"Philip had an outstanding day," McCoy said. "A ball did not hit the ground in all of the throws he made today. Philip was Philip today, so he’ll be ready to roll."
"I hate missing at all during the week," Rivers said. "To not practice at all, I can’t even imagine doing that. So it was good. It went well."
After missing practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, Rivers was listed as a full participant on Thursday. Receiver Malcom Floyd said he’s not surprised Rivers continues to practice and play, considering his injuries.
"You want to take after somebody like that who takes care of their body," Floyd said. "I’m just fortunate to have him, because he pushes us every day to stay out there on that field. He’s an iron man to me."
Along with Rivers, tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, ankle) and defensive lineman Corey Liuget (ankle) returned to practice on Thursday. Both were limited participants.
Receiver Keenan Allen (shoulder), punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) and running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) remain out, and have not practiced this week.
Rivers was held out of practice early this week to rest back and chest injuries, but said he expects to play on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers. Along with Rivers, defensive lineman Corey Liuget (ankle) and tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, ankle) also returned to practice.
Running back Ryan Mathews (ankle), punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) and receiver Keenan Allen (shoulder) did not practice for the third day in a row.
Chargers: 17th (21.6)
Broncos: 5th (29.1)
Chiefs: 14th (23.0)
Raiders: 31st (15.2)
49ers: 28th (17.9)
Quick-hit thought: The Chargers have not scored a single point in the first quarter of the last two games.
Chargers: 11th (21.0)
Broncos: 16th (21.6)
Chiefs: tied-4th (18.1)
Raiders: 30th (27.2)
49ers: 9th (20.4)
Quick-hit thought: San Diego’s defense held the high-powered offenses of the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos to an average of 22.5 points.
Chargers: 3rd (87-of-188, 46.3 percent)
Broncos: 8th (82-of-186, 44.1 percent)
Chiefs: 15th (72-of-175, 41.1 percent)
Raiders: 28th (70-of-205, 34.1 percent)
49ers: 18th (76-of-190, 40.0 percent)
Quick-hit thought: Chargers were 51.4 percent on third down conversions in the last three weeks, which is No. 1 in the NFL.
Chargers: 28th (82-of-184, 44.6 percent)
Broncos: 12th (74-of-196, 37.8 percent)
Chiefs: 8th (72-of-195, 36.9 percent)
Raiders: 14th (74-of-191, 38.7 percent)
49ers: 24th (76-of-177, 42.9 percent)
Quick-hit thought: San Diego’s defense held Denver’s offense to 3-of-12 (25 percent) on third down last week.
Chargers: tied-19th (minus-2, 15 takeaways, 19 giveaways)
Broncos: 9th (plus-6, 21 takeaways, 15 giveaways)
Chiefs: tied-22nd (minus-5, 11 takeaways, 16 giveaways)
Raiders: 32nd (minus-16, 11 takeaways, 27 giveaways)
49ers: tied-10th (plus-4, 23 takeaways, 19 giveaways)
Quick-hit thought: The Chargers have turned the ball over eight times in the last four games.
RED-ZONE OFFENSE (based on TD percentage)
Chargers: 19th (22-of-42, 52.4 percent)
Broncos: 6th (33-of-52, 63.5 percent)
Chiefs: 2nd (27-of-40, 67.5 percent)
Raiders: 1st (18-of-24, 75.0 percent)
49ers: tied-29th (16-of-39, 41.0 percent)
Quick-hit thought: The 49ers have just seven rushing touchdowns this season. Last year they finished with 18 rushing touchdowns.
RED-ZONE DEFENSE (based on TD percentage)
Chargers: 14th (24-of-45, 53.3 percent)
Broncos: 23rd (28-of-47, 59.6 percent)
Chiefs: 1st (18-of-47, 38.3 percent)
Raiders: 13th (27-of-51, 52.9 percent)
49ers: 24th (24-of-40, 60.0 percent)
Quick-hit thought: The Chargers are 1-7 (14.3 percent) in red zone efficiency the past two weeks.
