Chargers' QB can't miss; Redskins' RG3 looks human
At least it looks that way. Nothing Rivers throws seems to hit the ground or find the wrong-colored jersey. He leads the NFL in completion percentage, hitting 73.9 percent anchoring the offense installed by new coach Mike McCoy.
Rivers has 15 touchdowns and five interceptions, on pace for the best season of his career. STATS counts only six passes dropped by Chargers players all season.
''You've got to give Philip a lot of credit for that,'' said wideout Eddie Royal, who already has a career-best six touchdowns receiving. ''He throws a lot of catchable balls. He puts the ball in a good spot for us. He never throws it too hard to where you have a hard time catching it. He puts enough zip on it for it to get there and make sure the defender can't make a play on it.''
Griffin's numbers were similar in 2012, when he was winning the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year award. His 65.6 completion percentage nearly set an NFL rookie record, and he had 20 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Now, coming off knee surgery, he's in a sophomore slump, his throws a little bit wobblier and a bit more off-target. His completion percentage sits at 59 percent, ranking him 25th in the league. He already has eight interceptions to go with nine touchdowns.
The contrast goes a long way toward showing why the Chargers are 4-3, perhaps on the way to ending a three-year playoff drought, and why the Redskins are 2-5 and searching for answers.
''There's no secret sauce, no secret weapons,'' Griffin said. ''You've just got to go out there and execute.''
Here are five other things to notice as the Chargers return from their bye week in search of a third straight victory:
RUN, RG3, RUN: Griffin's ability to run set up much of his success in the passing game last year, but his legs haven't shown the same explosiveness since his offseason surgery. He was battered often in last week's loss to the Denver Broncos, taking three sacks, 13 more quarterback hits and rushing for only 7 yards on five carries. His teammates keep saying he'll be his old self again soon, but that's getting to be a tired refrain.
''Robert's just getting the feel of things. I see him improving every week,'' Washington receiver Santana Moss said. ''He's running better, he's throwing better. We're going to get on eventually, and when we get on, we can sit back and just talk about how long it took.''
CHARGING FORTH: The Redskins' defense hasn't stopped much this season, especially troubled by no-huddle offenses. That's the style Rivers and the Chargers like to play: get to the line of scrimmage in a hurry, then methodically work their way downfield.
''I've been watching Philip Rivers for a lot of years,'' Washington coach Mike Shanahan said. ''He's an excellent quarterback, and I just smiled when people thought his game was going the wrong direction because you can see just by watching him that he's a solid player. More than a solid player - he's probably playing as good as anybody in the National Football League.''
HUNTING FOR ACLs: Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather returns from a one-game suspension for hitting defenseless receivers with his helmet. He says he'll have to change his style and ''tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees'' from now on. The words are biting, but they're part of the overall conversation about which hits are legal and which hits aren't in the modern NFL. ''I think he was just really frustrated with the whole situation,'' Griffin said.
The Redskins also are expected to welcome their other starting safety, Reed Doughty, who missed last week's game with a concussion.
KEEPING UP: It's a tough year to be in the AFC West, where the Chargers are already 3 1/2 games out of first place despite a winning record. They need to beat teams such as the Redskins because they still have two games to play against both the Chiefs (8-0) and Broncos (7-1). Meanwhile, Washington is only 1 1/2 games off the pace in the lackluster NFC East, although a loss Sunday would put it in a cellar-dwelling tie with the Giants.
THE NAME GAME: It might be hard to see how the ongoing uproar over the Redskins nickname can affect wins and losses, but, without any prompting, Griffin recently listed the issue as one of the distractions the team needs to tune out. It's not going away anytime soon. Representatives of the Oneida Indian Nation met with the NFL this week, and the San Francisco Chronicle became the latest newspaper to stop using the name, saying that ''redskin'' is ''a patently racist term.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP