Miller prepares to face his favorite target in Rivers

by Arnie Stapleton

AP Pro Football Writer

DENVER (AP) _ Von Miller has sacked Philip Rivers more than any other quarterback in the NFL. That’s not why he’s delighted to open the season Monday night when the Los Angeles Chargers visit the Denver Broncos.

“I like playing them all. I like sacking them all,” said Miller, whose 731/2 sacks since his rookie 2011 season rank second in the league.

“That’s my job. It’s not like I’m going against Alex Smith and I’m like, `Man, I wish I was playing Philip Rivers this week.”’

Who could blame him if he did?

Of the 34 quarterbacks Miller has sacked in his career, Rivers is his biggest prize.

He’s sacked him 13 times. Smith, by the way, ranks second on his list with eight, followed by Tom Brady with 71/2.

Monday night marks Rivers’ 24th game against the Broncos. Before Miller entered the league as the second overall draft pick in 2011, Rivers owned the Broncos. Since then, Miller has owned Rivers.

Rivers’ stats pre-Miller: 8 wins, 3 losses, 184 for 283 (65 percent) for 2,624 yards, 18 TDs, 6 interceptions, 20 sacks.

Rivers’ stats post-Miller: 3 wins, 9 losses, 248 for 423 (58 percent) for 2,680 yards, 18 TDs, 16 interceptions, 37 sacks.

Miller certainly has gotten Rivers’ attention over the years.

“He’ll be remembered as one of the best ever to play,” Rivers said. “And I still find myself rewinding the tape, not only on the pass downs but on the run downs. That’s what pushes him a notch above. He is unreal against the run. He plays on every down all he’s got and it’s impressive.”

That’s because Miller has grown accustomed to facing defenses designed specifically to keep him off the quarterback.

“In the National Football League, if a team doesn’t want you to get a sack, that’s top on their agenda, that’s their primary goal — don’t let Von get a sack, don’t let him ruin the game — 90 percent of the time, it’s not going to happen,” Miller said.

“You have to find other ways to change the game. You have to find other ways to impact the game.”

While Miller has openly talked about obliterating the NFL record with a 30-sack season, what he really aims for is disruption.

“I really just try to go out there and try to be a dominant football player. I try to affect the game any way that I can whether coverage, playing the run or rushing the passer,” Miller said. “Whatever chances I can get to wreck the game, that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

After winning the Super Bowl 50 MVP award, Miller went on a world tour of talk shows and dance halls while mired in a contract stalemate with the Broncos that ended with his record-setting $114.5 million deadline deal.

Then he went out and got 131/2 sacks and for most of the season looked like a lock for his first NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

But he was held without a sack over the final month of the season and Oakland’s Khalil Mack edged him by a single vote.

“I didn’t really have to feel bad for him,” Shane Ray said. “Von pushes himself. He said OK, last year what I did wasn’t good enough — as great as his season was last year.

“So, he’s pushed himself all offseason to come back and be even better, so now you can’t deny him. Be so good that they can’t deny you.”

Instead of jetting all over the globe, Miller went to work reshaping his body. He hosted a pass rushing summit for fellow elite edge rushers at Stanford over the summer, and he showed up at training camp with a renewed focus.

“He’s always worked hard but there’s a different intensity to the way he works now,” Shaq Barrett said. “And he’s trying to separate himself from the pack.”

Barrett suspects he has Mack’s one-vote victory to thank.

“I wouldn’t know but if it was me personally, I would use that as fuel for the fire for sure,” Barrett said.

Miller took on more of a leadership role following DeMarcus Ware’s retirement.

He signed every single day for fans at training camp, stayed in shape by returning punts and even running behind the real punt returners for extra exercise, and he earned the first captainship of his seven-year NFL career.

“Every single game is a huge opportunity, a huge blessing and I love going out there and playing them all,” Miller said.

“The player’s the same, it doesn’t matter about weather, location or any of that stuff. When the lights turn on Sundays or Mondays, I’m ready to go and I’m excited.”






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