TIME OF POSSESSION (OFFENSE)
Chargers: 12th (30:42)
Broncos: 11th (30:46)
Chiefs: 20th (30:00)
Raiders: 28th (28:02)
49ers: 6th (31:59)
Quick-hit thought: Although they have trouble scoring, 49ers can still control game tempo with running game.
Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego writes that both the San Diego Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers are banged up heading into Saturday’s contest at Levi’s Stadium. However, the Chargers have more at stake with a chance to make the postseason.
Krasovic: “The Chargers need to find the emotional edge. The talent of these teams is equal, even accounting for Philip Rivers, who's far more advanced in the pocket than 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The atmosphere at the 49ers' new, yuppified stadium will be less charged than the rowdy crowds at Candelstick Park.The Chargers cannot allow the bland ambience to seep in. If they're not the more enthused, energetic, cleats-on-fire team Saturday, they'll regret it all winter.
In this ESPN Insider piece, draft guru Todd McShay has the Chargers selected Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman at No. 18 in his first mock draft.
ESPN NFL Insider Kevin Seifert writes that we are in the “steroid era” in the NFL with the explosion of the passing game, making it tough to compare eras when it comes to quarterbacks and pass catchers.
Mike Beuoy and Reuben Fischer-Baum of FiveThirtyEight.com calculate San Diego’s playoff odds at 12.7 percent.
ESPN NFL Nation 49ers beat writer Paul Gutierrez reports that San Francisco has 15 players on IR and 17 were listed on the injury report on Wednesday.
Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano breaks down the success of his defense stuffing the run near the goal line in this video.
Ricky Henne of Chargers.com takes a closer look at what receivers will step up with Keenan Allen out.
Kyle Posey of Bolts from the Blue wonders if offensive coordinator Frank Reich is holding San Diego’s offense back.
Darren Smith of The Mighty 1090 AM radio talks with Mark Fabiani, special consultant on the stadium issue for the Chargers, in this audio link.
The San Francisco 49ers were eliminated from the playoffs last weekend. The San Diego Chargers are living on a prayer and have more than pride to play for when they face their Northern California neighbors on Saturday. NFL Nation reporters Paul Gutierrez, who covers the 49ers, and Eric Williams, who covers the Chargers, break down the matchup.
Gutierrez: The Chargers came out of nowhere last year to claim one of the AFC’s wild-card spots as a feel-good story. Now, the Bolts find themselves on the outside looking in with two games remaining. Was this year’s bar simply set too high by their playoff appearance last year or do they have the rest of the AFC right where they want them with two games to go?
Williams: It’s hard to argue that last year’s surprise playoff appearance was somewhat of a mirage. The Chargers still lack depth at cornerback, defensive line, interior offensive line and running back. And they’ve struggled to score points against the top two teams in the AFC in back-to-back games (the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos). That said, Philip Rivers still is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL when protected and healthy. When Rivers is on, the Chargers can play with anyone in the NFL. And they need Mr. Bolo tie to get on a roll and have a chance to make the postseason for a second straight year.
With the 49ers sitting at 7-7, they will be on the outside looking in come the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. San Francisco has a lot of proud, veteran players such as Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Vernon Davis. How are they handling playing out the string? And do you believe they will show up motivated to play on a short week this Saturday?
Gutierrez: Yeah, that is the question du jour this week in Santa Clara, along with if the Niners should rest their veterans and let their younger guys get the lion’s share of the snaps against the Chargers. Injuries, though, might make it a moot point because said younger guys will be forced to play anyway. But you make a valid point, especially since merely playing out the string is a foreign concept for the Niners in the Jim Harbaugh Era. And the team, from general manager Trent Baalke to coach Harbaugh to the vets themselves, insists it will play hard and try to finish 9-7. Because while pride, as Marcellus Wallace said in “Pulp Fiction,” can be a dangerous thing, it is also a motivating factor. I expect the vets to show up and show out. Still not sure if it will be enough, though.
