BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens have quite a challenge this week when they face Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. Rivers has found a high degree of success against the Ravens throughout his career. That success includes games in which he faced a Ravens defense that was very good against the pass. This year’s Ravens defense is struggling to stop opposing quarterbacks.
In six career games against the Ravens, Rivers has thrown for 1,711 yards, 11 touchdowns and has completed 66.5% of his pass attempts. He has compiled a 101.8 quarterback rating. The last time the Ravens saw Rivers, he led the Chargers on a touchdown scoring drive to go ahead of the Ravens with 46 seconds left. The Chargers won that game at M&T Bank Stadium by a score of 34-33.
Rivers ended that game with 383 yards passing along with three touchdowns and one interception. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees looked back on the game during his weekly press conference.
“We played well until the very end. I think the last four minutes is when we really didn’t pay well. We played well on defense up until then. We have to compete for 60 minutes,” Pees said. “It’s actually a good lesson for us for this year. We can’t give up big plays. One thing about Rivers is he is a very, very competitive player and a great quarterback. That’s why they’re No. 1 in the league on offense.”
The Chargers are leading the NFL in total yards per game (430.7). Rivers is averaging 343.6 yards passing per game which is tops in the NFL. His primary target has been third-year wide receiver, Keenan Allen. Allen’s 62 receptions lead the NFL. He also has 690 receiving yards, which is the third most in the NFL.
It is safe to say that the Ravens 26th ranked pass defense will be tested. The secondary has undergone somewhat of a facelift since the beginning of the season. Jimmy Smith has been a mainstay on the outside, but Lardarius Webb and Shareece Wright have both seen significant time on the other side of Smith.
Kyle Arrington began the season as the nickel back. He would bump inside and cover the slot receiver. Arrington has seen a significant decrease in reps recently. The coaching staff has become more comfortable with Webb on the inside along with Smith and Wright playing outside.
Rivers is different from a lot of quarterbacks because of the way that he engages in trash talking and how he responds to it. There are many times where you will see him talking to the defense after making a play and even getting in their face.
Pees said that the trash talk is something that he thinks gets Rivers going. “I think the more you try to get in his face – the more you try to do any of that – I think he actually loves it,” Pees said. “I think he thrives on it a little bit. I really have a ton of respect for him. I think he’s a guy who will get in the defense’s face, which I don’t like. But I really have a tremendous amount of respect for his competitiveness and how he plays.”
The rest of the team feeds off of the energy that Rivers brings. He is known across the league as a fierce competitor. Rivers has no problem challenging the top corners in the NFL. Jimmy Smith said that he definitely expects Rivers to throw the ball in his direction.
Rivers is a veteran quarterback entering his 12th season. The Ravens may try to blitz him, but it is hard to come up with something that he hasn’t seen before. Rivers has a strong grasp of the Chargers offense and can make the necessary adjustments to make the Ravens pay for blitzing him.
John Harbaugh is well aware of how in tune Rivers is when it comes to making adjustments on offense. “The first thing that jumps out to me is his handle of the offense. He has skills, certainly, but the thing that jumps out at you [is] he’s basically running an offense where he’s calling all the plays.” Harbaugh said. “He’s lining up, he’s motioning to the guy to try to determine zone [coverage], man [coverage] – determine what coverage it is – how many guys in the box, and then he basically calls a play.”
Rivers isn’t included most conversations as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. The Ravens certainly feel he is deserving of being mentioned with the best.
“You can talk about Peyton [Manning], and you can talk about [Tom] Brady, but I don’t know that anybody controls the offense more than Rivers does. As he goes, I think their offense goes,” Pees said. “The thing about it is he’s really, really a competitive guy. Brady is a lot more competitive than sometimes he appears to be in a shirt and tie. Rivers is a very, very competitive guy, so he always wants to have that last word.”
Multiple quarterbacks have registered their best passing games of the season against the Ravens this season. The Ravens will have to play better defense than they’ve played the first seven games in order to slow down Rivers and the Chargers.