NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Los Angeles Chargers (2-4) QB Philip Rivers, who the Tennessee Titans (2-4) defense will face on Sunday, can look like a bit of a magician on tape due to his ability to throw with anticipation.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel recalled watching one of Rivers’ throws and wondering where he was trying to go with the ball. The answer showed itself soon enough.
“He threw it, and I stopped it from the end zone, and the receiver hadn’t even come into the frame,” Vrabel said. “You press play and then he’s ripping through the ball. Just a lot of anticipation and timing to be able to see where guys are going to be. Not where they are now, but where they’re going to be when the ball gets there.”
When Rivers, 8-1 in his career against the Titans, releases the ball that early into a receiver’s route, it makes it tough for defensive backs to gauge where they need to be to attack the ball.
“You almost have to know that it’s not going to be thrown to where the guy’s at, it’s going to be thrown to a spot,” Vrabel said.
BLESSING AND A CURSE?
Rivers, now age 37, is far from the most athletic quarterback in the world. He is at his best when he can stay in the pocket and read defenses.
“He’s a quarterback who believes in the timing of the routes, the timing of the offense,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said.
Those tendencies, however, leave the door open for Rivers’ timing to be disrupted by an effective defensive approach.
“Sometimes, I like playing those guys versus a guy that, you know, breaks a tackle, throws the ball up and makes some crazy, off-timing throws,” Vaccaro said.
Vaccaro also pointed out the differences in facing Rivers versus facing a more mobile QB like Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans.
“Deshaun Watson, just when you think he’s wrapped up, he’s outside the pocket making a great throw. Rivers has some of that in him, he’s a really tough guy, really smart. But the play extension is not going to be as long, that’s just a fact.”
THROWING FROM EVERY ANGLE
Rivers not only understands what his receivers are doing enough to throw with anticipation, but he has the accuracy necessary to cash in.
An important factor in Rivers’ accuracy is his ability to deliver throws from multiple arm angles, some of which look just plain uncomfortable to watch.
“I saw one time where a linebacker from the Texans put his left hand up, and [Rivers] did a whole side throw and was able to complete it,” LB Rashaan Evans said. “I feel like he can throw it from anywhere, that’s how good he is.”
“He has a different throwing motion that’s not over the top,” Vaccaro said. “A lot of his balls don’t get batted down because they come from a different angle. He makes some incredible anticipation throws where a guy’s not on the screen until the ball gets there.”
The Titans defense will get their chance to slow Rivers down at Nissan Stadium on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. CT.
Cover image: Gary A. Vasquez & Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today