The Chargers’ fortunes have risen and fallen with the play of Rivers. Earlier this season, he was playing like a NFL MVP candidate. Lately? Not so much. What’s eating the league’s favorite bolo tie-wearing signal-caller, and why has San Diego’s steadiest competitor become so inconsistent of late?
Williams: Injuries have slowed him down a bit. He’s too much of a tough guy to acknowledge it, but chest and back injuries have limited Rivers’ mobility in the pocket and taken some velocity off his fastball. The Chargers have played four different guys at center. Rookie Chris Watt is learning on the run, which means Rivers has been hit more times than when veteran Nick Hardwick was making the line calls. And the Chargers have not run the football well, so they do not have balance on offense. San Diego averages just 3 yards a carry on first down, worst in the NFL.
There has been a lot of talk nationally about Colin Kaepernick’s struggles. You’ve watched him up close this season. Do you believe the 49ers are getting the most out of his unique skill set? And what could they do differently?
Gutierrez: It’s obvious the Niners changed the offense this season, and it’s apparent they tried to flip Kaepernick and turn him more into a pure pocket passer. Yet the closest anyone on the staff will admit to a change is when offensive coordinator Greg Roman acknowledged simplifying the offense, particularly the running game. Whatever the Niners did, they made Kaepernick uncomfortable under center, almost as if you can see him overthinking in the pocket. There’s a reason his numbers are so much better when teams blitz him. He doesn’t have time to think, so he just reacts and makes plays, rather than suffering from paralysis by analysis. So, to answer your question, no, I do not think the Niners are getting the most out of Kaepernick’s skill set. That’s not to completely absolve the QB of his regression. Or, to quote Cris Carter, who addressed the Kaepernick dilemma on ESPN’s "Sunday NFL Countdown:" “Ultimately, I think we are making too many excuses for him. I think the ceiling for Colin Kaepernick is not as high as you guys anticipate. I think you’re going to have to be real creative because he won’t be a conventional quarterback. I think you set yourself up to be let down because his inability to throw the ball at different speeds. ... He does have arm talent, but I’m wondering: Does his brain connect to his arm to make him more diversified as far as what he can do? So, for me, I don’t have as high of expectations for Colin Kaepernick.” Harsh? Perhaps, but this much is true: Whoever is coaching the Niners next year would be wise to adapt his offensive philosophy to Kaepernick’s skill set, rather than trying to make Kaepernick fit into his offense. Especially after CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke went all in with that contract extension for the QB, even if it is team friendly.
I asked this of our reporters who cover both the Raiders and the Rams, and I’m sure you know where this is going, Eric. But do the Chargers, who actually began their AFL existence in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1960, truly expect to be in L.A. before either the Rams, who called SoCal home from 1946 through 1994, or the Raiders, who were in LaLa Land from 1982-94? Hey, if it’s the Rams and Chargers and they share a stadium, at least they could go all in with blue and gold paint, no?
Williams: Would they go with powder blue or royal blue? Joking aside, ideally the Chargers would like to remain in San Diego and get a new stadium built. However, team president Dean Spanos has to take a realistic approach to the stadium issue and financial possibilities that exist in a lucrative L.A. market. The Chargers are keeping a watchful eye on what happens in Los Angeles, with 30 percent of the team’s local revenue -- which includes advertising, sponsorships, club seats and suites -- originating in the Los Angeles market. All of the options have not been exhausted in the respective markets of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders, so I don’t see the NFL letting any of those franchises relocate in 2015. For now, the Chargers will continue to work with mayor Kevin Faulconer in an attempt to build consensus for a downtown football stadium that keep them here. The Chargers announced this week the team’s intentions to renew their lease at Qualcomm Stadium to play there for the 2015 season.
Rookie Chris Borland has benefited from the absence of injured inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. He currently leads San Francisco in tackles. What makes him so effective, and how will his role change when those two players return next season?
