Stats & Info: Philip Rivers

Keys to victory: Broncos 24, Chargers 17

January, 12, 2014
Jan 12
What were the keys to the Denver Broncos' beating the San Diego Chargers 24-17 to advance to the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots?

Manning comes through when pressured
The Chargers put Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning under duress only twice in the game. The first time, Manning threw a touchdown pass to Wes Welker with six minutes left in the second quarter.

The second time came with the Broncos facing a third-and-17 with three minutes remaining. Manning completed a pass for 21 yards to Julius Thomas, allowing the Broncos to extend the drive and clinch the win.

Manning lures the Chargers into mistakes
The Chargers' defense committed five neutral-zone infraction penalties, the most by any team in any game this season.

That total was nearly as many as the number of penalties of that nature that the Broncos drew in the regular season (seven), fourth most in the NFL.

Broncos keep their offense on the field
The Broncos were able to sustain drives in this game and keep the Chargers off the field by going 9-of-13 on third down.

Their 26:48 time of possession through three quarters was longer than they had the ball in either of their regular-season meetings with the Chargers.

Chargers' offense: a case of too little, too late
The Chargers rallied late (helped by an onside kick recovery) to make this a close game, but were unable to complete the comeback.

San Diego’s problem was that it did little through the game’s first three quarters.

The Chargers' 79 total yards were their fewest through three quarters since Week 11 of 2003, also against the Broncos.

Philip Rivers' 44 pass yards through three quarters were his second fewest through three quarters in any start in his career (including playoffs).

The Chargers finished with 13 first downs and 259 yards of offense, both of which were season lows.

Broncos able to finish
In last year's AFC divisional playoffs, the Broncos had a chance to run out the clock against the Ravens, leading by seven with 3:12 remaining. They ran the ball five times, then had to punt. The Ravens were able to tie the game on their next possession.

This season, the Broncos led by seven with 3:53 left, but used a combination of the run and pass (six runs, four passes) to finish the game.

Stat of the Day
This will be the fourth meeting between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as opposing starting quarterbacks in the postseason. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is tied for the most since the 1950 season. Brett Favre and Steve Young also met four times in the postseason, as did Terry Bradshaw and Ken Stabler.

Keys to victory: Chargers 27, Bengals 10

January, 5, 2014
Jan 5
What were the keys to victory for the San Diego Chargers in their 27-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, their first playoff win since the 2008 wild-card game against the Indianapolis Colts?

Dalton had a rough day
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked three times.

Dalton is now 0-3 with one touchdown and six interceptions in three career playoff starts.

Dalton was 2-for-his-first-9 with an interception when the Chargers sent at least five pass-rushers at him, (he finished 4-for-11).

The Chargers also thwarted Dalton’s attempts to find his favorite target, A.J. Green. He completed 3 of 9 attempts to Green for only 34 yards. That was his worst completion percentage targeting Green this season.

Dalton completed more passes to the Chargers' defense (two) than Green (one) in the second half.

The Bengals finished with four turnovers, matching their most ever in a playoff game. That was also the most by a Chargers opponent all season. The Chargers' defense had only 17 takeaways during the regular season, third-fewest in the NFL.

Key drive: Chargers' go-ahead score in third quarter
Philip Rivers was 5-for-6 in the first half, matching the fewest attempts in the first half of any game in his career. But he came out throwing in the third quarter.

Rivers was 6-for-6 for 68 yards with a touchdown pass on the Chargers' first possession of the third quarter. Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen and Eddie Royal all had their first receptions of the game on that drive.

That was the Chargers' second touchdown drive of the game, and both took at least 10 plays. The Chargers had an NFL-high 39 drives of 10 or more plays in the regular season.

Rivers, who led the NFL in completion percentage during the regular season, finished 12-for-16. This was the first time in eight playoff games that Rivers did not throw an interception.

Chargers run the ball
San Diego gained a season-high 196 yards on the ground, which was also the most by any team in a game against the Bengals this season. The Chargers rushed on 68 percent of their plays, their highest rush percentage since Week 15 of the 2007 season (69 percent against the Lions).

The Chargers gained 50 rush yards after contact Sunday. They were held to a season-low 22 rush yards after contact in Week 13 against the Bengals.

Ronnie Brown's 58-yard touchdown run put the game away. It is tied for the second-longest touchdown run in Chargers playoff history. Keith Lincoln had a 67-yard touchdown run and Paul Lowe had a 58-yard touchdown run in a 51-10 win over the Boston Patriots in the 1963 AFL Championship.

