NFL Preview - St. Louis (4-6) at San Diego (6-4)
By Chris Ruddick, NFL Contributing Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers appears to be dealing with some sort of injury. Nobody on the Chargers seems all that concerned, though.
Regardless the Chargers offense hasn't looked right the past few weeks, but will try to win two in a row for the first time since a five-game winning streak earlier in the season when they host the St. Louis Rams at Qualcomm Stadium.
San Diego snapped a three-game losing streak on Sunday, as Rivers threw a touchdown pass, Nick Novak kicked two field goals and the Chargers escaped with a 13-6 home win.
A banged-up Rivers completed 22-of-34 passes for 193 yards, and Ryan Mathews rushed for 70 yards in his first action for San Diego (6-4) since suffering a right knee injury against Seattle on Sept. 14.
"We found a way to win, and that is what it's all about," said Rivers, who was under 200 yards for the second straight week.
San Diego tight end Antonio Gates seemingly spoke out of turn after the game when he said Rivers was dealing with a rib injury. Head coach Mike McCoy downplayed any news of an injury and Gates later backpedaled on his initial statements during the week.
"I was more so pertaining to just his toughness, mentally and physically, what he's been able to play through and how he's always been able to lead this team," Gates explained.
Something is up, though, as Rivers, an MVP candidate early in the season, has looked awful the past four weeks. After averaging 303.6 yards per game with 14 scores and one pick during the five-game win streak, Rivers has posted just 197 yards in the air with six touchdowns and six picks over the last four games.
"I feel good," Rivers said. "Shoot, it's part of playing this position (to) get banged up here and there. I feel as good as I could ask to feel at this point in the season. If we told you every knick and knack we ever had, it'd be a long list and things you wouldn't care to hear about. It wouldn't be worth reporting that, for sure. It's not at all (something I've been dealing with for a while). Mainly close to that last hit in the game I got caught landing on the football. It's nothing that's going to linger or cause me to miss any time on the practice field (or in the game)."
St. Louis, meanwhile, got to play spoiler and stunned Denver in Week 10, as Shaun Hill returned as the starting quarterback and helped lead the Rams to a 22-7 win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Hill passed for 220 yards and a touchdown and Greg Zuerlein kicked a career- high five field goals in the victory.
"Great win. As good a game as we can play," said head coach Jeff Fisher.
Zuerlein was named the NFC special teams player of the week for his efforts.
The defense also did its part, as the Rams sacked Manning twice, picked him off two times and held the Broncos to their lowest point total since the quarterback took the reins at the start of the 2012 campaign.
"We're building this team and we're on the right track and we're moving in the right direction," Fisher said. "We've had some disappointing losses, some close losses and some things have happened but to be able to line up and play against these teams like we did, I think we've earned a little respect."
The Chargers and Rams, separated for many years by just 100 miles when the Rams played in Los Angeles, have met only 10 times in the regular season. The Rams hold a 6-4 series edge and won the last meeting in 2010. San Diego hasn't won in the series since 2006, Rivers' first year under center for the team.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Rivers has played every game for the Chargers since being drafted and there is no reason to think he won't be under center again on Sunday, as the Chargers go after their eighth home win in nine games.
The fiery signal caller has been terrific at home, throwing for 2,026 pass yards with 19 TDs vs. 4 INTs for 110.0 rating. He has also been thrown two or more touchdowns in seven of his past nine games overall
"Philip Rivers, I mean goodness," Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "They run a very similar offense to what Denver does -- get the ball downfield a little bit further."
Rivers, who is closing in on 35,000 passing yards for his career, will need to be on point Sunday if he intends on resuscitating an offense that has scored just 13.5 points and 258.8 yards per game over the last four.
To show just how bad it's been, the Chargers had managed 29.4 points and 395.8 total yards over the five-game winning streak.
Rivers' ribs could be put to the test against one of the most ferocious front sevens in the league in St. Louis. Robert Quinn has 6.0 sacks while first round pick Aaron Donald has 4.0, accounting for 10 of the team's 19 sacks on the year. The duo has also combined for 13 tackles for loss.
Meanwhile, linebacker Alec Ogletree has been a menace, leading the team in tackles (54), forced fumbles (3) and interceptions (2).
As for Hill, he showed no rust in his first start since the opener, as he orchestrated the Rams' first turnover free game since Week 7.
Nobody was happier to see Hill under center than wideout Kenny Britt, who had his best day of the season, as he hauled in four catches for 128 yards. That also opened up the running game for Tre Mason, who finished with a season-best 113 yards.
"(Hill) throwing well helped the run game and us running well helped him throw," Mason said. "It all plays together."
Repeating that performance may be tough, though, against a tough Chargers defense that allowed just 71 yards on the ground in the win over Oakland.
On defense, the Chargers rank No. 9 in yards per game (331.4), No. 6 against the pass (222.4 yards per game), and No. 6 in points (19.2 per game).
"We're going up against a very talented defense -- different style of defense, pressure-oriented defense," Fisher said. "It's a defense that we have to become familiar with, but it's a big-play defense. They've played well."
San Diego can deny it all it wants, but Rivers is playing hurt. He's shown in the past he can do it, so he probably will continue to fight his way through whatever is bothering him. But, it does seem to be taking its toll. Being back in San Diego should help, as well as having a healthy Matthews behind him should take some of the burden off his shoulders. It's kind of hard to see the Rams putting up a similar effort as they did a week ago, especially in San Diego.
Sports Network predicted outcome: San Diego 27, St. Louis 20
11/20 14:59:21 ET