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What the Offense Must Improve Upon This Time vs. the Ravens

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Philip Rivers' name has rightfully been in the MVP discussion for much of the year.

He's put up phenomenal numbers, resulting in the highest quarterback rating of his career.

Most importantly, he guided the Bolts to only the sixth 12-win season in their history while orchestrating one of the NFL's most explosive offenses

However, while he's been lights out, there is one performance he likely wishes he got to do over.

In Week 16's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Rivers failed to throw a touchdown pass for the only time in 2018. He also tossed two interceptions, posting a 51.7 passer rating that was his lowest of the season.

Well, this weekend, he gets a shot at a do over as the offense looks to avenge their worst performance of the year.

Simply put, the Ravens' top-ranked defense got the better of them in Week 16. They held the Chargers to only 10 points, which was the only time Rivers and company didn't score at least 20 this season. The Bolts struggled to get their run game going, totaling 51 yards on 16 attempts, averaging only 3.2 yards per carry.

However, despite those struggles, there's no panic at all emanating out of Hoag Performance Center.

Nor should there be.

The Bolts have a proven track record as one of the league's most dangerous offenses, so, as Rivers explained, it simply comes down to execution.

"As good as (the Ravens) played, and they had a lot to do with our mistakes, we were sloppier than we'd been (all year long)," he said.

So, what must they improve on?

"We've got to be better on third down and keep ourselves out of those third and nine-pluses," he said. "We had a bunch of those. Again, we've got to handle all their pressure. They brought the fight to us. We've got to do a better job of handling that. I've got to do a better job of throwing completions. I think that was another game where, shoot just too many balls on the ground. Get the ball to our guys and see what happens. I think just be better on third downs, which means be better on first and second down. They really had us behind (the sticks). We had three conversions we had called back (due to penalties), and we just overall were not in a groove. Again, credit to them for causing that."

As Rivers noted, perhaps the biggest key is doing a better job against the blitz as the Chargers know they'll see a heavy dose of it.

"They do blitz more than any team that we've faced, for sure," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. "They like to attack, but you have to make them pay. We didn't do that the first time, and if we can get that done this time, it'll be good…. We know where they're blitzing from, and what they're doing, but you've got to stand in front of them. You have to block them."

As the Bolts can attest, that's easier said than done.

"They're as good as anybody in the league at doing that," Rivers said. "They just never let you get comfortable as an offense in the sense of, 'Oh we know what you all are doing. OK, we're going to see that for four quarters.' It's always something trying to keep you off balance."

However, Melvin Gordon believes the Bolts are more prepared this time around.

"They're going to come with some different things, but we're going to be prepared," he vowed. "We're definitely not going to walk into this game not ready. We've got our eyes open and we're going to be well prepared for everything they bring."

At the same time, Rivers emphasized how Baltimore forces teams to make adjustments the entire game, not allowing them to get comfortable. If they don't react accordingly, they know it will be a long day.

"It's our ability to adjust on the run, react, and make quick decisions and handle all that (they're doing that will be key)," he continued. "Because it's not going to be a case where we've got them figured out. It's going to be, again, a back and forth. There'll be times where we pick everything up just right and do everything just right, and there'll be other times when we're going to have to, again, manage all those things that they do so well."

In addition, Rivers knows he must protect the rock as he's thrown an interception on the very first possession the last three games. 

Once again, it all comes down to execution.

"I think they're just all bad throws," the quarterback explained. "I would certainly throw the one in Kansas City again, just about 15 yards further. It might've been a touchdown. Against Baltimore, I would've thrown the same one again, just a little further and it would've been a big chunk to start the game. Then against Denver, it's just a bad throw again. Put it out the boundary, we'd probably punt because they covered it pretty good. So, I think it's just kind of the way it's come up. I hope not to keep that streak going obviously, but it wasn't anything we were trying to overdo, it's just lack of execution."

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