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Browns-Chargers Marquee Matchup: Los Angeles QB Philip Rivers vs. Cleveland CB Jason McCourty

CHARGERS QB PHILIP RIVERS VS. BROWNS CB JASON MCCOURTY

Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was looking forward to his non-verbal communication with Rivers on the field before the game Sunday.

“He will be down there with a big smile on his face giving me our hand signals so that I know that he knows what is about to happen,” Williams said. “Of course, when you do that, make sure you don’t video the hand signal I send back to him because it probably won’t be appropriate.”

Williams has nothing but respect for Rivers, who’s playing at an extremely high level in his 14th season. He’s completed 62.1 percent for 2,948 yards, 20 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 95.2 rating.

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“He is amazing. He is what makes them go,” Williams said. “I smile and I respect every time I watch him on film of all of the things that he does changing protection, changing plays, changing routes and changing cadence. That is how it should be. He is one of those rare quarterbacks in our league that is smarter than most coaches that he has ever had a chance to be around. I love his confidence. I love the fact that he talks some smack.”

McCourty is in his ninth season and didn’t hesitate when asked where Rivers ranks among quarterbacks he’s faced.

“He is right at the top,” said McCourty, who will likely cover red-hot receiver Keenan Allen. “If you turn that game on against the Cowboys, how could he not be? What you enjoy about him is he is a fiery competitor. You just see him out there, even as a quarterback, in guys’ faces yelling, passionate, and he can make every single throw.”

All of Rivers’ attributes were on display in a 28-6 win over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He went 27-for-33 for 434 yards, three touchdowns and a 149.1 rating. It was the ninth 400-yard game of his career, and the rating ranked third. He’s never been afraid to trust his arm and try to fit the ball into a tight window, and did so successfully repeatedly against Dallas.

If Rivers is off, that confidence leads to opportunities for breakups and interceptions for the defensive backs.

“This is a game where you know that you are going to have to make plays,” McCourty said. “He trusts his guys. He has receivers on the outside, tight ends on the inside that can make plays. He is going to put the ball up there and give them a chance. As a DB in this game, you know if you don’t make plays, they are going to make plays, so you have to step up and make your play when it comes.”

Rivers continues to add to his likely Hall of Fame resume, as he ranks ninth all time with 4,052 completions, 10th with 48,781 passing yards, tied for seventh with 334 touchdowns, 11th with a 64.3 completion percentage and ninth with a 94.8 rating. He’s fifth among active quarterbacks with 102 wins. He’ll also take over from New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who’s been benched, with the longest active starts streak at No. 188.

“He is highly competitive,” first-year Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “He demands a lot out of himself and his teammates. That is what you want in a quarterback. He understands how to prepare, and he has been around for a long time. There is not much that he hasn’t seen at this point.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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