Philip Rivers: Is His Best Behind Us?

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Rivers attempted 45 fewer passes in 2012 than he did in 2011, amassing an incomprehensible 1018 fewer yards. His accuracy was there, but what good is accuracy if you aren’t moving the ball up the field. The drop off is startling, but we also saw some of the mental maladies normally associated with a rookie than someone who’s been gifted with a special trip to Hawaii on four different occasions.

In Week 7 San Diego failed to score a single touchdown against the Cleveland Browns and their 20th ranked pass defense. They lost 7-6, and Rivers threw the ball 34 times to total a grotesque 154 yards. Five weeks later, against the Cincinnati Bengals, Rivers attempted 48 passes but none of them were for touchdowns (one was intercepted) and the Chargers lost 20-13.

There were positives performances too, because anyone with a track record as impressive as Rivers’ doesn’t just fall off a cliff overnight. He flung the ball around Pittsburgh for three touchdowns and a 10 point win in Week 13, and completed 18 of 20 passes in a 31-13 beat down of the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.

But for Rivers, the inconsistent play was bruising. His season was plagued with elementary mistakes, particularly with regards to reading safeties (more so with their ability to walk than their blinding lateral quickness), indecisive hesitation in the pocket, and deciding where to throw the ball before it was hiked.

Last year his sack percentage nearly doubled, going from 4.9% in 2011 to 8.5% in 2012. Some of this can be attributed to having one of the worst offensive lines in football (Football Outsiders ranks them dead last in terms of pass protection, with a right side that was atrocious) and Fluker, who’s expected to start at right tackle, will hopefully improve that area a bit.

But some of the blame can be put on Rivers, too. He spent the year between two extremes: either overlooking receivers as they entered their break, or impersonating a quarterback who didn’t believe defensive players were allowed to touch his passes.

Danario Alexander’s torn ACL will obviously hurt, as it would any other quarterback losing one of his starting wide receivers. Rivers doesn’t alternative weaponry, though, and the organization’s investment in defense and the running game could be more significant than they’d like to let on.

Are Rivers’ best days behind him? The next 16 games might have our answer.

Michael Pina is a writer for ESPN’s TrueHoop Network. He also writes for ScoreBig. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVPina.

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Topics: Nfl Offseason, San Diego Chargers

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  • tubbs45

    We shall see, but I will say he looked pretty damn good with a little protection! Clearly his 5 yard penguin scamper will not be his strong suit…

    • http://www.standupforkids.org blackroseMD1

      “penguin scamper”

      That made me laugh out loud. Now I can’t get the picture of Rivers as a penguin out of my head.

    • arnie

      baby Giraffe.

  • 619chargers4life

    He’s good, don’t hit the panic button now. what i dont get is everyone on a fire Norv trip and now that Norv is gone its turned to is rivers done, SMH.

    • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

      Exactly.

    • Stefanie Smith

      You are so right.

  • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

    This article again? I have read this article about ten or fifteen times, just different writers. They may be right on the money, but I don’t see the point of bringing this up now, when he just went of 6 in his first outing in preseason, spread the ball to multiple targets, was never even sneezeed on by one of the NFL’s best defenses, and had the support he needed from Mathews. Oh, and not one sack, fumble, or INT. I mean, maybe this doesn’t mean he’s going to “ball out” this year, but what I saw on the screen was Rivers looking comfortable, because the rest of the offense finally did their job.

    • 619chargers4life

      yes yes yes preach on brotha , preach on

    • Stefanie Smith

      I can’t hardly take it. We are at the beginning of the season, all hopeful. And here we sit discussing whether Rivers’ best is behind him. If I was Rivers, every stinking writer that is writing this stuff–when they want an interview, I would tell them to take a hike.

      Personally, negative stuff about Rivers, if it is not posted by one of our own — it only gets me mad and makes me feel bad for Rivers. Push him out the door–and watch him take a team to the SB. If we keep talking like this, then go out looking for another QB–some lemon from the draft with behavior problems or some other back up QB that is nowhere near Rivers’ caliber.

