The third-year quarterback looks to continue his strong play and move the Chargers (3-1) atop the AFC West when they take on the San Francisco 49ers (2-3) at Monster Park on Sunday.
Rivers had his best performance in his first season as a starter last week, completing 24 of 37 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns to rally San Diego to a 23-13 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“It felt good,” said Rivers, who led the Chargers back from a 10-0 deficit while outperforming fellow 2004 first-round draft pick Ben Roethlisberger. “Any quarterback loves to throw the ball, and I fit into that category.”
Coach Marty Schottenheimer has gained confidence in Rivers’ ability to do that, and last week made the running game secondary. Tomlinson rushed for just 36 yards on 13 carries, his fewest attempts in 41 games.
San Diego’s top back has the most carries (1,791) and rushing yards (7,697) in the NFL since debuting in 2001.
“I want to throw it as many times as we need to win the game,” said Rivers, who took over as the starter after Drew Brees departed as a free agent during the offseason, and has his team tied with Denver for first place in the division.
“Whatever that may be. I thought we threw it enough to win. It may be less next week, it may be more, it may be the same. I think we’re growing every day as an offense. It’s just the fourth game of the year, and this whole thing is kind of coming together.”
Rivers has completed 66.7 percent (70-for-105) of his passes for 730 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions this season. He rebounded last week from a tough day against Baltimore on Oct. 1, when he went 13-of-22 for 145 yards and an interception that led to a Ravens touchdown as the Chargers lost 16-13.
While Rivers’ emergence has been crucial to his team’s fast start, the defense has been just as important. San Diego has 16 sacks in four games, two less than AFC leader Baltimore, which has played one more game.
The Chargers will look to continue applying pressure against San Francisco’s second-year quarterback Alex Smith, who has also shown marked improvement this season and had a strong game in last week’s win over Oakland.
Smith went 15-for-19 for 165 yards with a career-best three touchdowns and one interception to lead the 49ers past the Raiders 34-20. He rebounded from a 13-for-25, 92-yard, two-interception performance in a 41-0 loss to Kansas City on Oct. 1.
San Diego will also look to shut down the 49ers’ Frank Gore, who has rushed for 465 yards—tied for first in the league—and three scores, and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Chargers are first in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 66.5 yards per game on the ground.
Rivers will be going against a defense that has allowed the most points in the NFL (146), but the Niners did have a strong week defending the pass against the Raiders, getting four interceptions—three from Walt Harris.
“We’re improving almost every week, and I think this is just the start,” Harris said. “You can see us learning and getting better. We’ve had a lot of adversity, and we continue to work.”
The 49ers lead the series with the Chargers 8-3, with the last meeting coming on Nov. 17, 2002, a 20-17 San Diego victory.
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