Chargers. If they focus on Mathews, Rivers can beat them through the air. If they don't load the box with defenders, Mathews can put up yards.
Despite only throwing for 166 yards, Rivers managed the game effectively and completed 12 of his 20 passes.
The fewer amount of attempts for Rivers should likely mean less interceptions, which helps the team. In 2011, Rivers threw a career-high 582 pass attempts. He also tossed 20 interceptions in that same season. This season, with Mathews carrying for over 1,000 yards, Rivers has had less pressure and has only thrown nine interceptions.
4. When Rivers Is On, the Chargers Are Rolling
Rivers has really turned it on the past few weeks. In the past five contests, he has thrown 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions.
In the seven wins the Chargers have, Rivers has 16 touchdowns and one interception; in the seven they have lost, he has 12 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
Rivers has really stepped up down the stretch, and Thursday night was proof of that. While he did not light up the stat sheet with eye-popping numbers, he played mistake-free football and led his team to victory.
Over the past month, the Chargers have won on the road in Kansas City, blistered the New York Giants and won a road game in Denver. Their only loss during this stretch was a seven-point loss to a good Cincinnati Bengals team.
3. Rivers Is Poised Enough to Lead a Team in the Playoffs
After Thursday night's victory, the playoffs looked very good for the Chargers. After the Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots, though, those playoff hopes are in question. The Dolphins hold the tiebreaker for the last wild-card spot over the Chargers because they beat them in mid-November.
San Diego would need to win its final two and have the Dolphins lose their last two contests.
While this seems like a tough task, the point I am attempting to make is that Rivers is able to lead this team in the playoffs. The Chargers knew they were battling for the final wild-card spot and would need to win the key games down the stretch.
The game against the Kansas City Chiefs and the game Thursday night versus the Broncos were late-season, playoff-like games. Rivers stepped up in the Kansas City game, throwing for 392 yards and three touchdowns.
Any doubters still out there about Rivers had to be silenced Thursday night when he showed the leadership to take down a top team late in the season.
If the Chargers do not make the playoffs this year, watch out for next year, folks.
Below is a tweet from the official San Diego Chargers Twitter account that shows how effective Rivers is in December, when the games get more intense.
2. Rivers' Success Will Make the Chargers a Top Contender in the AFC Next Year
Rivers' success in the big games down the stretch will help the Chargers next year. Rivers will have the confidence and momentum going into the offseason to bring this team back stronger next year.
The Chargers still have a shot at the playoffs this season also, if Miami were to lose its final two.
Thursday night, the Chargers showed people they can compete with the best, so this should provide momentum for the team going into next year.
Next season, the Chargers will be a top contender if they take care of those games they are supposed to win.
Rivers also is getting more comfortable with rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen. The duo hooked up for two touchdown passes Thursday night. This was a good sign for next season from Allen and Rivers. They will figure to be one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the NFL in coming years.
Below is a tweet by Best Vines that captures one of Keenan Allen's two touchdown catches from Rivers Thursday night, this one requiring a little "leap" into the end zone.
Chargers Keenan Allen Hurdles Defender for the Touchdown! https://t.co/DhOBXdiEot— Best Vines (@TheFunnyVine) December 14, 2013
1. Philip Rivers Is the Most Underrated Quarterback in the NFL
Rivers is one who does not get the respect he deserves, while still putting up great numbers.
Shown here by this tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter, Rivers is third in total QBR in the NFL, trailing only Peyton Manning and Josh McCown.
Anytime quarterbacks are placed in a category with Manning, they tend to be having a good season. Rivers has thrown 28 touchdowns this season to only nine interceptions, also holding a 69.9 percent completion percentage. Those numbers are very good and would surprise many NFL fans if they knew who the stats belonged to.
Best Total QBR This Season Josh McCown 85.7 Peyton Manning 83.5 Philip Rivers 72.9— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 15, 2013
Others also feel the lack of respect for Rivers. Sterling Sharpe told NFL Network that he thought Rivers was the most underrated player in the league, also shown below in this tweet.
Sharpe: Philip Rivers is the most underrated NFL player http://t.co/NsMUgyYGak— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) October 6, 2013
Rivers and the San Diego Chargers will need Miami to lose its final two and keep winning to have a shot at the playoffs.
Either way after the big win Thursday night, this Chargers team looks like a contender for next year with Rivers under center.
The run game is much improved this season, and Rivers is automatic in December. This is the recipe for success if the Chargers can find a way to win games earlier in the season against those teams with losing records.
Thursday night showed many fans around the league that the Chargers can play with the best.