It’s not easy to wrap your mind around, but Philip Rivers just might be the best quarterback in the NFL right now. The Oakland Raiders almost had him and the San Diego Chargers pinned, about to give Tony Sparano his first win as the interim head coach on one of the two worst franchises in the league, but things just refuse to end with a happy ending for them.
The Raiders held a 28-21 lead with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. But Philip Rivers led the Chargers on two scoring drives: One that ended with a field goal to put the Chargers within four and then a short 39 yards drive after some excellent defense and a terrible punt, giving rookie Brandon Oliver a chance to make his mark with a one yard touchdown that gave the Chargers a 31-28 win, making it five in a row for them.
They’re not the only 5-1 team in the league, but just might be the most convincing of them all. Philip Rivers has bounced back quite well from botching up the opening game of the season against the Cardinals (imagine that the Chargers were one bad snap from being 6-0). Since then, he’s had five consecutive games with a passer rating of 120 or more, breaking the record set by Johnny Unitas and Kurt Warner.
Rivers finished the game with three touchdown passes, spreading the love between Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal. He threw for 313 yards and so far this season has just two interceptions thrown while finding targets in the end zone 15 times. He’s one interception shy of Aaron Rodgers for having the best TD-INT start in the history of the NFL for someone with at least 15 touchdowns passes through the first six games.
Rivers did extremely well when it came to the Raiders trying to blitz him. He was 8-of-10 for 137 yards when facing extra pressure, including two of his three touchdowns. Seven of his completions under duress went to tight ends Gates and Ladarius Green. The San Diego Chargers have one impressive win over the Seahawks and the rest of their wins have come against a pretty weak schedule, and yet it’s hard to ignore just how good Rivers has been on almost every play.
The Raiders possibly got a moral victory. They bounced back well from having their head coach fired. Tony Sparano is now the interim head coach, probably hoping for it to become something permanent. Derek Carr had his best game as a rookie, throwing four touchdown passes but throwing one interception as well on a desperate final drive from the Raiders to try and get something out of the game. He finished with 282 yards on 18-of-34 passing, leaning on Andre Holmes who caught four passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns, including a 77-yard completion, the longest play this season for the Raiders.
And still, that’s about it for the Raiders. The numbers looked nice in this game, probably the best they’ve had all season. But not enough to do more than come close to a win against a red hot team. The mission now is to somehow pick up a win and not turn this season into something historically bad. Then it’ll be time to try and figure out if this season is also about turning towards an even better future, which is very hard to imagine at this point.