Chargers need ‘Mr. December’ Philip Rivers to keep wearing the cape

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Quarterback Philip Rivers gave NFL fans a preview of what to expect from him in December, tying an NFL record with 25 straight completions on Sunday.

Rivers completed 28 of 29 passes overall for 259 passing yards with three touchdowns in the Los Angeles Chargers‘ 45-10 rout of the Arizona Cardinals.

It came a week early for the soon-to-be 37-year-old veteran quarterback, who typically heats up in the final month of the calendar year.

“Some guys finish, and finish well,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “They have the stamina to finish well. I think Philip is one of those type of players.”

Since taking over as the team’s starter in 2006, Rivers has guided the Chargers to a 39-19 (.672) record in regular-season games played in December and January. The team went 4-1 last year.

With running back Melvin Gordon week-to-week because of a right knee sprain, the Chargers will lean on their super hero at quarterback even more as the regular season comes to a close.

After struggling with turnovers, Rivers has rejuvenated his career the past two seasons by buying into Lynn’s edict of taking care of the football. The NC State product has 16 interceptions over the past two seasons after throwing a career-high 21 in 2016.

While Lynn and Rivers may have animated conversations on the sideline at times about playcalls and other decisions on game days, the Chargers coach said those conversations take place out of love.

“It’s our second year together and I’ve never wavered from what I believe in how this team will look,” Lynn said. “I would think he has a pretty good understanding of how to win football games.

“Families have disagreements. It happens all the time. I trust that young man, I think he trusts me, and I think we’re in a good place.”

With the Chargers on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2013, they will need steady play from Rivers down the stretch.

“You want to be playing your best football down the home stretch as you try to and want to be playing into January, which we haven’t in a long time,” Rivers said. “But in a lot of cases we’ve been so far behind and we’ve been in such a chase mode that even a good December hasn’t been enough in some of those seasons.

“Now we’ve put ourselves in position where it will certainly be enough if we do what we’re capable of doing, and what we’ve done in some years past in December. So we need to keep that going so it can give ourselves a chance to play into next year.”

For Rivers, it starts this Sunday in Pittsburgh against 2004 draft classmate Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, a team they could see again if they make the playoffs.

If the playoffs started today, the Chargers would be the fifth seed, traveling to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers as the fourth seed in an AFC wild-card game.

Rivers is 2-3 against Roethlisberger in games both players have started, including playoffs.

Three of the Chargers last six games will be played on the road in cold weather against the Steelers, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos.

Surprisingly, playing in cold weather isn’t exactly a disadvantage for this team from Southern California. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Chargers are 5-4 since 2012 in games in which he temperature at game time is between 20 to 45 degrees.

The current weather forecast for the Chargers’ nationally televised Sunday night game against the Steelers is 40 degrees and showers.

“We practiced in this every day,” Rivers said, pointing to the window of the Chargers’ sun-lit media center. “Yet we have guys from all over the country that have played their football in college. I don’t think anybody likes the cold, to be quite honest. So you figure out the way to get it done for those three and a half hours when that comes.”

Cornerback Casey Hayward, who played his first four seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, doesn’t see playing in cold weather as an issue.

“It’s a little overhyped,” Hayward said. “I’ve played in cold weather. A lot of our players played in cold weather in college — [CB] Desmond [King II] played in Iowa and [DE] Joey [Bosa] played at Ohio State.

“I’ve played in Wisconsin. Guys play in cold weather, so I don’t think there is going to be too much of a difference. Maybe some have become used to it, but everyone has to play in that same weather. It’s not going to matter. Win or lose, you’re not going to be able to blame on how cold it is.”

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