Looking ahead
The Chargers will face a Broncos team they've already beaten once this season. They are 2-0 in playoff games in which Peyton Manning has been the opposing quarterback.

Matchup to watch: Rivers vs. Bengals D

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers head on the road to face the Cincinnati Bengals in a rematch of their Week 13 game in San Diego.

Let’s take a look at the key matchup for this Sunday’s AFC Wild Card game.

Rivers and Peyton Manning are the only quarterbacks who rank among the top five in completion percentage, passing touchdowns, yards per attempt and Total QBR this season. Rivers is completing an NFL-best 69.5 percent of his passes, the best completion percentage in his 10-year career.

Rivers will face a Bengals defense that has had success against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a Total QBR of 39.0 against the Bengals this season, third-lowest in the NFL.

Something has to give, as Rivers comes into the game with a Total QBR of 71.7, third-best in the NFL.

The value of home field
Something that cannot be overlooked is that the game is in Cincinnati, where the Bengals went 8-0 during the regular season.

A big reason for that undefeated record is their pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks posted a Total QBR of 18.8 against the Bengals in Cincinnati, lowest in the NFL this season.

In the last two weeks (both at home), the Bengals defense had six interceptions.

Who gets the better of it on 3rd down
This matchup could come down to third down, an area where both Rivers and the Bengals defense have thrived this season.

Rivers’ play on third down has been a driving factor in the Chargers four straight wins since losing to the Bengals in Week 13. He has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions on third down during the winning streak, the most such passing touchdowns since the start of Week 14. For the season, Rivers had the best completion percentage (65 percent) and the third best Total QBR (81.3) on third down.

The Bengals held opposing quarterbacks to a Total QBR of 14.4 on third down this season, lowest in the NFL. They are the only team to pick off Rivers on third down in the Chargers last 11 games. On third down passing attempts against the Bengals, opponents converted 34 percent, fifth-lowest in the NFL. The Chargers on the other hand, converted on third down an NFL-best 49 percent of the time when Rivers attempted a pass.

Completion percentage of high importance
If there is one statistic to keep an eye on, it’s Rivers’ overall completion percentage. When he completes at least two-thirds of his passes, the Chargers are 7-2. In the seven games Rivers completed less than two-thirds of his pass attempts, the Chargers went 2-5, including the Week 13 loss to the Bengals.

Keys to victory: Chargers 41, Chiefs 38

November, 24, 2013

Philip Rivers excelled at throwing to the left side of the field in Sunday's win.
What were the biggest keys for the San Diego Chargers' in their 41-38 upset of the Kansas City Chiefs?

Rivers makes it work
Rivers completed 11-of-13 passes for 199 yards (15.3 yards per attempt) on third downs, including a crucial 12-yard completion to Antonio Gates on third-and-10 that moved the chains on the game-winning drive.
Rivers had completed only 42 percent of passes on third down during the Chargers’ three-game losing streak.

Rivers also excelled at picking on the Chargers on the left side of the field, as noted in the image atop this story.

Slowing Chargers down after the catch an issue for Chiefs
The Chargers gained 228 yards after catch on Sunday, their highest total in a game this season and the first time Kansas City allowed more than 190 in a game in 2013.

The Chargers recorded at least 10 yards after the catch on 10 different receptions, joining the Packers (Week 2 vs Redskins) and Steelers (Week 9 vs Patriots) as the only teams to do that this year.

Ladarius Green gained 45 yards after the catch on his 60-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. Kansas City’s defense has allowed at least 45 yards after the cartch on three plays this year- only the Rams (four) have more.

An unusual win for the Chargers,
an unusual loss for the Chiefs

Entering this week, since the AFC and NFC merged, teams allowing 38 points or more on the road were 23-751 (an .030 winning percentage).

The Chargers had lost 25 of their last 26 regular-season games in which they allowed at least 38 points on the road.

The 38 points scored by the Chiefs matched their most ever in a home loss.

Stat of the Day
Rivers now has four games this season in which he's thrown for at least 390 yards. That ties the most for any quarterback in a single season. Dan Marino had four for the Dolphins in 1984. Joe Montana had 4 with the 49ers in 1990.

Keys to victory: Chargers 19, Colts 9

October, 15, 2013
Getty Images, AP Photo
Philip Rivers has been accurate both on short and long throws in 2013.
What were the biggest keys to the San Diego Chargers 19-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football?

Philip Rivers worked the short passing game
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had another efficient game, throwing for 237 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions.

Rivers went 17-for-20 for 145 yards on throws that traveled five yards or fewer downfield.

