ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — So far, it appears the Vic Fangio defensive scheme needs a little more time for Broncos players to properly execute.
The hope is it takes Philip Rivers too much time to solve Sunday afternoon when his Chargers and Fangio’s Broncos meet in an AFC West Division game.
“It’s a different scheme this year really for the first time in a long time,’’ Rivers, who has been playing extremely well in his 16th NFL season, 14th as the Los Angeles Chargers’ starting quarterback, said in a conference call with the Denver media Wednesday. “Even when Wade (Phillips) left, the defense stayed the same for the most part schematically. It’s a different scheme. Obviously, it’s a little different this week, but very important because you’re so familiar with what they did just as they are with us.’’
Rivers and the Chargers will host the Broncos on Sunday at a soccer stadium in Carson, Calif. they are now calling Dignity Health Sports Park. The Chargers’ temporary home holds a couple seats less than 25,400, or about a third of what the Broncos play before at Empower Field at Mile High.
In two previous meetings at the cozy venue in 2017 and ‘18, better than 50 percent of the crowd was comprised of Broncos fans. The Chargers and Broncos split their two games there. The Chargers will move to Stan Kroenke’s SoFi Stadium next season.
Lifetime, Rivers is 13-14 against the Broncos with a rather pedestrian 88.8 passer rating, at least compared to his 95.8 career rating. One struggle he’s had against the Broncos is they have sacked him 64 times, more than any other team.
Rivers is the least mobile quarterback in the NFL, although he’s compensated with what might be the game’s quickest release since Joe Namath. By and large, when the Broncos have been able to pressure Rivers, they have beaten him. When he’s had time, he’s sliced them up.
“There’s a handful of guys over there that we’ve played a lot of games against,’’ Rivers said. “When you think about Chris Harris Jr. and Von Miller, in particular, there has been a lot of football games against those two guys. Tons of respect for those guys along with the rest of that defense, but those are two guys -- they’re in there with Derek Wolfe --that I’ve play against a lot. It’s always a heck of a game and it’s always a big challenge going against this group.’’
Although he has never played in a Super Bowl much less won one, Rivers has been one of the league’s purest passers and is likely to one day become inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is currently No. 8 on the all-time passing yards list with 55,910 yards and he’s less than 640 yards from moving past the benched Eli Manning and injured Ben Roethlisberger for the No. 6 spot.
Rivers is already No. 6 on the career list in touchdowns with 381.
At 38, he’s playing better than ever as he has 7 touchdown passes against just 1 interception with a 105.8 rating that would be a career-best by a few ticks if it holds – he’s finished three seasons at 105.5. Fangio, the Broncos' first-year head coach and long-time NFL defensive coordinator, was asked why Rivers seems to be playing better than ever at an age few players reach as an active players.
“I think the first ‘why’ is the guy loves football,'' Fangio said. "He is out there like he’s in the backyard playing when he was 10 years old. He just loves to play, and he has not lost one decimal off his stinger. Then you go to his talent. He’s a great passer.''
Play as long and as Rivers has and you take the good with the bad. The Broncos are 0-4 and Rivers has been there. And just two years ago. He rallied the Chargers that season to a 9-7 finish.
“It’s funny you ask that because I really think -- not that any Bronco can care less about my opinion about their own 0-4 start -- but it seems similar in ways that they can very easily be sitting there 2-2 or 3-1,’’ Rivers said. “Just the way these games have gone is much like our start in 2017 when we lost at Denver in the opener and then we lost on a missed field goal try at the end of the Miami game.
“You look up and you’re 0-4 and you know you’re better than that. I know that what we see on tape is a good Denver Broncos team. For us that year, we finally won our first game and then we won two in a row and we just kind of turned it around and fought our way back to win nine of the last 12.
“We know what this Denver team can do and certainly speaking primarily of the defensive players, I mentioned some of those veteran guys and some other guys that have been there a handful of years that are really good players. It’s a salty secondary, a tough front as always and downhill linebackers.
“It’s a team that we know, it’s a bunch of pros and Pro Bowl players and a lot of respected veterans. We know it’s going to be a hard-fought division football game, so that’s what we’re preparing for.”
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