Rivers is rolling, Carr is stalling en­ter­ing Charg­ers-Raiders game

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JOSH DUBOW

Derek Carr had ap­peared to pass Philip Rivers in the peck­ing or­der of AFC West quar­ter­backs two years ago. He put to­gether a sea­son wor­thy of MVP con­sid­er­a­tion while Rivers led the NFL in in­ter­cep­tions on the way to a last-place fin­ish.

Carr looked like one of the NFL’s up-and-com­ing stars, while Rivers seemed to be on the down­side of a ca­reer that started in 2004.

The script has flipped head­ing into Sun­day’s meet­ing be­tween Rivers’ Los An­ge­les Charg­ers (6-2) and Carr’s Oak­land Raiders (1-7). Rivers is play­ing as well as he has at any point in his 15-year ca­reer, while Carr is strug­gling to find his way in coach Jon Gru­den’s of­fense.

“Ob­vi­ously quar­ter­backs get way too much credit and way too much blame al­ready, but I think we don’t give enough credit to guys who have played that long,” Carr said. “I’ll say it this way, the hard­est part men­tally go­ing through a

sea­son is the days lead­ing up to the game. Sun­day is fun, man. You cut it loose and you give it ev­ery­thing you have. Hav­ing to re­cover, ice tub, wake up early to get treat­ment, the lift, to lift heavy when ev­ery­thing hurts, that’s when those guys don’t get enough credit.

“Here I am at five years, I’m fine. I’m good. I’ll keep do­ing this and I’m good. But, those guys that are in their 15th, 20th sea­son, we don’t give them enough credit to men­tally be that strong. It’s awe­some.”

Rivers has ca­reer highs in yards per at­tempt (9.1) and passer rat­ing (116.5), and is on pace for a ca­reer-high 38 touch­down passes while lead­ing the Charg­ers to five straight wins.

The Charg­ers have strength­ened their of­fen­sive line, have a po­tent run­ning threat in Melvin Gor­don, have plenty of out­side tar­gets with Keenan Allen, Tyrell Wil­liams and Mike Wil- liams, and a strong de­fense.

That has all taken pressure off Rivers to carry too much of the load.

“Th­ese last al­most 20 games or so, we’ve had good bal­ance,” Rivers said. “Lean­ing on one an­other of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively taking care of the ball – all of those things are im­por­tant. So we’ve done a nice job of it so far.”

Here are other things to watch: Gor­don’s run: Melvin Gor­don has rushed for 407 yards and scored five touch­downs in his last four games. He also has three 100-yard games in three of his past four, the first time that has hap­pened in his ca­reer. The only game when Gor­don did not go over the cen­tury mark was Week 5 against the Raiders; he had just 58 yards on 19 car­ries. The Raiders are last in the league in rush­ing de­fense, but Gor­don knows he has a tough test ahead.

“They played me pretty tough last time we went up against them. It is never easy since they are a ri­val. As a group the of­fen­sive line is hit­ting on all cylin­ders. We hope to keep get­ting stronger.” Pressure point: The Raiders have strug­gled to gen­er­ate any sort of pass pressure all sea­son af­ter trad­ing away Khalil Mack. Oak­land ranks last in the NFL with seven sacks and last with 35 QB pres­sures, ac­cord­ing to SportRadar, 28 fewer pres­sures than the next-low­est team. Fix­ing that will only get harder af­ter the team re­leased top pass rusher Bruce Irvin last week. That puts more pressure on a trio of rook­ies – P.J. Hall, Ar­den Key and Mau­rice Hurst – that has three sacks this sea­son.

“We put a lot on their plate and that’s be­cause they’re the fu­ture of this team,” team­mate Fros­tee Rucker said. “They have to come along and play.”

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