Philip Rivers has eight children — eight names to remember long after his football career — and seeing their faces, along with his wife’s, he knew he had to say something.
Following the Chargers’ loss at Jacksonville, Rivers self-reported concussion symptoms last Monday, a challenging decision that threw his status for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills in doubt.
“When you’re visiting with your wife and those eight babies are there, you go, ‘Why not?’ Even if you’re being extra cautious, ‘Why not?’ ” Rivers said. “It was the prudent thing to do. When you’re dealing with that — anything neck down, I tend to be pretty reckless with — but that isn’t something I wanted to play around with.”
Rivers was a full practice participant Thursday and Friday and was cleared to return by an independent neurologist Friday afternoon. Sunday, Rivers completed 20 of 32 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in a 54-24 win.
“I thought he did fine,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “I thought he settled in and played a good game — no turnovers.”
Before Sunday, Rivers had made 194 straight regular-season and playoff starts. He was pretty sure No. 195 was never in jeopardy.
“I hadn’t been in that position before — it was a little bit of new territory for me,” Rivers said. “I really felt good as the whole week progressed. There was really never any doubt in my mind. A lot of it is really just proper protocol, going through the proper steps. Thankfully, that was all clear and good.”
A 37-point lead through three quarters allowed the Chargers to rest most of their starters in the fourth quarter, including Rivers, running back Melvin Gordon, receiver Keenan Allen, tight end Hunter Henry and defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. That could be significant considering the Chargers will have three days to prepare for Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas.
“The rest was definitely needed, for sure,” Allen said. “It’s going to be a rough week. It was good that we got to sit out the fourth quarter.”
The break was especially important for the defense, which was on the field far more than the offense in the first nine games and relies heavily on the high energy and intensity of edge rushers Bosa and Ingram.
Bosa had another big game Sunday, with his third-quarter strip sack leading to a fumble that Ingram returned 39 yards for his first career touchdown and four quarterback hits, two of which led to first-half interceptions.
“Playing the Thursday game will be tough on our body, but if we take care of ourselves, rest and prepare the right way, we’ll be ready to go,” Bosa said. “We definitely need to make a run right here, and I think the short week rolling into Dallas will actually be good for us.”
The lopsided victory also did wonders for the blood pressure of the Chargers, who have lost four games by three points or fewer — two of them in the final seconds — and won another by one point on a field goal as time expired.
“I definitely haven’t won a game like this in a long time,” said Bosa, in his second year with the Chargers. “It’s nice knowing you have it in the bag before it’s over, which it hasn’t been for every single game I’ve played here. My anxiety and stress were kept under control, luckily.”
Of all the numbers and records and statistics of note compiled Sunday, none made Lynn happier than what he saw in one particular column.
“From what I hear, there were a lot of records in that game. But really, the only one I care about is penalties,” Lynn said. “At halftime, the only stat I looked at was zero penalties. Anytime we’re playing that type of game, playing smart football, we’ve got a chance to win.”
Jahleel Addae was flagged for pass interference on the first play of the fourth quarter for the team’s only penalty.
“That’s definitely been a talking point. We have to play cleaner ball,” left tackle Russell Okung said. “We can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”