Rivers focused on improved red zone execution

Things went about as smoothly as you can expect for San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in his first season at the helm of the offense installed by former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, now the coach in Tennessee, and coach Mike McCoy.

In 2013, Rivers led the league in completion percentage (69.5 percent) and finished fourth in the NFL in passing touchdowns with 32.

The Chargers finished fifth in the league in total offense (393.3 yards per game), and ranked No. 1 in third down efficiency (49 percent). San Diego led the league in 10-play drives (39).

However, the Chargers struggled in one important area -- red zone efficiency. San Diego finished tied for No. 26 overall in scoring from inside the 20-yard line at 50 percent. Rivers understands that number needs to improve for his team to make another deep playoff run in 2014.

“You look at the red zone and goal-line situations, and we weren’t very good,” Rivers said. “Offense is about scoring touchdowns. We did so many things well. Long drives, third downs, completion percentage -- there’s a lot of things we did real well. But we’ve got to score touchdowns in the red zone.”

Rivers went on to say the Chargers will focus on improving the team’s execution on the little things so they can play at a high level each week.

“Mentally, it’s different,” Rivers said about working in the offense for a second straight season. “I think there are not as many unknowns, so we can really hit the ground running as far as where we are. I mean, it was figuring out how we were going to call a play and a formation. And still a lot of getting to know one another.

“Now, you’re right into it, building off of what we did [last year]. From a comfortable standpoint and understanding what the expectations are and how we do things, it’s night and day.”

Although the offense is the same, Rivers still will have some transition. With Whisenhunt gone, Frank Reich takes over as the team’s offensive coordinator, and Nick Sirianni moves up to assume the role as the team’s new quarterbacks coach.

Rivers also will have a new backup, with Kellen Clemens replacing Charlie Whitehurst, who signed with the Titans to backup Jake Locker this offseason.

“I’m thankful for the dynamic of our quarterback room, and how it’s been over the 10 years that I’ve been here,” Rivers said. “That’s a very important element, and Kellen will bring a great vibe, lot of knowledge and a good fit to the room, he and Brad (Sorensen) both. So I was quickly at peace with what our room was going to be like. And I obviously pull for Charlie that he gets a shot in Tennessee.”

At 32, Rivers said this offseason he’s focused on improving his endurance so he can continue to play at a high level throughout the duration of a long season.

“The last few years, including this year, I’m doing a little more endurance training,” Rivers said. “More interval training, like running hills over a 40 or 50-minute run, and different things. The more games you play, the older you get and the more information you gather. You experience more.

“I just feel like at the quarterback position there’s certainly quick-twitch movements and all of those things we have, but I really believe it’s an endurance position. It’s one where you have to be strong, and have your legs to make the throws you need to make in the fourth quarter. And you’ve got to be durable for a long season.”