On track for his best season in years, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has the Los Angeles offense firing on all cylinders heading into Sunday's matchup with the Redskins.
When October began, the Los Angeles Chargers looked like a lost cause.
The new era in the City of Angles began with a four-game slide, with quarterback Philip Rivers throwing four interceptions in those games. He eclipsed a 70 percent completion percentage just once in a 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
What Rivers and the rest of the Chargers needed was a confidence builder, which is exactly what they got, winning three straight against the Giants, Raiders and Broncos. The two divisional wins catapulted Los Angeles back into playoff contention, with Rivers throwing just one pick in those three wins. Two close losses to the Patriots and Jaguars preceded another three-game win streak. This time, Rivers tossed six touchdowns and did not turn the ball over once.
"I was with Philip for a number of years when I was in San Diego. Just from the knowledge of the game, he knows where has got to go with the ball," said Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. "Over that long period of time that he has been playing, he understands that and he does a great job of it."
Manusky, who worked as the Chargers linebackers' coach and defensive coordinator, said Rivers excels when under pressure and knows just where to place the ball as the pocket around him collapses.
Twelve games through the season, Rivers now ranks fourth among NFL quarterbacks in passing yards with 3,292 through the air. With seven total interceptions, Rivers is also on track for his lowest pick total since 2009.
For Rivers, it helps to have a star wide receiver like Keenan Allen who can haul in those last-second throws. Allen ranks fifth among NFL receivers in yards, receptions and targets. Rivers trusts Allen's skills more than any other Chargers receivers, as Allen has been targeted more than twice as much as anyone else on the team.
While in the pocket, Rivers excels, finding players like Allen or tight end Hunter Henry for big gains. Redskins defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II said putting the pressure on Rivers and giving him less time to find his big-play athletes will be priority No. 1 come Sunday.
"We're going to get out there and do what our coaches tell us to do: keep him in the pocket, put a lot of pressure on him, just like we're coached to do," Lanier said.
When pressured, Rivers has not performed as well, especially in the running game. On his 16 rushing attempts this season, he has lost a total of seven yards. Without posing as a mobile threat, the Redskins will rely on their secondary to try and give Rivers the fewest options possible downfield.
Washington cornerback Josh Norman, a vocal competitor himself, said he appreciates the intense attitude Rivers brings to every game and is eager to seeing what he brings to the table in Los Angeles.
"He has grit. I so do love it. I love it. I'm looking forward to a guy like that, because he's going to compete with you," Norman said. "He's going to actually get out there, not matter what it is. He's going to test that and see what it is. I can't wait, I really can't."