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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Philip Rivers is passing up some NFL greats

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws the

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws the ball against the Indianapolis Colts during a game at Qualcomm Stadium. (Oct. 14, 2013) Credit: Getty

Philip Rivers is not only having his best season since being drafted in 2004, he's having one of the best seasons of any quarterback in NFL history.

Rivers has produced a passer rating of 120 or higher in five straight games, setting a record for the longest such streak . . . ever. With his 123.8 rating in last week's comeback win over the Raiders, Rivers surpassed the record held by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas (1965 with the Colts) and former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner (in 2009 with Arizona).

"When you know you were tied with Unitas and Warner," Rivers said, "what it says is that we've had a great five-game stretch."

The Chargers have won five straight and host the Chiefs on Sunday in an important AFC West matchup.

Rivers leads the NFL with a .694 completion percentage since coach Mike McCoy took over in 2013. This season, he leads the league in passer rating (117.6), completion percentage (.693) and average gain (8.82 yards per attempt).

Rivers, who led the NFL in average gain in three previous seasons, can join Hall of Famers Sid Luckman (seven) and Steve Young (five) as the only players to lead the league in average gain in at least four different seasons.

Disappearing act

Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2012 and 2013, but he has become an afterthought in this year's offense. Hartline is fourth on the team with 16 catches and third with 161 receiving yards, and he is being largely ignored in favor of Mike Wallace and Jarvis Landry.

Coach Joe Philbin said Hartline isn't being ignored.

"Sometimes it's just the way the ball rolls and the snaps are thrown," Philbin said. "It just hasn't been there. He hasn't been targeted quite as much, but I'm sure he's going to have his days."

Bradshaw the guy

Former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw not only returned this season from neck surgery that could have imperiled his career but now is the Colts' leading rusher with 284 yards and a 4.7-yard average. He also leads the NFL with five touchdown catches. They traded a first-round pick early last season for Trent Richardson, but the former Browns first-round pick has been a disappointment. Richardson trails Bradshaw by just 3 rushing yards but is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry.

2 out of 3 for Pettine

Browns first-year head coach Mike Pettine's vision of how to build a team is simple: Play great defense, run the football and have the quarterback play turnover-free football. The Browns are good on the running game part and the quarterback play, just not the defense, which is Pettine's forte. Cleveland, which is off to a surprising 3-2 start, leads the AFC in rushing, averaging 146.4 yards, as rookies Isaiah Crowell (237 yards) and Terrance West (235) join veteran Ben Tate (202) to power the run game.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer, who beat out rookie Johnny Manziel in training camp, is 6-2 in eight starts during the last two seasons, throwing 12 touchdown passes and four interceptions.

But Pettine's defense is taking a while to round into form; the Browns give up 409.2 yards per game.

Advice from Gonzo Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who has been a touchdown machine so far with an NFL-high nine scoring catches, took some advice from future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez in the off-season.

"When probably the greatest tight end that's ever played tells you something," Thomas said, "you usually have your ears [open] pretty wide."

Thomas leads the NFL with 21 touchdowns over the last two seasons. That's two more than Saints All Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract in the off-season. Thomas is making just $645,000 in the final year of his rookie contract, declining a contract extension from the Broncos in the off-season.

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