Rivers was 9-for-9 on those throws when targeting Keenan Allen, whose catch total was a career high. Keenan Allen had his second straight game with at least 100 receiving yards. He's the first Chargers player with back-to-back 100-yard games since Malcom Floyd in 2011. Rivers was also 5-for-5 when throwing to Danny Woodhead.

As the image above shows, Rivers currently rates above average in terms of accuracy on short, intermediate and deep throws. His 77.0 Total QBR in 2013 trails only Peyton Manning.

The Chargers limited the Colts to 21:29 of possession time, their lowest in a game with Luck as their starter.

San Diego managed to hold on to the ball so long because of their running game. The Chargers ran for a season-high 147 yards Monday, including 96 yards between the tackles, their most in a game since Week 9 of last season. Ryan Mathews had season-highs in rushes (16) and yards (67) between the tackles.

The Chargers’ rushing success led to the offense averaging 8.4 plays per drive, the most by a team in a game in the last two seasons.

Luck’s receivers don’t help his cause
The Colts managed only nine points, matching their fewest in a game with Andrew Luck as their starting quarterback.

When Luck threw the ball, his receivers hurt him with four dropped passes. They’ve registered at least four drops in each of the last two games after totaling only two dropped passes in their first four games.

Reggie Wayne did have five catches, becoming the ninth player in NFL history with at least 1,000 receptions in his career.

Unsung hero: Nick Novak
Chargers kicker Nick Novak had four field goals, including one from 50 yards to put the Chargers up by 10 points.

This was the second time Novak was 4-for-4 in a game this season. Prior to this season, Novak had only twice made at least four field goals and been perfect on his kicks in any game in his career.

The 50-yarder was his longest of the season and put him over 50 percent on kicks of at least that long (7-for-13) for his career.

Novak is 12-for-14 on field goal tries of 40 yards or longer over the last two seasons, tied for fifth-best in the NFL in that span. Both misses are from 50 yards and beyond.

Top stats to know: Colts at Chargers

October, 14, 2013
USA TODAY SportsAndrew Luck and Philip Rivers rank in the top three in Total QBR.
The Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers meet tonight on "Monday Night Football" (8:25 ET/ESPN). Here are six stats Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden might touch on tonight:

1. This game features two of the top three leaders in Total QBR this season. Philip Rivers is second at 78.5, while Andrew Luck is third at 77.1. Peyton Manning leads at 90.1.

2. Milestone watch: Philip Rivers is trying to become the first player ever to throw for 400 yards in three consecutive games, and Reggie Wayne needs four receptions to become the ninth player in NFL history with 1,000.

3. Don't look for Dwight Freeney. The longtime Colt, who signed with the Chargers in May, was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Oct. 1 with a quadriceps injury. Freeney had a half-sack in four games with San Diego.

4. The Chargers lead the series 17-10, including the postseason. The teams are meeting on "Monday Night Football" for the second time (Chargers won 31-0 on Nov. 29, 1993, in Indianapolis).

5. The Colts are seeking their fourth straight road win dating to last season. They are among only three teams without a road loss this season.

6. Luck is much improved this season. He has thrown an interception on 1.5 percent of his passes thrown 10 yards or more downfield this season, ranking fifth in the NFL. Last season, Luck threw an interception on 5.6 percent of those throws, ranking 23rd in the NFL. Luck ranked 28th in completion percentage when facing five or more pass-rushers last season, completing just over 50 percent of his attempts. Luck ranks fifth this season, completing nearly 68 percent of his attempts.

Manning flourishes in 2nd half of games

September, 30, 2013

Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsPeyton Manning's Total QBR is a big reason why the Broncos are 4-0 this season
As a reminder, Total QBR is a quarterback rating that takes into account all of a QB’s significant contributions (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, penalties) to his team’s scoring and winning and summarizes them into one number on a 0-100 scale, where 50 is average. Since 2008, the team with the higher QBR has won about 85 percent of the time. Complete QBR statistics for all quarterbacks can be found here.

Manning can't be stopped
Peyton Manning had a Total QBR of 95.9 against the Philadelphia Eagles, his highest this season and his second highest in a game since the start of the 2010 season.

Dating back to Week 16 last season, Manning has a Total QBR of at least 80 in each of his last six regular season games, the longest such streak for any quarterback in the last eight seasons.

Manning’s Total QBR this season is 91.4, the second highest for any quarterback through the first four weeks of a season since 2006.

Manning has done the majority of his damage in the second half this season, throwing 10 of his 16 touchdown passes after halftime.

