Philip Rivers has cornered the market on just about every significant statistic but one this season.
The Chargers quarterback leads the league with 2,944 passing yards, is tied for the first with 19 touchdown passes and stands in fifth place with a 65.3 percent completion rate.
Still, he hasn’t been able to lead his team to more than four wins in nine games, placing San Diego just one game ahead of Denver in the AFC West standings.
But the Chargers’ history is more relevant than their 2010 record to Brian Dawkins. San Diego has won the division the past four years, and the team has posted a 20-4 record after Week 10 in those seasons.
“They are always going to be a good team to me,” Dawkins said. “They are always going to be the team to beat because they won this division for so many years.”
In three of those four seasons, Rivers has earned a Pro Bowl nod to go along with a division crown. Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale knows Rivers particularly well, having studied the opposing quarterback as a member of the Raiders coaching staff for four years before coming to Denver.
Martindale compared Rivers to Super Bowl Champions Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and another signal-caller many pundits consider to be the best to ever play the position.
“He might be playing better than all of them,” Martindale said. “He sort of reminds you, with his quick release, of (Dan) Marino.”
One of the attributes that makes Rivers so effective serves as a microcosm of his team’s success taking the division. He fights until the end.
“He is a quarterback that is not going to give up on a play,” Dawkins said. “He is going to fight that thing to the last second to hold the ball and try to get rid of it. He is a tremendous competitor.”
Malcom Floyd and Legadu Nanee, Rivers’ top two wide receivers this season, have missed a combined seven games, but Rivers has continued to put up his numbers. He can thank a member of the NFL’s most recent All-Decade team for that.
Despite missing San Diego’s game in Houston last week, tight end Antonio Gates is still tied for the league lead with nine touchdown receptions. Along with Rivers, he’s been the constant keeping the wheels turning in his team’s passing game.
“That individual in himself is a huge luxury for a quarterback to have, a safe haven to be able to throw to that cat any time,” Dawkins said. “He catches pretty much anything that is in his area, and he is just one of those guys — he is a different tight end, he really is.”
San Diego is coming off of a bye week that gave Gates more time to rest the injured foot that kept him out of the game against the Texans. While Gates’ status is uncertain, Martindale said the Broncos are preparing to face him.
With or without Gates, Denver faces a tough matchup against one of the NFL’s most prolific passers in Rivers. Champ Bailey is another Broncos defender who complimented the opposing quarterback, but he said past experience could provide the formula to defeat him.
“We’ve been able to disrupt him a little bit, get in the pocket and get him off the spot sometimes,” Bailey said. “I think that’s the key to beating him — you have to rattle him in some kind of way and hopefully we can get that done.”
BRONCOS BRING BACK BROWN
After being waived by the Carolina Panthers, running back Andre Brown is back in orange and blue. He was signed to the practice squad on Thursday, as the team had a vacant spot available.
Andre’ Goodman (hip) did not practice on Thursday, while Robert Ayers (foot) and Darcel McBath (ankle) were limited in practice.
For the Chargers, TE Antonio Gates (foot-toe) and RB Ryan Matthews (ankle) did not practice. S Steve Gregory (shoulder), DE Travis Johnson (shoulder), WR Legadu Nanee (hamstring) and TE Kris Wilson (back) were limited in practice. WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring), K Nate Kaeding (right groin) and LB Brandon Siler fully participated in practice.
-Gabe Hiatt, DenverBroncos.com
Below are pictures from Thursday’s practice: