Picking up on something he’d seen while watching film during the week, Rivers scored on a 5-yard scramble late in the third quarter Sunday to highlight a 23-13 victory over the winless Miami Dolphins, who lost quarterback Chad Pennington(notes) to a shoulder injury early in the second half.
It was just the second rushing touchdown in Rivers’ career.
“I’m not used to scoring on the run,” said Rivers, who threw for 303 yards a week after setting his career high with 436 yards in a loss against the Baltimore Ravens. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass or an interception.
In the shotgun on third-and-goal, Rivers couldn’t find a receiver and the pocket collapsed, but a hole opened up the middle so he sprinted into the end zone for a 10-6 lead.
Rivers said the team video staff put together clips of the Dolphins’ defense inside the 20-yard line.
“There were two or three that were called quarterback draws and a couple of others that happened just like that. I had that in the back of my mind all week.”
Rivers said something to coach Norv Turner about it during the week.
“He said, ‘If that thing opens up, I’m going to take off and run,’ ” Turner said. “I said, ‘I hope it’s on the 3 more than the 8.’ “
Rivers’ TD run capped a 75-yard, five-play drive that also included his 47-yard pass to Malcom Floyd(notes) and a razzle-dazzle play where Darren Sproles(notes) took a handoff and ran right before throwing a backward pass to Rivers, who hit tight end Antonio Gates(notes) for 19 yards.
The Chargers (2-1) are above .500 in the regular season for the first time since the end of 2007. The Dolphins are 0-3 for the third time in six seasons.
“As I told them in the locker room, you can’t put your lip out too long,” Miami coach Tony Sparano said.
“We are having significant red zone problems and most of them are self-inflicted,” Turner said.
A week after throwing for a career-high 436 yards in a loss to Baltimore, Rivers was 18 of 33 for 303 yards.
Pennington was hit by linebacker Kevin Burnett(notes) after throwing an incomplete pass on third-and-7 from the Dolphins 40 on the first possession of the second half. Slow to get up, he took off his helmet and shoulder pads once he got to the sideline and had a bag of ice on his shoulder.
The Dolphins didn’t know the extent of the injury.
Pennington, who has a history of shoulder surgeries, said he was in a “state of shock.”
“I’m truly disappointed because I know what type of work I’ve put in and what type of work our team has put in,” he said.
The Dolphins ran the wildcat seven times for 42 yards, including three times on their impressive first drive—which nonetheless resulted in no points.
Miami moved 94 yards in 17 plays and consumed 9:29 on that drive. On second-and-goal from the 1, Ronnie Brown(notes) never got a handle on the handoff from Pennington and fumbled the ball into the end zone. Guard Justin Smiley(notes) came up with it, but he was touching the end line and it was ruled a touchback.
“It was there,” Brown said. “I may have closed down a little bit early. That’s just an area we’ve got to focus on, be better on. That’s nothing but fundamentals.”
Brown said it was tough watching the ball bounce away.
“To be in a situation where you’ve been effective and drove the ball down the field 94 yards and to be in a situation where you’ve got an opportunity to score and you don’t take advantage of the opportunity, it’s hard,” he said.
Rivers then moved the Chargers to the Dolphins’ 8, the drive stalled and Kaeding kicked a 25-yard field goal.
Rivers fumbled when he was sacked by Joey Porter(notes) midway through the second quarter, with Phillip Merling(notes) recovering at the Chargers’ 17. Miami had a first-and-goal on the 5, but the Chargers stuffed Brown twice and Dan Carpenter(notes) kicked a 24-yard field goal for a 3-all tie.
The Chargers had a first down at the Dolphins’ 15 just before halftime, but a personal foul against guard Kris Dielman(notes) moved the ball back to the 30. The Chargers gained 8 yards in three plays and Kaeding was wide right on a 41-yard field goal attempt.
NOTES: Porter left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. … Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman(notes) was forced out early in the third quarter with a groin injury sustained a week earlier in a loss to Baltimore. … The Chargers have a winning record after three games for just the second time in seven seasons.