That was quite a response by Philip Rivers, putting together a record-setting string of completions immediately after throwing one of the worst passes of his career.
It was easy to forget, while watching Rivers connect on his first 25 throws Sunday against Arizona, that his final pass a week earlier helped Denver defeat the Chargers as time expired.
He threw the ball away on purpose because the play he was trying to run dissolved. The clock-stopping decision gave the Broncos just enough time for a game-winning field-goal drive.
The next Rivers pass that fell incomplete didn’t come until the third quarter against the Cardinals, continuing what has been an impressive first 11 games for the 36-year-old quarterback.
“I just can’t say enough about the season that he’s having,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “But it doesn’t mean anything right now if we don’t get in the playoffs.”
The Chargers are two games up in the conference’s wild-card race and trail Kansas City by one game in the AFC West. They play the Chiefs on the road Dec. 13.
They also are entering a stretch during which the schedule will toughen, beginning Sunday night against the Steelers at Pittsburgh. The Chargers’ final five opponents are a combined 32-22-1.
So they’ll need Rivers to remain on course. He is third in the NFL in passer rating, fourth in yards per attempt and tied for fourth in touchdowns.
“He is doing a heck of a job leading this team,” Lynn said, “and taking care of the football, getting us in the right place.”
In the aftermath of Rivers’ 28-for-29 effort Sunday, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre said on a radio show that Rivers is “the most under-appreciated quarterback, maybe ever.”
On a different show, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Rivers’ performance against Arizona was “nearly impossible.”
Lynn was asked whether Rivers perhaps isn’t receiving the attention league-wide that he deserves.
“He gets a lot recognition with us,” Lynn said. “We appreciate him.”
He is already over 1,000 yards for the season and is coming off a game in which he had 13 receptions.
The NFL certainly is getting more and more familiar with JuJu Smith-Schuster, the former USC receiver who is starring with the Steelers.
At least one of the Chargers, linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, is plenty familiar with him. They were teammates with the Trojans.
“The cool thing about him is he hasn’t changed,” Nwosu said. “Everyone thinks now that he’s in the NFL that he has this perception. But he has always been like that, wearing Superman suits to class and having nice, cool little kid backpacks. He has always had that characteristic to him as a cool, funny dude.”
Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown give Pittsburgh dynamic weapons at wide receiver. On Sunday, in the Steelers’ loss to Denver, Smith-Schuster finished with 189 yards. Brown had nine receptions for 67 yards. Ben Roethlisberger completed 41 of 56 passes for 462 yards. However, only one of his passes went for a touchdown.
“We have to play our technique,” Nwosu said. “We are going to prepare like we do every week so we need to stay focused and stay on our keys and just prepare like we always prepare.”
The Chargers have dealt with injuries, explosive offenses and, in the case of the Denver loss this month, poor performance.
But weather hasn’t been an issue this season — so far. Their final three road games are at Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Denver. The first two will be at night.
“I don’t think anyone really likes to play in the cold weather,” safety Adrian Phillips said. “Maybe you have some people up in the North who like it. It’s not one of my favorites. But I play [well] in the cold. It’s easier for the ball to come out.”
Though the high Wednesday in Pittsburgh is expected to be in the low 30s, temperatures there are forecast in climb into the 50s on the weekend. So the Chargers might get a break.