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Chargers QB Rivers talks big game, backs it up against Steelers

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws a touchdown pass during the third quarter against the Steelers on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, at Heinz Field.

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Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, 10:36 p.m.
 

Antonio Gates has been around Philip Rivers long enough to know what it means when the quarterback gets fired up to the point where nobody is safe from a tongue-lashing.

Not his offensive linemen after failing on a third-and-short situation.

Not Steelers coach Mike Tomlin after Rivers was slammed out of bounds by Lawrence Timmons.

Not Curtis Brown after Rivers burned him with a nasty pump fake for a touchdown.

And not the Steelers' sidelines for calling a timeout with 2:42 left in a two-touchdown game.

Nothing was off limits for Rivers.

“That means he's leading,” Gates said.

Rivers did much more than that at Heinz Field on Sunday. He did something no other San Diego quarterback could do in the long history of the franchise — win a regular-season game in Pittsburgh.

A fired-up and talkative Rivers threw for 200 yards and tossed touchdown passes of 39, 3 and 15 yards, as the Chargers stunned the Steelers, 34-24, to snap a 14-game losing streak in Pittsburgh.

It was the most passing yards the top-ranked Steelers' pass defense allowed since Week 5 in Tennessee. And it was more touchdown passes the unit allowed over its previous five games combined.

“It's competitive out there,” Rivers said with a smile after the game.

And those are the games at which Rivers thrives the most.

Nothing was more indicative of that demeanor than when Rivers burned Brown on a pump-and-go, 39-yard touchdown pass to Danario Alexander down the far sidelines late in the second quarter to stake the Chargers to a 10-0 lead.

Rivers sprinted to Brown and had a few choice words for him.

“All I said was that you know better than to jump that when they jumped that pump route. That's all it was,” Rivers said. “They got a little more riled up than I expected. The troops kind of rallied when they saw me talking, so I was outnumbered at that point.”

That didn't stop Rivers from talking — and performing.

A 3-yard timing pass to Malcom Floyd in the third quarter capped a 17-play, 78-yard drive and gave the Chargers a 20-3 lead. Rivers capped one of his best games of the season with a fade pattern to Alexander over Josh Victorian in the fourth.

“He was on point,” center Nick Hardwick said. “You can tell when he gets a play or two ahead of the defensive coordinator. He was good. He was on fire.”

Rivers was good on third downs (10 of 16 conversions) but was especially adept at protecting the ball — something he hasn't done lately — even if it did make him look silly at times.

Rivers threw at least three passes intentionally into the dirt rather than risk an interception. He had thrown 10 interceptions in his previous seven games.

“It is a fine line of being smart and being careful,” Rivers said. “We have had too many turnovers. We didn't turn it over today, so that was big.”

Rivers didn't attempt many passes down the field. With Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor sidelined because of injury, Rivers followed the game plan of picking on Brown and Cortez Allen with underneath, crossing and out patterns.

“We kept it simple for the most part but just stuck with everything,” Rivers said. “(Coach Norv Turner) called a heck of a game, and we made plays. He put us in position to make plays, and that's what we did.”

Rivers just did it with an extra flare that he's been known to exhibit from time to time.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com

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