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Chargers are sneaking forward with Philip Rivers

Norv Turner disliked the quarterback sneak as Chargers head coach from 2007-2012.

And after Turner moved on, The Sneak still wasn’t happening for Philip Rivers.

“Not only didn’t we run it,” former Chargers center Rich Ohrnberger of 1360 AM told me this week. “it wasn’t even in the playbook.”

Turner is no dummy. He won Super Bowls calling plays for the Cowboys. Rivers thrived under him.

The neon point to not sneaking: Rivers stayed healthy.

I still didn’t like the anti-sneak policy.

Bill Belichick likes the quarterback sneak and has expanded its use with Tom Brady, who’s older and thinner than Rivers.

Saints coach Sean Payton allows 6-foot quarterback Drew Brees, another old guy, to utilize sneaks and wide runs.

I thought the Chargers helped opponents by deleting the sneak.

So, here’s what happened Sunday when the Chargers needed one yard on fourth down:

Rivers took the snap from under center. Instead of falling back to throw or hand off, he plunged between center Mike Pouncey and right guard Michael Schofield.

First down.

About time.

“It was definitely a surprise,” said Chargers coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who called the play.

For Rivers it was his first credited sneak, per ESPN, since Week 2 of 2013 — but, despite appearances, that one wasn’t a sneak. Rivers in fact took a quick knee behind the line, to stop the clock for Nick Novak’s game-winning kick at Philadelphia. Due to an officiating error, Rivers wasn’t whistled dead upon kneeling. What happened is Rivers lost his balance while popping up and staggered ahead into the trash, And, that’s where the ball got spotted for no gain.

Go back further, then, for the previous true sneak by Rivers. Go to October 2011 and Rivers churning for two yards on third-and-1, behind Nick Hardwick and Kris Dielman, to help secure the Week 5 victory at Denver.

So, six-plus seasons — no sneaks

“I think (the sneak) is an important thing to have at your disposal,” said Ohrnberger, a former Penn State standout who played center and guard in five seasons with three NFL clubs. “It’s another tool.”

Yes, Rivers could’ve been injured on the sneak Sunday.

However, Brady has been sneaking around for years.

Brady gets the short stuff by sneaking, but he also steals four, five, six yards on other plays when the Pats and he notice a void in the defense and double-time it forward.

“There was a call for it,” said Ohrnberger, who played for the Pats.

Pats blockers surge and Brady charges with them. “It’s just a full head of steam,” Ohrnberger said.

So, the great Belichick has a two sneak tools in the box, for his creaky pocket quarterback.

Chargers growth area

Could be that if he tries another sneak, Rivers gets stopped short and takes an injury.

Done right, it’s still worth trying.

Make defenses account for it. Which now they must.

“There will be more of that, maybe,” Rivers said Wednesday. “It’s never anything I’ve necessarily been against.”

Rivers, who’ll be 37 in December, appears fit. Perhaps due to kickboxing sessions in San Diego, his agility has appeared a tad improved since training camp began.

There’s an NFL saying: Everything matters. If the sneak improves the offense by one percent, the San Diegan has a better chance of getting back to the playoffs.

In light of the failed play at Kansas City several years ago, when Rivers muffed an exchange while trying to stop the clock, I’ll note that a sneak isn’t the same thing as a spike or kneel-down.

Who’s involved?

Whisenhunt said Rivers didn’t suggest the play.

Head coach is Anthony Lynn, a former running back and running backs coach.

A three-time Pro Bowler with special quickness, Pouncey joined the Chargers in March and is off to a good start.

Credit Whisenhunt for adding a “jet sweep” layer — the tool that’s gaining favor in the NFL — to give the defense something else to think about as Rivers’ sneak launched.

Sunday’s opponent was dangerous: 49ers lineman DeForest Buckner and linebacker Reuben Foster are good players who were fairly alert to the sneak. Yet it still worked, and Rivers wasn’t exposed to a dangerous hit.

As for Norv, he’s having fun calling plays for Carolina.

And his quarterback, Cam Newton, is a do-it-all playmaker who’s off to a strong start with a 99.7 passer rating plus three rushing touchdowns.; Twitter: SDUTKrasovic

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