His Total QBR of 98.0 in the second half is the highest in the league, and Jay Cutler is the only other quarterback with a Total QBR over 85 in the final two quarters.

Rivers bounces back
Philip Rivers’ Total QBR dipped to 29.4 in the second quarter Sunday after he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. But his play was impressive throughout the rest of the game, raising his Total QBR to 81.3 and leading the San Diego Chargers to a comeback win.

Rivers posted a Total QBR of 98.3 in the second half against the Dallas Cowboys compared to a 42.5 Total QBR in the first half. It was his highest in any second half in the last two seasons. For more on Rivers click here.

Quick Hitters
•  Jake Locker posted a Total QBR of 87.8 against the New York Jets before leaving with an injured hip, his highest in any career game. Locker has a Total QBR of 86.8 in the last two weeks, the second highest in the league behind Peyton Manning. He is completing 67.2 percent of his passes while throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games.

•  Russell Wilson’s Total QBR was 20.6 Sunday, the second lowest of his career, and he had far more success running the ball than throwing it. He rushed for 77 yards against the Houston Texans, the second most in any career game, and his expected points added on rushing plays was +2.4, compared to -1.8 on passing plays. Wilson threw for 123 yards Sunday, the second fewest in his career, and completed 12 of his 23 passes.

•  Eli Manning has a Total QBR of 30.0 this season, his lowest through four weeks in the last eight seasons. His Total QBR of 23.7 against the Kansas City Chiefs was his second lowest this season and he was unable to solve Kansas City’s pass rush. Manning posted a Total QBR of 0.6 against five or more pass rushers Sunday, completing two of his six passes with an interception and two sacks.

Rivers' the most accurate of them all

September, 29, 2013
Peyton Manning isn’t the only quarterback setting amazing NFL records these days.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers set the league mark for the most accurate performance in a 400-yard game, completing 35-of-42 passes (83.3 percent) in the Chargers’ win over the Dallas Cowboys.

The previous accuracy mark was 81.8 percent, set by Jeff Garcia for the 2000 San Francisco 49ers against the Chicago Bears on a day in which Terrell Owens caught 20 passes for 283 yards and Jerry Rice was his secondary receiver.

Rivers may not have had quite that level of support, but he had a variety of receivers to choose from.

For the second time this season, four different Chargers caught multiple throws more than 10 yards downfield. Last season, San Diego never had more than three receivers catch more than one deep throw in a game.

Rivers was 9-for-11 for 230 yards on those throws in this game. That’s continued a run of success he’s had this season. Coming into the game, he had completed 62 percent of those passes, second-best among qualified quarterbacks.

Rivers was 3-for-10 when throwing the ball that long against the Texans, but completed 12 of his 18 throws at least 10 yards downfield against the Eagles, and all six against the Titans.

The image below shows how Rivers has fared on throws of varying lengths over the last two seasons. Though the season is only one-quarter of the way through, Rivers' performance in all areas, particularly on long throws, has been vastly better than how he did throughout 2012.

Seattle spells doom for opposing QBs

September, 16, 2013

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesColin Kaepernick suffered the worst start of his career Sunday in Seattle.
As a reminder, Total QBR is a quarterback rating that takes into account all of a QB’s significant contributions (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, penalties) to his team’s scoring and winning and summarizes them into one number on a 0-100 scale, where 50 is average. Since 2008, the team with the higher QBR has won about 85 percent of the time. Complete QBR statistics for all quarterbacks can be found here:

Colin Kaepernick’s Total QBR was 14.0 on Sunday night, the lowest Total QBR in any start of his career. It was also the lowest Total QBR in Week 2 (min. 15 action plays). Both of Kaepernick’s worst games in terms of Total QBR have come at Seattle, where opposing quarterbacks have been limited to a 33.1 Total QBR since the start of last season, 2nd-lowest among NFL teams at home.

Kaepernick's three interceptions in Seattle on Sunday match the total amount he had during the regular season last year.

Robert Griffin III had a Total QBR of 43.0 against the Packers, including 5.3 in the 1st half as the Packers built a 24-0 lead. Griffin has done most of his damage late in garbage time this season, as the Redskins haven’t entered the 4th quarter this season with a win probability above 2%.

Griffin’s Total QBR is 23.4 this season, ranked 30th in the NFL among 33 qualified quarterbacks (84.6 through his first 2 games last season, 2nd in the NFL). His passer rating, which does not account for the clutch weight of the situation, is 89.6, ranked 17th in the league.

