Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The San Diego Chargers have had nearly 2 weeks to stew over their last 2 games.
That could be very bad news for the Cleveland Browns who enter the game as the leagues only 6-loss team.
The Chargers, who are 3-3, return from their bye week riding a 2 game slide that saw them outscored 52-7 in third and fourth quarters at New Orleans and home against the Broncos.
“The key to me was we had those turnovers,” coach Norv Turner said of the losses.
The Broncos erased a 24-0 halftime deficit to roll in the second half to a 34-24 win with the help of 6 turnovers in 30 minutes, including 3 interceptions and a pair of fumbles.
Quarterback Philip Rivers is coming off of the first 4 pick game of his NFL career in the loss to Denver.
“You just have to keep playing,” Rivers said. “You get to the next play and manage those types of situations. Hopefully you never come across anything that drastic again and that amount of mistakes.
“The last 2 games we’ve had as good of first halves as you could have and then 2 second halves as bad as you can have.”
Cleveland is coming off of a disappointing 17-13 loss at Indianapolis.
Rivers, who is 2-0 against the Browns, will make his 103rd consecutive start for the Chargers. Only Eli Manning (126) has started more consecutive games and looks to put a tough 2 weeks behind him.
“You learn from your mistakes and build on the positives,” Rivers said. “What gets lost in any game when you have turnovers like we had and you lose a game like that, you begin to feel like you did nothing good and the truth of the matter is we did a lot good.
“We just have to eliminate the bad and had the bye week to regroup.”
Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates, a Kent State alum, have combined for 51 career touchdowns which is the most for a quarterback-tight end tandem in NFL history.
Gates, who has 19 catches for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns this season, has fought through foot and ankle injuries the last 2 years and remains a threat.
“He’s a guy that Phillip looks to,” Turner said. “He’s gotten a lot more attention than he has [in the past]. He’s a guy that’s been targeted as someone to stop with some of the changes that we’ve had from an offensive standpoint.
“He knows how to beat people, read coverages and has been awfully productive.”
Gates needs 3 touchdown catches to match Lance Alworth’s team record (81).
“He’s off to a really good year,” Rivers said. “Antonio is one of the best tight ends in this game. He’s gone to 8 straight pro bowls but we just want to win. He’s obviously a big part of us winning.”
Malcom Floyd leads San Diego in receiving with 25 catches for 418 yards and a TD while Ryan Matthews has run for 259 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“He’s an explosive runner,” Rivers said of Matthews. “He was banged up the whole preseason and didn’t get back going until week 3 or so and he’s really hitting his stride now. He’s made some really good runs and is catching the ball really well.”
Rivers has completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 1,492 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
But he’s also thrown 9 interceptions and will face a defense accustomed to forcing turnovers in 2012. The Browns lead the AFC with 10 interceptions and they have returned 2 of them for touchdowns.
“They’re playing extremely hard, are playing aggressive, they run to the ball,” Turner said. “Their corners are playing at a high level. You can see guys believe in what they are doing and they’re playing extremely hard.”
The Chargers defense is one of the best against the run in 2012 allowing just 71.2 yards rushing per game.
Browns rookie Trent Richardson, who ran for 8 yards on 8 carries last week against the Colts, isn’t expected to be 100 percent which could make for a busy day throwing for Brandon Weeden.
Weeden leads all rookie quarterbacks in yards passing, touchdowns and completions of 20 or more yards.
“I think they’ve done a great job with him,” Turner said. “It’s a challenge to play in this league as a young player. He’s handled it extremely well and you see him getting more comfortable and growing. He’s obviously got all of the physical skills needed to play.”
San Diego leads the all time series between the 2 teams 14-7-1 and have won each of the last 3 games played in Cleveland including a 30-23 victory Dec. 6, 2009 that saw Rivers throw for 373 yards.