SAN DIEGO – Philip Rivers has a cannon arm, and isn’t afraid to use it. The San Diego Chargers like taking yards in chunks when available, and the deep pass was a weapon used effectively in an October meeting with the Raiders.
He completed six passes over 20 yards in Week 5, including three of 50-plus. A few of those were catch and runs, but Rivers wasn’t afraid to let it fly.
The Raiders won that game late, but it offered a reality check. The secondary couldn’t get beat by San Diego’s speedsters like they did last time.
“They got a couple behind us,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So we’ll see if we can run a little faster this week.”
That might be necessary Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, especially after Rivers averaged a whopping 12 yards per pass last time. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton hates giving up chunk yards and explosive plays, but the Raiders are averaging 7.8 yards per pass attempt this season. That’s worse than everyone but Green Bay, a fact the secondary hopes to correct as the season moves along.
That starts on Sunday. A victory secures a postseason berth, making this an important time to keep scores low.
The secondary will try and tighten up without two key players. Slot cornerback DJ Hayden has been on injured reserve a few weeks, leaving TJ Carrie to take his snaps. Nate Allen is stepping in for injured rookie strong safety Karl Joseph.
“We have a lot of depth in the secondary, and the second team guys have a lot of experience,” starting outside cornerback David Amerson said. “You just trust that these guys to perform well.”
They have to at this point, but the Raiders must be at their best against Rivers. He offers a unique challenge that keeps safeties on high alert.
“He’s a smart guy, and we know he has the playbook in his hands when he goes to the line of scrimmage,” Allen said. “He runs the show from there, so we have to give him some different looks that cause some indecision and hopefully force him to make some mistakes.”
The Raiders lead the NFL with a plus-15 turnover differential. They have 12 interceptions this season, and would like to pad that total with a high count against Rivers, who leads the league in turnovers while trying to carry an injury-riddled team on his back.
“You have to make him pay for that,” Amerson said. “He will just throw it up there and let his guys try to make a play. They came down with a couple in our last meeting, but now we know what to expect. We didn’t think he was going to come that crazy. We’re ready for anything and, if he goes deep like he did last time, we’ve got to make him pay for it.”