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Rivers, Tebow express mutual respect

Posted Nov 24, 2011

Though their NFL careers are so far dissimilar, Philip Rivers and Tim Tebow aren’t so different. They expressed a lot of mutual respect this week and will play important roles Sunday.

SAN DIEGO – Philip Rivers is a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback.

Tim Tebow has eight career starts and recently completed just 2-of-8 passes in a game which he played every offensive snap.

Tebow runs like a fullback, while Rivers runs like… well, you get the picture.

Though there are plenty of dissimilar characteristics between quarterbacks in San Diego and Denver, it’s easy to find parallels. Each had their throwing mechanics criticized entering the NFL as first-round picks. Each have strong faith – Tebow is an outspoken Christian and Rivers is a Catholic known for living out what he believes.

And to this point in their careers, each is known for winning football games.

Tebow led Nease to a Florida high school state title, won two BCS national championships at the University of Florida and is 4-1 since replacing Kyle Orton as starter this season.

Rivers led N.C. State to four consecutive bowl games, winning three, at a school with a fraction of Florida’s football tradition. He’s 59-31 as an NFL starter and made the playoffs four times in five seasons, reaching the AFC Championship in 2007.

Ask them about each other and you get eerily similar responses.

“More than anything, he’s been a winner,” Tebow said of Rivers, recounting that résumé. “He’s a big-time competitor. I love his toughness. He’s the leader of that team and I respect how he plays.”

Said Rivers of Tebow: “He just wins. He’s won at every level he’s ever played and he fights like crazy to win. I’ve always thought that’s the first characteristic you want in a quarterback.”

Preparing for Denver’s run-heavy offense triggered by Tebow has proven more difficult than logic dictates thus far. The Broncos have averaged 5.3 yards per carry since the quarterback switch despite opponents’ awareness of their unusual ratio of run-to-pass. Tebow himself, masquerading as a fullback some snaps, has 388 rushing yards and three scores, though he’s completed just 44.8 percent of his passes.

“(Denver’s offense) presents a problem for our guys because they’re not familiar with it,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “It’s a zone-read scheme. You’ve got to brush up on it and make sure there’s no confusion in responsibility.

“Some of the biggest plays they’ve had, two guys take the quarterback and no one takes the pitch man, or they hand the ball to the fullback and everyone’s in there with the quarterback.”

After a few less-than-satisfactory outings against the run, the Chargers’ defense has to be encouraged by holding Chicago to 2.9 yards per carry last week. But San Diego is well aware that type of performance must continue.

“In order to give this team a chance to win, we have to stop the run,” Takeo Spikes said. “It’s not a typical offense. For the most part, we haven’t seen this or played against it. That’s going to be the biggest challenge.”

SP MAKES PROGRESS: Shaun Phillips returned to practice Thursday after missing the last four games with a foot injury.

Phillips was limited but did participate in some team portions of practice, Turner said.

Don’t expect him to reclaim a spot in the starting lineup automatically this week. How he responds to the physical activity will dictate much of his playing status.

“I don’t know that he’d start, not having played. He might be able to play in some of our nickel packages or something like that, so we’ll just try to get some plays out of him. Maybe, if he’s able to go, we’ll get 15, 20 plays out of him.”

Mathews (knee) also missed practice Thursday, creating more reps for Curtis Brinkley.

“It was either him or me, and I thought it would be better for him to get the work,” Turner joked. “Hopefully Ryan will be alright and if he’s not, (Mike) Tolbert and Brinkley will take the load.”

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