SAN DIEGO (AP) — There appears to be no stopping Philip Rivers and the rest of the San Diego Chargers.
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 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 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.
The Chargers lost their third center and third running back in five games, yet kept playing hard. Oliver started the season as the No. 4 running back, and on Sunday, he became No. 1 after Donald Brown went out with a concussion.
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.
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.
New York didn’t make it across the 50-yard line until 7:35 left in the fourth quarter, thanks to a 33-yard gain on a pass interference call against Richard Marshall. The Jets had only four first downs through three quarters.
"First off, I apologize to our fans — those that are left," 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."
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 completion was short.
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.
On third-and-17 from the San Diego 27 late in the second quarter, Rivers avoided a sack and threw a short pass to Oliver, who made two Jets defenders miss before he was finally brought down by David Harris at the Jets 23. Branden scored on a 15-yard run up the middle three plays later.
Oliver had a 9-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter on a drive he kept going with a 52-yard run.
Oliver, a free agent from Buffalo, helped jumpstart San Diego’s weak running game with 19 carries for 114 yards. He caught four passes for 68 yards.
Oliver came up big on a day when the Chargers lost yet another running back. Donald Brown was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the first half. The Chargers already have lost Danny Woodhead for the season with a broken lower right leg and Ryan Mathews indefinitely with a sprained right knee.
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.
NOTES: Rivers’ passer rating was 125, giving him a career-best four straight games of 120.0 or higher. … Chargers C Doug Legurksy left the locker room on crutches after injuring his left knee. RT D.J. Fluker had an ankle injury and WR Malcom Floyd a calf injury. … The Jets’ top-ranked run defense allowed 162 yards rushing.