Sports

Chargers: Seahawks just another team on schedule

Seattle’s next opponent respects the defending champs, but doesn’t want to be seen drooling over the possibility of a big upset.

Just as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson enjoys reminding media interviewers the exact dimensions of a football field, it appears that Seattle’s weekly opponents will offer repeated information on the length of the NFL season.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and coach Mike McCoy independently told media via conference call on Wednesday that Sunday’s game against the Seahawks is only “one of 16” games on their 2014 schedule.

Both were asked to comment on the notion that teams defending titles, as are the Seahawks, are known to be targeted with particular fervor every time they take the field. The axiom holds that the champs take everybody’s best shot.

“In this league, you get pumped up for every game, and if you’re not, you’re in the wrong business as a player and a coach,” McCoy said. “It’s one of 16 and every team has the approach of going out there to play their best game.”

The question puts them in a tricky position. If a coach says it means no more than the others, a loss will elicit criticism that they didn’t take it seriously enough. What do you mean it’s just like all the others? Didn’t you watch any film? Did you maybe not witness the beat down they delivered Denver in the Super Bowl?

But if you say, yeah, we were gunning for them, and still lose, fans will tend to respond with, “Hmmm, so this is the best you’ve got?”

Rivers artfully evaded the inquisitional sack.

“It’s one of 16; at the same time, they are defending champs and it’s a heck of a challenge for us,” Rivers said. “Obviously, our mindset is this is our home opener, and like they expect to come here and win, we expect to play well and win.”

Rivers took it another step, adding that it’s not like underdogs get bonus points for upsets.

“You don’t get any extra wins if you were to knock them off,” he said. “We’re fired up to play them, but I can’t say we’re going to try any more this week than any other week. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge because they are a great team.”

The Chargers lost narrowly (18-17) at Arizona in their Monday night opener. And now they must turn around on a short week and face the defending champs, who’ve had since their NFL Kickoff win over Green Bay a week ago Thursday to rest and prepare for the game.

“There’s no excuses in this business,” McCoy said of the disparity in preparation time. Having noted how many games there are, he also recognized that they’re not always evenly spaced.

One key Seahawk player will be even better rested than those who had 10 days since the opener. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman had such light duty against Green Bay that he was mostly ornamental.

The question of Rivers, then, was whether the Chargers would, as did the Packers, focus the attack on the side away from Sherman — taking their chances with right cornerback Byron Maxwell.

“I just don’t believe you can completely eliminate one side of the field, from my standpoint, from a passer’s point of view,” Rivers said. “It’s hard to just play one side and be successful.”

Rivers added that the answer is also out of respect for Maxwell. “I think Maxwell is a heck of a corner. He just gets the bulk of the action, so they’re bound to get a few completions over there. It’s not like they’ve got a stud on one side and somebody who’s not good at the other. If you just watch No. 41 (Maxwell), you’d say, shoot, that guy’s a good corner.”

McCoy confirmed that Rivers will follow his customary progression of reads, which includes both sides of the field.

And that’s enough to concern Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who saw Rivers lead the NFL in completion percentage (69.5) last season.

“He’s an incredible football player,” Carroll said Wednesday. “He’s shown over the years he has the great ability for all the intangible stuff — the sense and feel and control of the game, the ability to make big plays. We have a lot of regard for his ability and how they have positioned him to be such a centerpiece of their offense.”

Rivers should benefit from the fact that the Seahawks secondary is lacking depth with injuries to cornerbacks Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon. But the starting unit will be intact.

And that will make any upset of the Seahawks a valid accomplishment.

Yes, it would only count as one “W” on the schedule. But you can bet the Chargers would mark it down with a capital letter.

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