ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On Sundays, Philip Rivers is one of the most competitive players in the league, the rare quarterback who's willing to get into fiery discourse with opposing players.
On Wednesday, though, he had as much respect for the Broncos' defense — especially outside linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb — as anyone.
"[They are] two really good rushers, really good football players," Rivers said Wednesday. "Von plays the heck out of the run. So does Chubb. Von's an every-down football player, Defensive Player of the Year-type guy. He's not just a pass-rusher."
There's good reason behind the praise. Miller has 15 career sacks against the Chargers, more than he has against any other team in his career. The last time the two teams met, Miller had two sacks, two quarterback hits, five tackles and two tackles for loss.
This season, Miller has already collected nine sacks, and Chubb isn't far behind at eight. Their 17 combined sacks are the best among teammate duos in the league.
To Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, though, Miller and Chubb aren't just one of the best outside linebacker pairs in the league this year. They compare to one of the best two-man pass rushes in NFL history.
"[It] kind of reminds me of back in the [former Colts pass-rush duo] [Robert] Mathis and [Dwight] Freeney days, when you went up against those guys," said Lynn, who faced Mathis and Freeney as a running backs coach on several occasions. "They're going to put your offensive linemen in some stressful situations, and we have to create systems that are going to help negate some of the pass rush that those guys can bring."
Both Rivers and Lynn also acknowledged that the pass rush is much more than just Miller and Chubb, though. Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett can come in and play at a high level at the outside linebacker spots as well.
"I think the thing you see with those two guys is when they need a blow, they trot in Ray and Barrett," Rivers said. "A lot of teams wish they were their every-down guy. You're talking about four really good football players, pass rushers, run stoppers, four really good players there setting the edge for them."
Overall, 12 different Broncos have recorded at least a half-sack this season, and the team ranks seventh in the NFL with 28 sacks this season. Rivers is known for his quick release and pre-snap smarts, but he knows firsthand the challenge the Denver defense presents. He's just 12-13 against the Broncos in his career, and he's fumbled 12 times in those 25 games, more than he's fumbled against any other team. Though the Chargers are on a six-game winning streak, he knows Denver's pass rush can disrupt even the best offenses.
"It's always a challenge to prepare for this defense in general," Rivers said. "They like to rush five, and all five can rush. Those inside guys can rush, too. It's a heck of a challenge. The linebacker play, there's experience there, and in [the] secondary [there's] a lot of experienced guys, too, so it's a good defense."