Rivers is playing like the quarterback the Colts envisioned when they signed the 38-year-old to a one-year, $25 million deal back in March after 16 seasons with the Chargers. With Rivers, the Colts (7-3) have an opportunity to put a stranglehold on the AFC South when they play the Tennessee Titans (7-3) on Sunday (1 p.m., CBS). A victory would give the Colts a one-game lead in the division and a tiebreaker because of a season sweep.
Rivers has had success against the Titans his entire career. He is 8-2 with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions in 10 career starts against the Titans. One of those victories was two weeks ago, when Rivers was 29-for-39 for 308 yards and a touchdown.
About the only thing that can slow Rivers these days is an injured toe. He suffered the injury when he acted like a fullback and tried to make a block in the game against Green Bay last week. He didn't practice Wednesday. Rivers has started 234 straight games, which is the second-longest streak in NFL history.
“That probably wasn’t the best decision there,” Rivers said. “There was no issue with the shoulder whatsoever, but yeah, it probably wasn’t the best decision. I guess sometimes the 16-year-old linebacker and 17-year-old free safety comes out every now and then. I can’t help myself. A little bit of me, at least -- not really redemption, but at least to show there is a little bit of something in there after that Baltimore tackle debacle.”
The transition to Indianapolis didn't figure to be easy for Rivers no matter how familiar he was with coach Frank Reich’s offense. It takes time to get used to throwing passes to new teammates, taking snaps from a new center and handing off the ball to new running backs.
Rivers didn’t have the usual offseason program or preseason games to help with the transition.
"I feel like there were stretches even early on, going back to Minnesota and the Jets, where we were really efficient and doing things well, but it still wasn’t just smooth, I guess," Rivers said. "I don’t know if it’s ever smooth. It’s the National Football League; every yard has to be earned, nothing is given to you. Probably Detroit is when you just kind of felt things -- I guess, in a real flow."
Rivers doesn’t hide behind his mistakes. He quickly points out his two interceptions in his debut game at Jacksonville in Week 1 and then two more interceptions and a safety for intentional grounding, which led to nine points in their nine-point loss at Cleveland in Week 5.
“I’m not glad those happened, but for me with a new team, I do feel there was some benefit there, knowing how we were going to respond,” Rivers said. “... I’m not necessarily happy they happened, but I think going through some of those experiences together, both me personally having that, and as a team, definitely. I think the 21-point deficit, losing in Cleveland, losing the opener in Jacksonville when we felt like we should have won. I think those are times that you grow closer together; it can be beneficial.”
Rivers has been solid in the past five games, four of which have been victories for the Colts. He has completed 130 of 195 attempts for 1,216 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in those games.
“I do think there has been a natural progression,” Reich said. “I think offensively, we’ve all gotten better as the season has gone on. ... We keep getting better, I think that’s natural and I think Philip’s command and presence of the offense -- there was a quick transition as far as knowing what to do. But knowing his teammates more and more, having more command, doing more and a few more changes here or there, a few more checks -- getting a little bit more of that as the season goes on.”