Ageless Philip Rivers makes Chargers a Super Bowl threat

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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Ninth in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers will face during the 2019 regular season.

GREEN BAY – While the Los Angeles Rams catapulted into the Super Bowl last season, they weren’t the only L.A. newcomer having a good year.

After four straight seasons without a playoff appearance, the Los Angeles Chargers briefly gave fans visions of a potential all-Tinseltown Super Bowl. Behind an up-and-coming head coach and ageless quarterback, the Chargers finished 2018 with a 12-4 record and won an AFC wild-card game at the Baltimore Ravens before bowing out at the New England Patriots in the divisional round.

The question entering 2019 is whether the Chargers can sustain last season’s success or if they will regress. If the Chargers are again capable of making a playoff run, they could be one of the tougher games on the Packers’ schedule, especially coming a week after a trip to Kansas City.

Defying Father Time

It’s no secret elite quarterbacks throughout the NFL are playing better, and longer, than ever before. Tom Brady’s annual Super Bowls in New England and Drew Brees’ annual production in New Orleans usually highlight that conversation, but what Philip Rivers did last season at age 37 shouldn’t go unnoticed. In his 13th season with the Chargers, Rivers tied for his highest single-season passer rating at 105.5. The two other times Rivers hit that mark in a season were when he was 32 and 27. With 4,308 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, Rivers earned his third straight Pro Bowl selection, and his eighth overall. So long as Rivers is playing at a Pro Bowl level, the Chargers are built to be contenders.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers gestures in the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium on Dec 18, 2016.

La La Lynn

The Rams, with Sean McVay, weren’t the only team with an impressive, second-year head coach. While McVay, 33, is almost 20 years younger than the 50-year-old Anthony Lynn, the rebuild they’ve brought to their respective teams has been similar. Lynn, who has worked for several NFL teams since 2000 as a running backs coach and later an offensive coordinator, inherited a Chargers team that was 9-23 the previous two seasons, and immediately they started to win. The Chargers were 9-7 in Lynn’s first season as coach, and improved to 12-4 last year. The Chargers were sixth in scoring, 11th in total offense, eighth in points allowed and ninth in total defense, joining the Indianapolis Colts as the only other team to rank in the top 11 in each of the four major categories.

Flash Gordon

Todd Gurley, the NFL’s offensive player of the year last season, gets more notoriety, but the Rams workhorse isn’t the only Pro Bowl tailback in Los Angeles. Melvin Gordon has reached two Pro Bowls in his four seasons since being drafted in the first round out of Wisconsin, his second coming last season. (In 2017, Gordon didn’t make the Pro Bowl but had maybe his best career year, with a career-high 1,105 yards.) Gordon missed four games last season but still had 885 yards on 175 carries, a career-high 5.1 yards per carry. He also had 10 rushing touchdowns for the second time in his career, and he added four receiving touchdowns. The question as Gordon enters the final season of his rookie deal: When will he get a new contract?

Packers schedule glimpse

Nov. 3 at Los Angeles Chargers, 3:25 p.m., CBS

Week before: at Kansas City, Oct. 27.

Week after: vs. Panthers, Nov. 10.

On the horizon: Bye.

Los Angeles Chargers

Coach: Anthony Lynn (21-11, third season with Chargers).

2018 record: 12-4, second in AFC West.

Scoring offense: 26.8 points per game (6th in NFL).

Total offense: 372.6 yards per game (11th).

Scoring defense: 20.6 points allowed per game (eighth).

Total defense: 333.7 yards allowed per game (ninth).

Series: Packers lead 10-1.

Last meeting: Down a touchdown with 20 seconds left on Oct. 19, 2015, the Chargers had one last chance with fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line inside Lambeau Field. Philip Rivers’ pass to running back Danny Woodhead in the right flat could have tied the score, but in one of the greatest plays of his career, Packers rookie cornerback Damarious Randall deflected the football to prevent what would’ve been a touchdown. Randall’s pass breakup preserved a 27-20 win, and it was a rare play made by the secondary all day. Rivers completed 43 of 65 passes for 503 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, but the Packers’ goal-line stand had final say.

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