Philip Rivers had a 93.5 Total QBR against the Eagles, his 2nd-highest Total QBR in a game since the start of last season. He posted a 72.6 Total QBR in the 4th quarter, he entered the game with a league-low 7.7 4th-quarter Total QBR during the last 2 seasons (0.02 4th-quarter Total QBR last week).

EJ Manuel’s Total QBR rose from 29.6 at the beginning of the Bills’ final drive to 51.6 after his game-winning touchdown pass. Manuel’s 60.1 Total QBR through Week 2 ranks 13th in the league. The Bills’ Total QBR last season was 44.6, 26th in the league.

Aaron Rodgers had an 80.9 Total QBR against the Redskins, he had a 98.0 QBR when the score differential was greater than 17, compared to a 65.0 Total QBR when the game was within 16 points. He was sacked 4 times, including back-to-back plays in goal-to-go situations in a 0-0 game, and once on 3rd down.

Brandon Weeden’s 26.7 Total QBR Sunday was his 10th game with a Total QBR lower than 30.0 since the start of last season, the most in the league. His Total QBR of 20.3 this season is the 3rd-worst in the NFL.

Michael Vick’s 81.5 Total QBR was his highest in a loss since Week 4 in 2011 against the 49ers. He can blame the defense, the Eagles had a defensive EPA of -19.4, their 4th-worst in a game during the last 7 seasons.

Top things to know: Texans at Chargers

September, 9, 2013

Brett Davis/US PresswireJ.J. Watt played 88% of the Texans defensive snaps in 2012, 6th best among all D-linemen.
The Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers finish Week 1 of the 2013 season with the second game of tonight's Monday Night Football doubleheader (10 ET/ESPN).

Here’s five stats Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer will be talking about during the game.

1. The Texans feature the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt, who had an incredible year dominating the line of scrimmage last season.

Among the amazing tidbits that can be taken from his stellar campaign is that he batted down 16 passes – more than 26 different TEAMS.

Watt finished last season with nearly twice as many batted passes as the next highest defender. However, Philip Rivers had just 4 of his passes batted down last season, fewer than 29 quarterbacks.

2. Philip Rivers has been the man under center for the Chargers since 2006. Things went well for the first four years (46-18 record), but the last three have seen a rapid decline (24-24).

In addition, since Rivers became the starter, he has the most fumbles in the NFL (64) and has been sacked 216 times, second highest in the league.

3. Since Arian Foster joined the Texans four seasons ago, his presence has translated into success in the play-action passing game for Matt Schaub.

The Texans QB ranks near the top of the league in many passing categories on play-action since the 2009 season. He’s second in yards per attempt (10.6) and TD passes (37), third in completion percentage (67.5) and fourth in Total QBR (88.1) in play-action passing.

4. During training camp, wide receiver Danario Alexander suffered a season-ending knee injury, leaving Rivers without one of his best deep threats.

Alexander represented a large portion of the offense generated by Chargers wide receivers last year, despite the fact that he only played in ten games.

5. The Texans are 8-2 in September in the last three seasons, and have won all three of their season openers over that time. The Chargers are 5-2 in season openers with Philip Rivers as the starting quarterback.

On Monday Night Football, Houston is 2-4 all-time, including 1-1 last season. The Chargers are 4-1 when opening their season on Monday Night Football.

What challenges await new AFC coaches?

July, 25, 2013
Eight NFL teams welcome new head coaches to the sideline this season. We take a closer look at some of the challenges those coaches will face. Here’s a look at the AFC (the NFC can be found here.

Buffalo Bills: Doug Marrone
2012 record: 6-10

Big addition: Kevin Kolb and E.J. Manuel were brought in to compete at quarterback, and either should add a vertical element to the Bills offense. Since Ryan Fitzpatrick joined the Bills in 2009, his 25.4 completion percentage on throws deeper than 20 yards downfield is worst in the league.

One headache: Are two rookies (Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin) enough to improve the Bills receiving corps? Despite using more three-plus wide receiver sets than any other team last season, Bills wide receivers recorded the sixth-fewest receiving yards (2,152).

Key stat: The Bills allowed 3.5 yards per rush before first contact on rushes between the tackles last season, worst in the NFL. The Bills haven’t finished a season better than 26th in that category since the start of 2009.

Cleveland Browns: Rob Chudzinski
2012 record: 5-11

Big addition: From Week 10 to the Super Bowl, no player had more sacks than Paul Kruger (12). He and first-round pick Barkevious Mingo will help the Browns transition to a 3-4 defense.

