JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – No matter how many interceptions he threw, no matter how many turnovers he committed, Philip Rivers refused to play it safe.
He knew things would change.
They finally did. On “Monday Night Football” no less, and with his San Diego Chargers in the deepest of holes.
Rivers threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns, burning Jacksonville’s depleted secondary early and often, and the Chargers beat the Jaguars, 38-14, to snap a six-game losing streak.
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The Chargers (5-7) had been waiting for the three-time Pro Bowl selection to return to form. Some questioned whether it would happen this season. But Rivers never lost faith even though he leads the NFL in interceptions (17) and turnovers (21) and was a key part of the team’s disappointing slide.
“It’s been a rough six weeks,” Rivers said. “I haven’t put a complete game together, but I don’t care about the numbers. I just want to win.”
Rivers was nearly perfect against Jacksonville (3-9), adding to the team’s tumultuous week.
He completed 22 of 28 passes — hooking up with Vincent Brown, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd for long scores — before sitting out the final few minutes. Rivers finished with a 146.1 passer rating, by far his highest of the season.
The Chargers scored on five of their first six drives, then sent most of the home crowd scrambling for the exits with Ryan Mathews’ 31-yard TD run in the fourth. Mathews ran 13 times for 112 yards.
“That’s the type of chemistry coming into this season we knew we had,” tight end Antonio Gates said. “We stayed on course despite what we’ve been through these last six weeks. That we were able to get a win tonight speaks volumes for this team.”
It was a much-needed victory for a team that trails Denver and Oakland by two games in the AFC West with four to play.
And it was another blow to the Jaguars, who endured the most sweeping changes in the 17-year history of the franchise last week.
Team owner Wayne Weaver fired coach Jack Del Rio and announced he was selling the club to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan. Interim coach Mel Tucker fired receivers coach Johnny Cox, reassigned quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard and waived starting receiver Jason Hill.
The moves seemed to invigorate a franchise that had seemingly gone stale in Del Rio’s ninth season. Fans showed up energized for a prime-time game that signaled the start of a new era. Some wore “Yes We Khan” T-shirts. Other donned fake mustaches to emulate the owner-in-waiting.
It made little difference on the field, mostly because Jacksonville’s defensive injuries proved to be too much to overcome.