The football he'd thrown had yet to hit the ground when Philip Rivers wheeled in dismay.

Flailing his arms, he looked like he'd just locked his keys in his car. On a cold night. Far from home.

"That's a quarterback saying, 'My bad,' " Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts said, watching from the CBS broadcast booth in Carson.

What happened is that Rivers, some 200 starts into a decorated NFL career, got Von Millered.

Sunday marks Miller's return to the Carson venue where Rivers plays his home games.

The injury-challenged Chargers (2-2) are favored by a touchdown on betting lines, the amount oddmakers say Rivers is worth, on average, in comparison to a backup.

The Broncos (0-4) have few strengths but still employ Miller, a three-time All-Pro at end/linebacker.

Rivers knows Miller the best of any quarterback, having faced him twice a year in most seasons since 2011.

"He's as good as there is - every down," Rivers told reporters Wednesday in Costa Mesa.

Two plays that led to Denver's 23-22 comeback victory in November will go near the top of Miller's Hall-of-Fame application.

Varied excellence as a pass rusher is Miller's calling card, but on neither play did he get near Rivers.

He anticipated a short pass without the quarterback seeing him, resulting in an interception and 42-yard return.

That play lifted his team off life support.

Late in the game with Denver out of timeouts and trailing by two points with the ball at midfield, Miller faked a rush and veered toward the short-pass realm, a threat to Mike Williams' quick-screen route. Rivers spiked the pass on third-and-7, a play that ate up five seconds.

Taking a sack would've drained some 35 seconds off the clock.

Denver drove from its 8 to a game-winning 34-yard field goal as time ran out.

Marring the home team's final offensive series also was running back Melvin Gordon going the wrong way, forcing Rivers to eat the ball after he alertly noticed Gordon wasn't in position for the handoff.

The winning drive led by Case Keenum and stellar receiver Emmanuel Sanders was a blend of good offense and flawed defense _ but it's not every week, or season, that an edge defender makes two big plays in pass coverage against a veteran quarterback, let alone an eight-time Pro Bowler who's the son of a coach.

"We had it all but wrapped up," Rivers said Wednesday, adding that the offense "mishandled" events late and that last year's loss will have no bearing on Sunday's game.

Vance Joseph, the Broncos' head coach that day, said afterward that coordinator Joe Woods played clever poker against Rivers.

"We gave him that look before and he kept checking to quick screens," Joseph said of the defensive design on third-and-7. "So we bluffed the look and bailed out and played some zone, and he spiked (the ball)."

Because the AFC West defeat factored into the Chiefs winning the playoff tiebreaker, the Chargers played a wild-card game and then had to play at New England against the rested Patriots.

The Pats dealt them the most lopsided playoff defeat of Rivers' career.

Other Chargers-Broncos games have ended up with Rivers smiling.

At Denver in December 2013, for instance, the quarterback had two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 120.0 passer rating in San Diego's 27-20 victory as a nine-point underdog.

Miller reached two Super Bowls with the Broncos, picking up one win, but at 30, may be staring at a third consecutive losing season as the team tries to jell under rookie head coach Vic Fangio and overcome losing Bradley Chubb, a promising edge rusher, to a season-ending knee injury Sunday.

The Broncos should be expected to give Rivers and Co. a tough game Sunday, but carrying Miller for the final two years of his contract, through the 2021 season, at between $22 million and $25 million per year, would make more sense if the team can return to playoff contention.

An NFL team inquiring about Miller's trade availability probably wouldn't get anywhere, but it could be worth a try, suggested NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network this week.

Rivers has praised Miller often, without sounding like he's spinning football nonsense. He probably wouldn't object to the Broncos sending him to the NFC.

"He's awesome," said Rivers, whose teams are 5-11 against Denver when Miller played.