Gutierrez: Yeah, the relatively diminutive Borland, all 5-foot-11 of him in cleats, has become a folk for the faithful. His underdog swagger garnered attention but his nose for the ball and sideline-to-sideline speed and tackling acumen won him fans, especially among the coaching staff. But, and this was the big question, how would his small stature hold up in the NFL with his reckless abandon style of play? Well, he hurt his left ankle on Sunday in Seattle and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said this week it would be “a stretch” for Borland, who replaced Willis, to play again this season due to the injury. If Willis and Bowman are both back from their toe and knee injuries next season, Borland is the perfect high-energy backup in the middle of the 49ers’ 3-4 base defense, and he would not have to take as many snaps, keeping him relatively out of harm’s way. At least, that’s one way of looking at it, because Borland plays at only one speed.
Rivers' back injury was quietly added to San Diego's injury report last week, to go along with the rib injury he has been battling for weeks. By now, Rivers' rib injuries are improved, making his back injury the significant issue, a league source said.
The injury has contributed to Rivers' pedestrian performances the past two weeks, against New England and Denver.
Through the first eight weeks of the season, Rivers completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,213 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions, posting a 109.9 passer rating. The Chargers were 5-3 in those games.
In the past six games, Rivers has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 1,426 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions, posting an 81.2 passer rating. The Chargers are 3-3 over that stretch.
His back will still be an issue Saturday night, when San Diego plays at San Francisco, but Rivers is expected to play.
He also did not practice Tuesday but said he fully expects to play against the 49ers.
"At this point in the week I think there's no doubt," he said Wednesday.
Rivers was on the field Thursday morning for the Chargers' walk-through practice.
"Philip had an outstanding day. The ball did not hit the ground today in all the throws he made," coach Mike McCoy said.
ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Watts was signed by San Diego as an undrafted rookie free agent in May. The West Texas A&M product was let go during final roster cuts but added to the team's practice squad in August, where he remained until this week.
At 6-4, 334 pounds, Watt started all 14 games as a senior at West Texas A&M and was named the Lone Star Conference's Offensive Lineman of the Year. He played in 50 career games with 41 starts for the Buffaloes.
Watts' suspension begins immediately. He will be eligible to return to the Chargers' active roster on the day following the fourth regular-season or postseason game of his suspension.
Watts' suspension opened up a spot on the practice squad for offensive lineman Bryce Quigley, whom the Chargers brought back.
Mathews has not practiced since suffering the ankle injury Dec. 7 against the New England Patriots.
"He's fighting through what he has right now," McCoy said. "He's working hard. As soon as he's ready to get back out there and take some snaps, he'll be out there practicing with us."
McCoy also said that receiver Keenan Allen will not play against the San Francisco 49ers. Allen suffered a broken collarbone against the Denver Broncos last week and did not practice for the second straight day Wednesday.
Along with Mathews and Allen, quarterback Philip Rivers (chest/back), defensive lineman Corey Liuget (ankle), tight end Ladarius Green (concussion/ankle) and punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) did not practice.
Defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) was a full participant at practice.
He also did not practice on Tuesday. However, Rivers said he fully expects to play against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.
"At this point in the week I think there's no doubt," he said.
San Diego's 33-year-old quarterback has been dealing with what teammate Antonio Gates termed a "very severe rib injury" in mid-November.
Rivers is known for his toughness. He's started 142 straight games, the NFL's second-longest active streak behind Eli Manning (166). He played despite a torn ACL against the New England Patriots in the 2007 AFC Championship Game.
Rivers said he doesn't like to miss practice but believes limiting his practice reps could help ensure that he can play this weekend.
No reason was given for Rivers’ absence from practice by the team on Wednesday. However, Rivers was listed as having a chest and back injury on the team’s injury report last week. Rivers has started 142 straight games, the NFL’s second-longest active streak behind Eli Manning (166).
Along with Rivers, running back Ryan Mathews (ankle), receiver Keenan Allen (shoulder), defensive tackle Corey Liuget (ankle), tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, ankle) and punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) were not on the field for the early portion of practice on Wednesday.