Why is Jatavis Brown playing a reduced role on the Chargers defense?

Jatavis Brown is healthy again, but he's played just three defensive snaps in each of the last two games. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Philip Rivers turned 36 years old on Friday. So how did the Los Angeles Chargers' veteran quarterback celebrate? Rivers attended the team’s holiday party here in Orange County.

I asked some teammates what they would get Rivers for his birthday and received some head-scratching from players in the locker room. A few joked they would get a rocking chair for the aging signal-caller.

But head coach Anthony Lynn -- who let Rivers break down the team huddle after practice on Friday, a tradition established this season for all players on their birthday -- had another idea. “What do I get him? Hopefully, he helps us get a win this week,” Lynn said, laughing. “I’m asking.”

Let’s take a look at a two questions from this week’s mailbag.

@eric_d_williams: Jatavis Brown appears to have recovered from a high ankle sprain he suffered earlier this season. He has not appeared on the Chargers’ injury report since Week 7, so he’s as healthy as any player can be entering Week 14 of an NFL season.

However, since Week 5 Brown has played an average of 20 snaps a game, and just three defensive snaps in each of the last two games. So what gives?

Brown led the team in tackles last season with 76 and seems a good fit for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme because of his explosive athletic ability and speed. Well, Brown’s reduction in snaps has little to do with his skill set and is more about the person playing in front of him, safety Adrian Phillips. Bradley likes Phillips because of his ability to communicate pre-snap and anticipate route concepts during the play.

The Chargers face three-receiver formations 64 percent of the time. And instead of going with a nickel defense (five defensive backs) they’ve jumped into dime (six defensive backs), which means Phillips lines up as the WILL (weak side outside) linebacker. And the Chargers have been successful with Phillips on the field. Since Week 5, they are allowing just 5.1 yards per play against three-receiver sets, No. 6 in the NFL.

When the Chargers switch to a base defense, Hayes Pullard has been on the field with Denzel Perryman because he’s a little bigger body than Brown inside. Pullard also has an intimate understanding of Bradley’s scheme because he’s played in it since his college days at USC when Monte Kiffin ran a similar scheme for the Trojans.

Kiffin was Bradley’s mentor. Bradley’s first job in the NFL was as a linebackers coach on Kiffin’s defensive staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Things could change down the road for Brown. But like Jerry Attaochu, who hasn’t played that much this season because of the emergence of defensive end Chris McCain, Brown has to be patient.

The Chargers are playing at a high level on defense right now, so if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

@eric_d_williams: Even though both the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders sit at 6-6, Chargers fans should be rooting for the Silver-and-Black getting a win at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chargers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Raiders because they defeated them earlier this season, and Oakland has a tougher schedule in its remaining four games.

Chargers fans also should be rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2) to handle the Baltimore Ravens (7-5) and for the Indianapolis Colts (3-9) to defeat the Buffalo Bills (6-6).

You can take a spin on ESPN’s Playoff Machine to test out the different scenarios.