COSTA MESA, Calif. — Philip Rivers doesn’t mind playmakers being a little salty if they are not getting the targets they feel they deserve.
“Having that competitiveness and that desire to want it and get it thrown your way — as a quarterback you want them to all feel that,” Rivers said.
When fellow receiver Mike Williams dropped a pass that would have been a touchdown on an in-route in the end zone, Allen’s frustrations bubbled to the surface. Believing he was open on the play, the Cal product kicked a pylon after Rivers failed to target him in the end zone.
“I got to be next in line for the field goals,” joked Allen about his kick. “If he catches the ball, I probably don’t kick the pylon. It’s one of those things where you want success at the end of the day.”
Rivers later calmed down Allen on the sideline. Although he leads the team with 41 receptions, Allen has only one touchdown catch this season.
At 36, Rivers is having one of his best seasons as a pro, completing touchdown passes to seven different players through seven games. His ball distribution harkens back to a time a decade ago when the Chargers had playmakers like LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates.
With so many talented players wanting the ball, Rivers has turned into a master of managing egos.
“It’s something that’s never been a problem here,” Rivers said. “We’ve always had a lot of guys contributing, a lot of playmakers, and maybe more so now than ever as far as the volume of guys that are involved, and that you want to get involved in handling the football.”
The Chargers are averaging 27.9 points, No. 8 in the NFL. The Bolts are No. 6 in the league in yards (402.7 per game), No. 7 in passing yards (292 per game) and No. 3 in explosive plays (rushing plays of 15-plus yards or passing plays of 20-plus yards), with 49.
But the key for Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has been getting buy-in from the team’s top playmakers to share the football, and not complain when the touches don’t come their way.
“If you really look at us and look at where they rely upon different plays and what they have to do at different plays, sometimes it’s a decoy,” Whisenhunt said. “Sometimes it’s blocking. Sometimes it’s the primary [receiver].
“These guys have been unselfish as far as doing that, and I believe that’s part of the reason why we’ve been able to do it. It’s not because we have a bunch of high-profile guys that are, you know, can do a lot of great things. It’s like we have a bunch of hard-working guys that are talented and unselfish, and that’s helped us.”
While Allen has gone through a dry spell, Tyrell Williams has been getting the football. Williams has 10 catches for 302 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the past three games.
“I feel like we distribute the ball around pretty well,” Tyrell Williams said. “The shots that I get, I just want to take advantage of them. We’ve got a lot of guys, so you’re not going to get as many as you want, but you know that going in.
“For me, I’m good as long as we’re winning and doing well.”
Ekeler has to be content for now with limited snaps as a complementary running back due to Gordon serving as the workhorse running back.
“When the play comes to you, that’s your chance to make plays,” Ekeler said. “Especially in my position, because I’m not on the field all of the time when Melvin is in the game. So when I get the ball, I have to make something happen so I can continue to get the ball on offense
“I have a very limited window to make plays and show that I belong on this field, otherwise I’m just on special teams. And I’m trying to improve my role, so I’m always going to have that in the back of my mind — what’s my role and how can I improve it, make it bigger.”