One headache: Is Brandon Weeden the right quarterback to run a Norv Turner offense? Weeden overthrew or underthrew receivers on 45 percent of his throws at least 15 yards downfield last year, third highest in the league.

Key stat: The Browns' defense allowed a 28.7 Total QBR last year, third best in the league. However, the offense ranked 30th in third-down conversion percentage (30.7 percent).

Jacksonville Jaguars: Gus Bradley
2012 record: 2-14

Big addition: Luke Joeckel will immediately bolster a Jaguars offensive line that allowed 50 sacks last season, third most in the league.

One headache: Now that they can protect quarterbacks better, they need to find one. Jaguars quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne combined for a 34.8 Total QBR, one of only five teams worse than 40.0.

Key stat: The Jaguars used four or fewer pass rushers on 80 percent of opponent dropbacks last season, fifth-highest in the NFL. Although the Jags depended on standard pressure, they averaged a sack once every 32.9 dropbacks, worst in the NFL.

Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid
2012 record: 2-14

Big addition: Alex Smith posted career highs in completion percentage (70.2 percent) and yards per attempt (8.0) last year. Smith’s completion percentage was best among 36 quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts.

One headache: Jonathan Baldwin caught 42 percent of his targets last season, the worst catch percentage among 162 players with at least 40 targets. Free-agent signee Donnie Avery wasn’t much better, with the fifth-lowest catch percentage among 44 players with at least 100 targets.

Key stat: The Chiefs' defense allowed 893 rush yards after contact last year, the most of any team in the league. Only the Colts allowed more 20-yard rushes (21) than the Chiefs' defense (19).

San Diego Chargers: Mike McCoy
2012 record: 7-9

Big addition: Free-agent tackle Max Starks and first-round pick D.J. Fluker will help create holes in the running game. The Chargers averaged 1.9 yards before contact per rush last year, one of two offenses to average fewer than 2.0.

One headache: Robert Meachem will carry a cap hit of $6.9 million this year, 11th-highest among wide receivers. Six Chargers were targeted more than Meachem (32) last year, and he tied for 181st in targets among all players.

Key stat: Philip Rivers has to control the ball better. Rivers fumbled 15 times last year, most in a season since Jon Kitna had 17 in 2007.

Rookies fill needs for Jets, Eagles, Chargers

May, 10, 2013
Rookie minicamps start on Friday for three teams that missed the playoffs in 2012: San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets.

It’ll be the first look at two of the more high-profile quarterbacks from this year’s draft class, Geno Smith and Matt Barkley, but there are other storylines worth keeping an eye on.

The Chargers are one team that does not have a question at quarterback. Philip Rivers has started every game in San Diego since the start of 2006.

However, Rivers was sacked a franchise-record 49 times in 2012. That’s one reason the Chargers selected OT D.J. Fluker in the first round. It marks the first time the Bolts drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since taking James Fitzpatrick in 1986. From 1987-2012, San Diego was the only team that did not draft an offensive lineman in the first round.

Protecting Rivers isn’t the only reason the Chargers drafted Fluker. In 2012, San Diego was tied with the Detroit Lions for the fewest 20-yard runs. The Chargers also were one of two teams that averaged less than 2.0 yards per rush before contact.

In the second round the Chargers traded up to draft Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. The 2012 Heisman Trophy runner-up intercepted seven passes in 13 games, the most by a linebacker since 2006.

The Eagles drafted offensive players with their first two picks (OT Lane Johnson, TE Zach Ertz). In Andy Reid’s 14 seasons with the Eagles, they drafted offensive players with their first two picks only once (2009, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy).

In 2012, the Eagles used nine different starters on the offensive line, tied for fourth-most in the NFL. That inconsistency on the offensive line is one reason the Eagles allowed the most quarterback pressures (239) last season.

Only one offensive lineman, left guard Evan Mathis, start all 16 games last season for the Eagles.

With Michael Vick a free agent after next season, the Eagles drafted QB Matt Barkley in the fourth round. Barkley was the third QB selected by the Eagles in the first four rounds of the last four drafts (Nick Foles in 2012, Mike Kafka in 2010).

Two areas where Barkley excelled at USC were passing against the blitz and deep passes. Both are areas that Philadelphia’s quarterbacks struggled in last season.

The Jets have not been stellar at the quarterback position over the last few years. Mark Sanchez has the lowest Total QBR in the NFL since 2009.

In the second round, the Jets drafted Geno Smith out of West Virginia to compete with Sanchez and newcomer David Garrard for the starting QB job. Smith is the fourth QB the Jets have drafted in the second round in the Common Draft Era (since 1967). The first three went a combined 12-29 in starts with the Jets.

