It was hard for Luck to pull off another comeback, or even get into the end zone, while standing on the sideline.
"I wasn't sure who the Colts were playing this week (from) all the ads I saw," Rivers said, noting that all the pregame buzz surrounded the Colts (4-2), not the Bolts (3-3).
Rivers expertly guided a balanced offense on three scoring drives of at least 74 yards while rebounding from a three-interception performance in a dismal loss at Oakland.
That, and a lot of dropped passes by Colts receivers, kept Indianapolis from taking a two-game lead over Tennessee in the AFC South.
The Colts didn't even score a touchdown. All their points came on three field goals by Adam Vinatieri.
A week earlier, Luck had helped rally the Colts to a 34-28 victory against Seattle.
"We knew if we didn't turn the ball over and we sustained drives, which we did -- we had some 12-, 14-, 16-play drives -- that we'd give ourselves a chance to win," Rivers said.
"We didn't go into the game saying, 'Let's play ball control,' " Rivers added. "We wanted to score as many points as we could. We didn't score that many, but we did sustain drives. I thought Keenan Allen stepped up big. They were doubling Gatesy (Antonio Gates) a lot, and Danny Woodhead stepped up big. The offensive line was great. That's the way we need to be able to run the football. If we can mix the run in, we got a chance."
Luck had no real chance against the Bolts because of two long drives in the second quarter that helped contribute to the Chargers dominating the time of possession 38 minutes, 31 seconds to 21:29.
Allen got behind safety Delano Howell and cornerback Vontae Davis on a post route for the TD, completing a 12-play, 74-yard march that took 6:14 and gave San Diego a 7-3 lead. It was Allen's second TD catch of the season.
Novak's first field goal capped a drive that went 79 yards in 17 plays in 7:58. The drive was kept alive when cornerback Greg Toler was whistled for illegal contact for pushing receiver Lavelle Hawkins out of bounds on third-and-6 from the Chargers' 45.
Luck then completed four straight passes to move the Colts into Chargers territory before Coby Fleener dropped a pass at the 25. Luck scrambled for 6 yards and threw an incompletion before Vinatieri kicked a 50-yard field goal as time expired.
On the Colts' only other possession of the second quarter, Darrius Heyward-Bey dropped what likely would have been a long touchdown pass down the right sideline.
"We stunk on third down today," Luck said. "A lot of credit to their defense. I think we made our fair share of mistakes, but I think it's what they did. If we can't convert third downs and drives continually stall like that, it's a short rest for our defense and no points for us, so it's a bad combination."
Novak also had field goals of 33, 34 and 50 yards, with the final one coming with 1:55 left. Vinatieri had kicks of 30, 50 and 51 yards.
Rivers was 22-of-33 for 237 yards and no interceptions. Luck was 18-of-30 for 202 yards.
Wayne got his 1,000th career reception in the fourth quarter on a 21-yard pass from Luck. Wayne had five catches for 88 yards, giving him 1,001 for his career. He passed Hines Ward (1,000) for eighth place on the NFL list.
"It's a great honor," Wayne said. "It's a humbling experience to be in an elite class with a bunch of guys who have helped pave the way for guys like myself. I wish it was more of a greater celebration. I would rather take the W than any accolades."
The Colts opened the game with a flea-flicker, with Trent Richardson taking the handoff and tossing the ball back to Luck, who completed a 35-yard pass to Wayne. The drive bogged down at the Chargers' 11, leading to Vinatieri's 30-yard field goal.
San Diego established its running game with 147 yards. Ryan Mathews ran for 102 yards on 22 carries for his first 100-yard game of the season.
There were family ties in this one: Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano beat older brother Chuck, the Colts' head coach.
"Give John Pagano the credit he deserves," Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. "He did an outstanding job of getting these players ready. It's him and the rest of the whole defensive staff."
Chargers WR Eddie Royal left with a toe injury in the second quarter but returned later in the game. ... Chargers LG Johnnie Troutman was injured in the second half and also returned. ... Colts ILB Jerrell Freeman sustained a concussion in the first half.