ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Every year, almost every team has one position get overrun with injuries. But what happened to the Chargers at center this year is beyond any reasonable expectation.
When rookie Chris Watt left the Chargers' 34-33 win at Baltimore on Nov. 30 with a calf injury, Trevor Robinson became the fifth man to snap the football to Philip Rivers this season.
"Five in one spot, that's tough to beat," said Chargers head coach Mike McCoy.
From Nick Hardwick to Doug Legursky to Rich Orhnberger to Watt and Robinson, the Chargers didn't change much on their offensive line. And in Watt, who was a third-round pick this year, the Chargers might have found their center of the future, although he struggled with pressure up the A-gap last week after he returned to the lineup following his calf injury.
"You know [Watt] is a good player," Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "When you're thrown in the fire and you have a quarterback like Philip Rivers, it puts a lot of pressure on you.
"But the good thing is at center, you can kind of hide. It's not like he's out there on an island at left tackle or anything, but he's a good player, he fights, and he'll bring it to me and I'll be ready."
That support is why the Chargers didn't adjust their offense much to account for inexperience at the pivot.
"Our system's in place, and you adjust certain things, but for the most part, we're running what we do because of who we have," said McCoy.
"We've got a system in place here, and we've got a great quarterback that can make sure everybody's on the right page, directing traffic."
And "great" is apt for Rivers, who maintained his momentum for last year with a 100.6 quarterback rating, a 26-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a completion percentage of 68.5 percent.
Rivers' targets of emphasis have changed throughout the year. Tight end Antonio Gates has not scored a touchdown since his two scores at Denver on Oct. 23 pushed his season total to nine, but Keenan Allen, who struggled early in the year, has three touchdowns in the last three games, with two of his three 100-yard games coming in that stretch. As is the case with Peyton Manning, Rivers can -- and will -- spread the football around because he trusts all of his targets.
"He's an elite quarterback," said Knighton. If there's any quarterback that knows how to play against the Broncos, it's him."
Meanwhile, the Chargers' run game has struggled. Hampered by injuries to Ryan Mathews, it ranks in the league's bottom five in yardage per game, yardage per carry, first-down rate and touchdown rate, and is sixth from the bottom in the rate of runs that pick up at least 20 yards (one every 65.8 carries).
Mathews did not practice at all this week because of an ankle injury, but is listed as questionable. But just as the Chargers didn't change their offense because of the issues at center, they won't tweak it again if Mathews is again unavailable. /p>
"We change for schemes, but not for running backs," said Knighton. "It doesn't matter if Adrian Peterson was back there. If we do what we do up front, it really doesn't matter. No ball carrier's going to get through."
SAN DIEGO BY THE NUMBERS
- Yards per game: 336.2, 20th
- Yards per play: 5.45, 14th
- Giveaways: 15, T-5th
- First-down rate: One every 3.53 plays, 17th
- Third-down conversion rate: 46.3 percent, 4th
- Yards per game: 251.5, 12th
- Yards per pass play: 6.91, 8th
- Sack rate: One per 16.89 pass plays, 16th
- Touchdown rate: One every 18.19 pass plays, 7th
- Quarterback hit rate: One per 7.88 pass plays, 15th
- First-down rate: One per 2.80 pass plays, 9th
- Drop rate (per STATS, Inc.):One per 27.55 opportunities, 1st
- Yards after catch per reception (per STATS, Inc.): 5.69, 15th
- Yards per game: 84.69, 28th
- Yards per rush: 3.35, 31st
- First-down rate: One every 5.67 carries, 28th
- Touchdown rate: One every 65.80 carries, 31st
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