At West Virginia, Smith relied on screens (34.2 percent of his passes were at or behind the line of scrimmage in 2012) and shotgun passing (over 96 percent of his passes out of shotgun during his college career). The Jets were one of the league’s worst teams on screen passes last year.

The Jets offense ranked among the bottom five in the league in points, yards and turnovers last season. They’re hoping that Smith can help drastically improve their offense in the future.

Wilson leads the way for two straight weeks

December, 24, 2012
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsRussell Wilson threw four touchdowns as the Seahawks blew out the 49ers to clinch a playoff berth.
As a reminder, Total QBR is a quarterback rating that takes into account all of a QB’s significant contributions (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, penalties) to his team’s scoring and winning and summarizes them into one number on a 0-100 scale, where 50 is average. Since 2008, the team with the higher QBR has won 86 percent of the time.

For the second straight week, Russell Wilson topped the QBR charts, posting a 97.6 QBR Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

Last week, his 99.3 QBR was the highest by any quarterback in a single game this season.

However unlike last week when he ran for three scores and threw for another, this week he accounted for all four of his touchdowns through the air.

Wilson leads the league with a 85.9 Total QBR since Week 6.

His QBR Sunday was the highest the 49ers have allowed in a game since the start of 2008 season.

Peyton Manning has posted a QBR of at least 90 in more than half of his games this season, including a 93.6 Total QBR on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

In the last five seasons, Manning is tied with Philip Rivers for the most games with a 90+ Total QBR (19) despite missing the entire 2011 season.

•  Matt Ryan posted a 96.7 Total QBR in Saturday night’s win over the Detroit Lions. Ryan now has four games this season with a 95+ QBR, most in the NFL. In the QBR era, there has only been one other instance of a player having four or more games with a 95+ QBR in a season: Matt Ryan in 2008.

•  Joe Flacco had a 94.4 Total QBR in Sunday’s win over the New York Giants, his highest Total QBR since Week 1 (95.1). Flacco now has a 66.3 Total QBR at home and a 31.0 Total QBR on the road, which is the second-largest home/road Total QBR differential in the NFL (Michael Vick, 52.4). Flacco will have at least one more home game this season, as the Baltimore Ravens clinched the AFC North and a home playoff game Sunday.

•  Aaron Rodgers had an 88.8 Total QBR in Sunday's win over the Tennessee Titans, his fourth straight game with a QBR of at least 80. Rodgers is tied with Drew Brees for most games with an 80+ QBR (18) over the last two seasons.

Total QBR can be used to quantify just how important the quarterback position has become to winning in the NFL. Looking back to previous years, the team with the higher Total QBR has won 86% of regular season games since 2008 (as far back as Total QBR goes). That is higher than the comparable mark for teams with the advantage in total yardage, turnover differential, and NFL passer rating.

Luck makes plays when they count most

December, 4, 2012
AP Photo/John RaouxAndrew Luck’s QBR is much better than his passer rating.
When ESPN Stats & Information created QBR two seasons ago our goal was to incorporate the context and details from all aspects of quarterback play and translate them into a single number.

To tangibly show what we mean let’s see how QBR compares to the traditional measure of QB play – the NFL passer rating – to see which quarterbacks have relatively large differences in the grades from each system. Passer rating, as you may know, evaluates a quarterback using completions, yards, touchdowns and interceptions on a per attempt basis without adjusting for the game situation.

Andrew Luck: 6th in QBR (71.6), 29th in Passer Rating (76.1)

Luck is the most extreme example of how QBR and passer rating differ. His traditional stats are poor. He’s tied with Drew Brees for the most interceptions in the league, his completion percentage is 32nd among the 34 qualified quarterbacks, and his yards per attempt – arguably the best traditional stat in his resume – is right around league average.

A deeper look at Luck’s play tells a different story. His high interception total and low completions percentage can be largely explained by how far he is throwing the ball in the air. Luck’s average pass attempt travels 10.3 yards downfield, the longest in the league. This not only causes more interceptions, but also means his interceptions are less costly as they are picked off farther from the Colts’ end zone. And, of course, deeper throws lead to bigger plays for the offense when completed.

Not only that, but Luck has been deadly with his legs. He has rushed for 21 first downs (third most for QBs) and has gotten a first down on a QB-high 48 percent of rushes. He’s been particularly dangerous while scrambling, picking up the most first downs among QBs while having only the fifth-most attempts.

