Rivers feels good about where the Chargers are
|Stephen Dunn/Getty Images|
|Quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown 10 touchdown passes in the Chargers' first four games this season.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Philip Rivers liked what he saw Sunday in Oakland.
OK, the San Diego Chargers' quarterback, who is in the midst of a terrific season, didn't like what he saw, but he liked the way it ended. He liked the way his team reacted.
Rivers is the first to admit that he didn't play up to par individually against the Raiders -- in what now will be remembered as Lane Kiffin's last stand as Oakland's coach -- and the team didn't play up to its potential. Yet, somehow, the Chargers found a way to win.
That's what thrilled Rivers. Trailing 15-0 at halftime, San Diego looked dangerously close to falling to 1-3 for the second straight season. All the progress that was made six nights earlier against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football looked as if it was going to disappear.
That was before the Chargers put together an incredible fourth-quarter run, outscoring the Raiders 25-3 to take a 28-18 victory back home. No, it wasn't San Diego's greatest moment. In fact, as a 60-minute affair, the win over Oakland was worse than San Diego's losses to Carolina and Denver, games in which San Diego had the lead in the final 30 seconds only to lose.
"We didn't play very well," Rivers said after the Oakland game."Sometimes, you have to win those type of games, though. You have to fight through it. You have to find a way to win those games that are a clunker ... Good teams do that. Good teams fight. I think this was a very good sign of things to come. This was a significant win for us. We fought."
Then Rivers, the Chargers' unabashed leader, smiled and said that if the NFL knows anything about the San Diego Chargers, it is that they are fighters.
The Chargers, who visit Miami on Sunday, are 2-2 at the NFL quarter point. They trail Denver (3-1) by one game in the AFC West. A 2-2 record is not exactly sterling for a team widely expected to make a legitimate run at the Super Bowl.
Yet, the Chargers aren't beating up themselves over a mediocre start. Not in the least.
That's the gift of a poor start last season. San Diego started 1-3 after going 14-2 in 2006. The bad start was met with panic in San Diego. The fans and the team were uptight. There were calls for the head of new coach Norv Turner, who had replaced Marty Schottenheimer, fired after a divisional round playoff loss to New England that suddenly ended a 14-2 season.
The slow start forced the Chargers to fight uphill all season. They were 5-5 and tied with Denver before putting it together and winning their final six games of the regular season. San Diego's season eventually ended in the AFC Championship Game.
A 2-2 record now, while not ideal, is no time for panic.
"That's what last year taught us," Rivers said. "Last year taught us we can deal with anything ... We feel good right now."
Rivers admits that there is a cool about the Chargers this season. And he loves it.
"We weren't panicking at 0-2," Rivers said. "There was no way we were panicking. Not this year. We know we can put this thing together."
Despite their immense talent, the Chargers have dealt with some issues this year. Star pass-rushing linebacker Shawne Merriman had to shut it down after the first game to have season-ending knee surgery. Offensive linemen Nick Hardwick and Marcus McNeill have missed a combined five games this season. LaDainian Tomlinson has been hampered all season by a turf toe injury, which he said is finally starting to feel good. Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates is still working his way back from a surgically repaired big toe. The pass defense hasn't been good for much of the season.
Yet, the Chargers feel as if they are right where they should be.
"Things are coming around," Tomlinson said. "We're fighting hard."
That was proven in the Oakland win, Rivers said.
"It's all about winning, and you do it any way you can," Rivers said. "We're going to scrap. We've been through a lot. But we're going to fight every week to stick around and be a factor in the AFC all season."