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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rivers For League MVP!

San Diego Tribune:
The Chargers are a pretty loose team, prone to in-game sideline discussions about various topics.

Last night, as a game turned into a rout and a quarterback showed a national television audience there are more than three quarterbacks in the NFL, the conversation among some trying to keep warm on the Chargers’ bench at LP Field turned to the NFL MVP race.

The talk centered on Philip Rivers’ inclusion in that race.

“He should be in consideration,” cornerback Quentin Jammer said. “Peyton (Manning) is doing a great job. The Colts are 14-0. At the same time, Philip has … put up some great numbers.”

The man who has never lost in 18 December starts and has seen his team to a division championship in each of his four seasons as its starter last night completed 21 of his 27 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. And because he was so brilliant, he watched all but the first snap of the fourth quarter from the sideline — as did most of the other Chargers starters — as a 42-17 victory bled a quick death.

No one would argue more vehemently than Rivers that the Chargers have won 10 straight games on the strength of an entire team. But Rivers has had as much or more to do with a 2-3 start turning into the No. 2 seed than anyone.

Over the course of the winning streak, Rivers’ 112.6 passer rating is by far the best in the NFL. His 20 touchdowns in the 10 games are second to Manning’s 21, but Rivers has been intercepted just six times to Manning’s 11. Rivers has completed 69.4 percent of his passes, Drew Brees 69.5 and Manning 66.1.

LaDainian Tomlinson went up to Rivers last night and said, “Dude, you’re playing out of your mind.”

Last night, for the Chargers’ second touchdown, Rivers stepped up against pressure, tiptoed through a minefield of would-be tacklers and, with a hand around his ankle and just before he crossed the line of scrimmage, found Antonio Gates wide open.

Later, on a third-and-7, Rivers threw a bullet through a keyhole to Malcom Floyd for 22 yards. His leading pass to Gates in man coverage was like watching Dan Fouts. A sideline pass to Vincent Jackson should have just made the Titans give up.

There are quarterbacks in the league who couldn’t make one of those plays in a season. Rivers made them in one night, and he’s been doing it throughout his team’s renaissance.

“He’s winning games for us,” linebacker Stephen Cooper said.

Rivers is also the Chargers’ most vociferous and animated cheerleader, a friend to every guy on the roster and the perpetrator of three last-minute, game-winning drives this season.

“He’s the biggest reason we’ve gone from 2-3,” Cooper said. “He got us going.”

Yet, until recently, there were times it seemed all ESPN and NFL Network knew for sure was that Manning walked on water, Brett Favre had healing powers and Brees could raise the dead.

Whether Rivers’ candidacy had a birth with his prime-time Christmas performance, it should at least increase the chatter about the possibility of him being the MVP.

Rivers has the endorsement of the 2006 league MVP.

“I don’t see why he’s not in the running for MVP,” Tomlinson said. “It’s ridiculous he’s played like this and no one has talked about it.”