And finally Luck has been at his best when his team needs him the most. On third downs Luck is converting first downs at a well above average rate while gaining 14.7 yards per completion – the best in the league. And we’ve all seen what Luck can do late in close games. He already has five fourth-quarter or OT game-winning drives in his 12 NFL starts.

Philip Rivers: 29th in QBR (39.2), 16th in Passer Rating (85.1)

The reason for Rivers’ higher passer rating is his 65.3 completion percentage, which is eighth in the league and roughly in line with his career average. But the big difference between Rivers this year and in seasons past is where these completions are going. Rivers’ average pass attempt travels seven yards downfield, nearly a yard-and-a-half shorter than in any of the past five seasons.

Another important cause of Rivers’ decline is his increase in sacks. Last season Rivers was in the better half of the league in sacks per dropback, but this year has taken the second-most sacks in the league despite his average time in the pocket staying the same (2.8 seconds per dropback). As generally occurs when a QB is sacked more often, Rivers is fumbling more. He leads the league with 11 fumbles.

And speaking of late game situations, Rivers has been terrible in the fourth quarter or OT of one-score games. His QBR of 3.1 and passer rating of 32.5 are both by far the worst among qualified quarterbacks. However QBR is weighting these situations more; passer rating is not.

Aaron Rodgers: 8th in QBR (69.8), 1st in Passer Rating (105.0)

Rodgers, the NFL leader in passer rating, has a similar profile to Rivers. His 67.4 completion percentage is buoyed by the fact that his average pass travels only 7.7 yards downfield – the 23rd-longest in the NFL. On throws that travel at least 10 yards downfield Rodgers’ completion percentage falls to 51, outside the top 10.

Sacks are also a big problem. Rodgers has taken a league-high 39 despite getting more time in the pocket on his average dropback compared to last season when he ended the season with 36 sacks.

Class of 2012: Best QB class ever?

November, 21, 2012
US Presswire/Getty ImagesAndrew Luck (left) and Robert Griffin III are two of the best rookie QBs we’ve seen in a while.

Are Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and the other Class of 2012 quarterbacks on par with storied the QB classes of 1983 and 2004?

While this week’s Hot Read compares the three classes in their respective infancies, we decided to see how they stack up relative to the eras in which they played through 10 career starts.

Class of 1983: Dan Marino, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Todd Blackledge, Ken O’Brien, Tony Eason
Class of 2004: Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub, J.P. Losman
Class of 2012: Luck, RG3, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill

The NFL has become a pass-happy league since the Class of 1983 made its debut. From 1983 to '86, NFL offenses passed on roughly 53 percent of their plays. So far this season, that number is more than 58 percent. (NOTE: Keep in mind that this includes QB scrambles as rush attempts instead of broken pass plays, as that data is not historically available.)

If that kind of increase doesn’t seem like much, consider this: From 1980 to '89, there were 14 instances of a QB throwing for 4,000-plus yards in a single season. In the '90s that number rose to 22. Since 2000? It’s happened 61 times.

In addition to throwing more often for more yards, quarterbacks are completing a higher percentage and throwing far more touchdowns than interceptions in the current era.

Since that is all NFL passer rating takes into account (Total QBR wasn’t available pre-2008), it makes sense that the league-wide passer rating is 12 points higher now than it was in the mid-1980s (and nearly six points higher than it was from 2004 to '06).

Looking at the QB classes in a vacuum, the Class of 2004 in its infancy rates the best statistically, as it has the highest completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and passer rating of any of the three groups. Up next would be the current crop, which also had a better completion percentage, TD-INT ratio and passer rating than the 1983 group.

But what happens when we adjust for the eras in which they played?

Through 10 career starts, the classes of 1983 and 2004 put up better cumulative statistics than their respective league averages. That’s not the case for the current crop.

Entering Week 12, the Class of 2012 has a completion percentage nearly 2.5 points lower than the league average. While its TD-INT ratio of 1.22 isn’t bad at face value, it’s actually 26 percent lower than the current league average. The group’s cumulative passer rating of 80.5 -- which would have ranked 13th in the NFL in 1983 -- is more than six points below the current league average.

Of course, there is more to quarterback play than throwing. Led by Luck and Griffin, the current rookies have rushed for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns, more than the two previous classes combined at this same early point in their careers.

So it would seem logical that Total QBR -- which measures everything a quarterback does (passing, avoiding sacks, sustaining drives, fumbles, etc.) and at what point in the game he does it -- would paint a more flattering picture for the Class of 2012. While the rookies’ Total QBR measures closer to the league average than other metrics, the current group’s cumulative rating of 55.1 is still below the current league average of 56.1.