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Chargers

Chargers’ Philip Rivers has been accomplishing passing feats with his legs

Chargers’ Philip Rivers passes on the run.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has used his feet to find passing room this season.
(Eric Espada / Getty Images)

Philip Rivers has spent 16 seasons in the NFL because of his arm.

He led the Chargers into the end zone twice Sunday because of his feet.

Rivers and his 37-year-old legs extended plays that resulted in a 13-yard touchdown pass to Troymaine Pope and an 18-yarder to Austin Ekeler as the Chargers won 30-10 in Miami.

He wandered out of the pocket and baited a defender on the first score and moved up in the pocket and fired sideways along the line of scrimmage on the second. It was as Patrick Mahomes as Rivers will ever be.

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“Those were plays I made in the backyard in Decatur, Ala., when I was 10 years old,” Rivers said Wednesday. “Those are the ones that you always dreamed of making, but you know they aren’t as realistic when you get to the level where they’re all bigger, faster and stronger than you and you feel very uncomfortable out there in the open.”

The passes were examples of Rivers making it up along the way, which, because of injuries, is what he and the Chargers have been doing this season.

Among Rivers’ potential targets, those missing Sunday included No. 1 running back Melvin Gordon, No. 1 tight end Hunter Henry, No. 2 wide receiver Mike Williams, No. 2 tight end Virgil Green, No. 3 wide receiver Travis Benjamin and No. 3 running back Justin Jackson.

Chargers adjust to missing another tight end by having fullback Derek Watt takes some of the position responsibilities.

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Rivers connected with nine teammates against the Dolphins. By the time the Chargers returned to practice Wednesday, two of those teammates — wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and tight end Sean Culkin — had been placed on injured reserve.

“There’s not a lot of time to dwell on it,” Rivers said. “I think you just go. Over the years, we’ve had this kind of thing happen. You don’t give yourself time to think about ‘What if?’ You just go.

“The biggest thing is, whatever 11 are in that huddle, we believe we’re going to get it done … I think you just say, ‘Shoot, let’s go. Who we got? Who’s up? Let’s go find a way.’ That’s just kind of always how we’ve been.”

Gordon will return Sunday against Denver at Dignity Health Sports Park, making his 2019 debut after a failed nine-week contract holdout.

Williams (back), Green (groin) and Benjamin (hip) were all limited in practice Wednesday, leaving their status for Sunday uncertain.

Henry (knee) and Jackson (calf) didn’t practice as they are dealing with issues expected to keep them out longer.

“It’s been crazy just to see them pile up,” Rivers said of the injuries. “Maybe we’re getting them out of the way.”

To understand where this team’s passing game is at the moment, if Williams and Benjamin can’t play against the Broncos, the second and third receivers after Keenan Allen will be Geremy Davis and Andre Patton.

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Those two have combined for six NFL receptions, four of which just came Sunday.

For Patton, his two catches against Miami were the first his career. After playing for four years at Rutgers, he spent the past two seasons and the start of this one on the Chargers’ practice squad. His first reception converted a third-and-nine and helped lead to Rivers’ touchdown pass to Ekeler late in the first half.

“I really didn’t think about it when I caught it,” Patton said of achieving a career first. “After the fact, coming to the sidelines, I was just like, ‘Damn, I caught a third down. We moved the ball.’ It felt good to contribute.”

The crowd at Hard Rock Stadium included Patton’s brother, Eric, and one of his best friends. The two flew down from Delaware to offer their support.

“My brother has been at some of my best games over the years,” Patton said. “It’s a weird superstition kind of thing for us.”

Another example of the state of the Chargers’ passing game: Tthey currently have two healthy tight ends — Lance Kendricks and Stephen Anderson — and neither was on the team 2 1/2 weeks ago.

Kendricks had been recently released by New England and was unemployed. Anderson was on the practice squad. He was promoted Tuesday and is expected to make his Chargers debut versus Denver.

Despite the constant and comprehensive upheaval among his receiving corps, Rivers completed 24 of 30 passes for 310 yards, with those two touchdowns and no interceptions Sunday. In his 216 career games, he has finished only 11 with a higher completion percentage.

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“It’s just a strong group,” Patton said. “It really doesn’t matter who’s in the spot, we’re going to be able to handle our job and do what we’re supposed to do.”

Melvin Ingram, Dontrelle Inman and Sean Culkin are the latest players to suffer injuries for a battered Chargers team aching to get healthy.

New kicker

Because of even more injuries, the Chargers signed rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin.

Ty Long has been kicking along with punting in the absence of Michael Badgley, who has yet to play this season because of a groin problem.

Long hurt his left (nonkicking) foot Sunday while warming up. He was limping noticeably during the game but still made three field goals and three extra points without a miss.

McLaughlin, who played collegiately at Illinois, spent the preseason with Buffalo, going three for three on field goals, with a long of 54 yards.

“I’ll never root for a kicker to miss or get injured just because that’s not fair to anybody,” McLaughlin said. “But I did keep up with things happening around the league a little bit. I really tried not to think about it much, to be honest.”

Coach Anthony Lynn said Long will punt Sunday and McLaughlin will handle all the kicking.

Injury update

Melvin Ingram (hamstring) didn’t practice Wednesday. Lynn said the starting defensive end has been “in my ear every day telling me how much he wants to play this weekend.”

Safety Nasir Adderley (hamstring) also didn’t practice and linebacker Thomas Davis (groin) was limited.


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