Published December 06, 2011
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Of all the negative numbers over the last six weeks, the only one that mattered to Philip Rivers was the losses.
Sure, the interceptions and fumbles were bothersome. But they didn't compare to the six-game losing streak, the franchise's longest in more than eight years.
So Rivers made little of his big night against Jacksonville.
Rivers threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns, burning Jacksonville's depleted secondary early and often, and the Chargers beat the Jaguars 38-14 Monday night to snap a six-game losing streak.
"There was no magical play or magical scheme," Rivers said. "We just played better. This doesn't mean we'll play better next week. Each game stands alone. We played good for three and a half hours, won and now let's go play somebody else next week."
The Chargers (5-7) had been waiting for the three-time Pro Bowl selection to return to form. Some questioned whether it would happen this season. But Rivers never lost faith even though he leads the NFL in interceptions (17) and turnovers (21) and was a key part of the team's disappointing slide.
"It's been a rough six weeks," Rivers said. "I haven't put a complete game together, but I don't care about the numbers. I just want to win."
Rivers was nearly perfect against Jacksonville (3-9), adding to the team's tumultuous week.
He completed 22 of 28 passes — hooking up with Vincent Brown, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd for long scores — before sitting out the final few minutes. Rivers finished with a 146.1 QB rating, by far his highest of the season.
The Chargers scored on five of their first six drives, then sent most of the home crowd scrambling for the exits with Ryan Mathews' 31-yard TD run in the fourth. Mathews ran 13 times for 112 yards.
"That's the type of chemistry coming into this season we knew we had," tight end Antonio Gates said. "We stayed on course despite what we've been through these last six weeks. That we were able to get a win tonight speaks volumes for this team."
It was a much-needed victory for a team that trails Denver and Oakland by two games in the AFC West with four to play.
And it was another blow to the Jaguars, who endured the most sweeping changes in the 17-year history of the franchise last week.
Team owner Wayne Weaver fired coach Jack Del Rio and announced he was selling the club to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan. Interim coach Mel Tucker fired receivers coach Johnny Cox, reassigned quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard and waived starting receiver Jason Hill.
The moves seemed to invigorate a franchise that had seemingly gone stale in Del Rio's ninth season. Fans showed up energized for a prime-time game that signaled the start of a new era. Some wore "Yes We Khan" T-shirts. Other donned fake mustaches to look like the owner-in-waiting.
It made little difference on the field, mostly because Jacksonville's defensive injuries proved too much to overcome.
"No excuses here," Tucker said. "We won't allow ourselves to go down that road."
Rivers took advantage of the injuries, picking on a pair of cornerbacks who were signed off the street in recent weeks.
Rivers threw two TD passes in the final 2:32 of the first half.
The opening drive of the third quarter didn't take long, either. On the fifth play, Rivers found Floyd deep down the right sideline for a 52-yard score. Floyd, activated Monday night after missing six games with a hip injury, finished with four receptions for 108 yards.
"He's just an outstanding player," Chargers coach Norv Turner said of Rivers. "Like any quarterback, it starts with protection, with the guys up front. He's missed Malcom. We've missed Malcom. When Philip has all his guys, and he can operate like he did today, he's as good as anybody."
The biggest cheer for the Jaguars came late in the third quarter, when Weaver was shown on the stadium's large video board. Weaver and his wife received a standing ovation.
The $760 million sale must be approved by the NFL later this month. Khan chose not to attend the game, which turned out to be a good move.
Maurice Jones-Drew was the lone offensive star for Jacksonville — again. He finished with 97 yards rushing and 91 yards receiving. He now leads the NFL in rushing with 1,137 yards.
"I don't think anyone has been through anything like that," Jones-Drew said, reflecting on the week. "This is a $9 billion business. Other than that, we played football. We've got to figure out how to keep going for four quarters and not two."