An undeniable strength of the 2013 San Diego Chargers through the first five games of the season has been Philip Rivers
and the passing game. Rivers has twice won the AFC Offensive Player of the Year Award
and has completed 140 of 190 passes (73.7%) for 1,610 yards, 13 touchdowns and a passer rating of 110.6. Among regular starters, he ranks second in touchdowns, second in completion percentage, third in completions, third in passer rating and fourth in passing yards. If he eclipses the 400-yard barrier Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts, he will become the first quarterback in the storied history of the NFL to accomplish the feat in three consecutive games.
Overall, the Bolts rank fifth in passing and there are many reasons why the air attack is clicking. In addition to Rivers, credit the offensive line and the coaching and play calling of Head Coach Mike McCoy, Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and the rest of the staff.
In addition, the guys catching those passes deserve credit as well having stepped up their game in the face of adversity . The team’s projected top two weapons, Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd, are out for the rest of 2013. Alexander tore his ACL in training camp and didn’t play a single snap, while Floyd played just over six quarters of action before suffering a sprained neck. Still, the team has overcome what was expected to be huge setbacks and become a true pick your poison offensive attack.
“It’s like we say, any week you never know which guy it’s going to be,” said Rivers.
That mentality is exactly how the team envisioned the offense rolling since the first day the coaching staff met with the players. As a result, everyone has been prepared for whatever role necessary, even if it has been one they aren’t as familiar with.
“Ever since OTA’s and going through the plays and the way the offense is set up, you’ve got to be ready at any position,” Vincent Brown said, before explaining how a key third-down completion of his against the Dallas Cowboys came as a direct result of that philosophy. “A lot of people talk about that third down, and I was in the slot. I haven’t really practiced that. Usually it’s someone like Eddie (Royal) in the slot, but you’ve got to be ready for when the coaches call your number. The way we called the formation and the way Philip saw something up front (put me there).”
Leading the way has been future Hall-of-Famer Antonio Gates being as effective as he’s been in his 11 years. Number 85 has a team-high 32 catches for a team-high 438 yards and two touchdowns. Gates is averaging 13.7 yards per catch and has the longest completion of the season for the Chargers, a 56-yard game-breaking touchdown two weeks ago in their victory against Dallas.
Out wide, the trio of Royal, Brown and Keenan Allen have all proven capable, making it hard on defenses to focus on eliminating a major weapon. Royal has a team-high five touchdown catches, tied for fifth most in the NFL, in addition to 18 receptions for 216 yards. Brown is fresh off his first 100-plus yard receiving game (seven catches for 117 yards) and for the season has caught 22 passes for 208 yards. Meanwhile, this year’s third-round draft choice, Keenan Allen, has proven his speed to be NFL sound, catching 14 passes for 225 yards while averaging an impressive 16.1 yards per catch.
“I love the way our passing game has been,” said Allen. “It opens up our game plan because the coaches can rely on all of us. Anything the coaching staff wants us to do we can do. So that’s been fun and I think we’re doing a good job with it. Philip is confident in each one of us and it shows.”
If that wasn’t enough, the Bolts second leading pass catcher, Danny Woodhead has caught 31 balls for 220 yards and three touchdowns. In the process, the multi-faceted back has become a vital cog in the passing game. The Chargers have even lined him up out wide like a wide receiver at times taking advantage of the mismatch he presents.
This year’s Chargers team has an arsenal of offensive weapons to be accounted for on any given day. But what’s most important is the confidence the Chargers’ quarterback has in his team’s pass-catching weapons, including Brown.
“I’ve always had a great deal of confidence in him,” the quarterback said. “He’s going to be where he’s supposed to be, he knows what to do and he’s going to catch the ball when it’s thrown his way. So I don’t think you can get caught up in the numbers and say, ‘Oh man, we’re going to see 100-yard receiving games from him and Keenan every week.’ You could (because) he’s definitely going to be a guy that’s going to have the chance in every game to catch seven or eight balls, it may be three one week, but he’s going to be a guy that’s involved in the passing game a fairly heavy amount.”