SAN DIEGO (AP) Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers are rolling.
They’ve lost three centers and three running backs in five weeks and keep plugging the holes.
Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Antonio Gates and rookie running back Branden Oliver’s big day included his first two NFL touchdowns as the Chargers earned the league’s first shutout this season in beating the hapless New York Jets 31-0 Sunday for their fourth straight win.
The Chargers (4-1) heaped more pain on the Jets (1-4), who lost their fourth straight game and turned to Michael Vick. Vick replaced Geno Smith on New York’s first possession of the second half, but wasn’t any more effective.
And Rivers wants to be clear – while the Chargers have been called San Diego soft in past seasons, there’s none of that with this group.
Rivers said the Bolts’ biggest trait after five games is toughness.
”For whatever reason, whether it’s Southern California, or the vibe that you get out here of just a finesse group of guys that like to throw it around in 75-degree weather, I think we’ve shown our toughness,” Rivers said ”We talk about it all the time. Not just being tough, but who’s going to be the toughest the longest, through four quarters, through 16 games, through a tough stretch, they aren’t all going to be like this. We might hit a bump in the road going forward, but I think our toughness has been shown the last five weeks.
”We’ve dealt with injuries and just played tough on both sides and that’s just awesome to see.”
Other than being sacked three times, Rivers had his way with the Jets. He was 20 of 28 for 288 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception.
Here are some things that stood out Sunday:
THE SHUTOUT: ”It’s huge, especially in this game nowadays,” Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. ”They come very rarely. Offenses are so good. It’s just big, man. It’s impressive when you can do it.”
Weddle said the Chargers were focused and determined. ”Everyone has that single focus, every play, locked in as a defense. It shows out there. We really played lights out tonight.”
The Chargers’ last shutout victory was 31-0 against Kansas City on Dec. 12, 2010. The Jets were blanked for the first time since losing 34-0 against San Francisco on Sept. 30, 2012.
JETS GROUNDED: Vick was sacked on his second play. In the fourth quarter, Vick was called for intentional grounding on one drive and later was whistled for throwing a pass while beyond the line of scrimmage, negating a touchdown catch by Greg Salas. That left the Jets with fourth-and-goal from the 16 and Vick’s ensuing completion was short.
Smith completed only four of 12 passes for 27 yards with one interception for a rating of 7.6. Vick was 9 of 20 for 47 yards.
MEA CULPAS: ”First off, I apologize to our fans – those that are left,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. ”This is on one person and that’s it. It’s certainly not on a quarterback and one individual that way. It’s on me. Clearly got outcoached. I thought we had a good plan going in and obviously that wasn’t the case.”
Smith said he didn’t like getting benched ”but I had to change my mindset to support these guys. I understand these days will happen.”
He said it was ”a pathetic show on my part. I didn’t help at any point during the game, so I’m going to look myself in the mirror.”
BRANDEN OLIVER: The undrafted rookie scored on a 15-yard run and 9-yard catch.
He had a 50-yard catch-and-run to set up his scoring run and then had a 52-yard run to help set up his scoring catch.
Oliver’s work load increased after Donald Brown went out with a concussion.
Oliver helped jumpstart San Diego’s weak running game with 19 carries for 114 yards. He caught four passes for 68 yards.
RIVERS-TO-GATES: Rivers threw scoring passes of 8 and 12 yards to Gates in the first half. They’ve combined for 65 touchdowns, the most in NFL history between a quarterback and a tight end. They were Gates’ first scores since he caught three touchdown passes in a 30-21 upset victory against Seattle in Week 2.
Gates has 92 career TD catches, moving him into 10th place all-time.
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