CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald were both part of the NFL’s 2004 draft class and have emerged as the faces of their respective franchises.
The two renew acquaintances on the football field Sunday when Los Angles hosts Arizona in a matchup of teams going in different directions.
The Chargers (7-3) have one of the best records in the AFC as they try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Cardinals (2-8) find themselves contending for the top pick in the draft less than three seasons after making it to the NFC championship game.
“That’s my guy. I love Phil,” Fitzgerald said. “I got to know him at (an) awards banquet (during college).”
Rivers has a 112.1 passer rating, which is the highest of his career after the first 10 games in a season. His 25 touchdowns mark only the second time he has thrown that many at this point of the year.
Rivers is also the sixth quarterback in league history to open with 10 straight multi-TD games, but he is coming off one of his worst games of the season. He was picked off twice and sacked three times in last Sunday’s 23-22 loss to Denver, which snapped a six-game winning streak.
“You can play really good for three-quarters of a game and have three or four bad plays and it comes back to get you,” Rivers said. “That’s why you’ve got to re-group and go because nobody’s going to feel sorry for you or wait on you. We’re still sitting in a good spot and have a chance to still accomplish everything we want to.”
Rivers has been sacked only 15 times this season, but he will be facing an Arizona defense that is fourth in the league with 33 sacks. The Cardinals are the only team in the league to have multiple sacks in each game they have played this season.
Fitzgerald, who has 1,276 career receptions, needs six to surpass Jerry Rice for the most receptions with one team. The 15-year veteran has only 42 catches, which is the second-fewest he has had at this point of the season. But he has become more of a focal point for rookie quarterback Josh Rosen the past couple weeks with 16 catches for 175 yards and three touchdowns the past three games.
“He’s got elite arm strength and confidence on where he can place the football. He’s getting guys the ball where only they can make plays with it,” Fitzgerald said of Rosen.
Here’s a look at what else to watch as the Cardinals and Chargers look to bounce back from losses last week:
Rosen grew up about 10 miles from the StubHub Center and this will not be his first time playing there.
In 2013, Rosen led St. John Bosco High School to a victory over powerhouse De La Salle in the open division California championship.
“There’s a spot on the wall that I’ll definitely remember when I jumped up over the crowd to hang out with some of my buddies,” he said. “Got some photos of holding the state championship (trophy). I might try to spot that part of the wall.”
BOSA GETTING BETTER
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa played in his first game of the season after missing the previous nine due to a bone bruise in his left foot. He played 31 snaps against Denver with one tackle, but came close to a couple sacks.
The third-year defensive lineman has been listed as a full participant on the practice reports this week, which means it is likely he could get the start. The Chargers did not have any sacks last week and suffered another key loss with defensive tackle Corey Liuget done for the year due to a knee injury.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon has six straight games of 120 yards or more from scrimmage and has a touchdown in five of the past six. He is second in the league in yards from scrimmage per game with 132.1.
Gordon had six receptions for 87 yards last week but this might be a game in which he gets more carries. Arizona has the fourth-worst rush defense in the league and Gordon, sixth in the league with 741 yards, already has three 100-yard games.
Arizona’s David Johnson has played better in each of the three games since Arizona fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Byron Leftwich was promoted to the job.
In last week’s loss to Oakland, Johnson had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, gaining 137 yards on 25 carries, including a 53-yard run to set up a touchdown. He also had a 57-yard touchdown run called back by a holding penalty. Johnson has had at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the three games since Leftwich became coordinator.
KEEP AN EYE ON
The kickers. Arizona’s Phil Dawson missed last week’s game against the Raiders due to a sore right hip, but is likely to play on Sunday. The Cardinals signed former Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez, who graduated from Arizona State, to the practice squad just in case Dawson can’t play.
Los Angeles‘ Michael Badgley, the team’s sixth placekicker since the start of last season, has made all eight field goal attempts, but he missed an extra point last week. That was the Chargers’ sixth missed PAT this season.