      And no Sorenson is non our future simply because he got a stinking touchdown. Tebow got a touchdown and he definitely is not the answer. Before we crown Rivers’ successor, at least show me some QB who has actuallly DONE something.

      • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

        Thanks Stef. Sorensen has played one NFL preseason game against third string players. Suddenly a few people are saying he is on course to replace Rivers? That is ridiculous. I am happy about Sorensen’s play, don’t get me wrong.. but, I want him to replace Whitehurst.. not Rivers.

      • BruisingChargers

        Two words: No Shit………

    • Adam

      Couldn’t have said it better

    • arnie

      thanks Peter, n Stefanie you saved me a rant.

      • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

        Hahahaha… You know how many times this information has been rehashed? It’s like reading an article about a Loch Ness monster sighting. You can tell by the title that there is no proof, or basis that Rivers will be bad behind a better team.

        • arnie

          it’s like the catfish story. they just keep beating it. because they’re trying to get ratings/sales/web traffic. let it go. we get it. they don’t want to stick their necks out because his name is not manning or brady.

      • Nick in PB

        I’m still going to rant Arnie. Stefanie and Pete are right. One of Rivers’s main problems was Norv. Norv continued to let Rivers make mistakes. And with everything falling apart in front of him, Norv failed to make the proper adjustments. Except for Mathews, I don’t think Norv was capable of holding players accountable. Let’s let Philip get comfortable again and see what this season brings. He already lost his no. 1 receiver, which sucks but this staff will adjust and so will Philip. There is no reason to think that Philip can’t become the Philip of old. Yes, he developed some bad habits, again, I blame that on Norv. I don’t think McCoy will let the mistakes go without some proper coaching and then the mistakes will slowly disappear!

    • joerockt

      While I agree with you, I don’t think 1 series in a preseason game is going to give us much foresight into what we’ll see during the first game.

      In fact, what I saw was a lot of the same last year: March down the field, get to the red zone, then take a big crap and go for 3. I’ve been saying this for a while now, we don’t have a running game. Mathews instills no fear in the opposing defense. Its been the problem since LT left and could possibly be the problem for the rest of the year.

      I hope I am completely wrong.

      • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

        I hear ya Joe… you are totally right. But, I’m confident by the way they were moving the ball that they could have gone for that 4th, and made it. It would be nice to do it on first, second, or third down though. I actually said I don’t think it means he will “ball out” this year. It’s just that the information from the article has been regurgitated so many times now, that it is a known sentiment. We should wait until Rivers has another bad performance before discussing it, yet again. It’s the equivalent of writing an article about the fact that there is a QB contest in New York, or something.. as if it hasn’t been written about hundreds of times over the last god knows how long.

        • joerockt

          Yea, Rivers is not the issue here and I agree this is old news. When you don’t have a running game, the defense focuses on pass protection. Its why no name RB’s in NE go off because they have to spend most of their practice preparing for Brady.

          Mathews didn’t have any 100 yard games last year, and barely got over 20 carries in 3 games. So for now, the target will be Rivers until Mathews can prove he needs to be accounted for and not just contained. With an improved O line, It should help both Mathews and Rivers tenfold.

          • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

            I agree with you… our running game needs to be seen as a threat. Although, I will say this… they didn’t run Mathews in the red-zone on that drive, for some reason. They went pass to Keenan, pass to Floyd, and then passing play that Rivers had to scramble on. Mathews had a six plus yard average on three carries before that, and had the most exciting play of the game. I put that on the coaches, unless Mathews was dinged & we don’t know it. Norv used to do that… pull Mathews RIGHT when he was finally doing well. I think that Mathews made a nice case for keeping him in on that drive. But, like we said about Rivers…. I’m not saying he has turned it around after one series.

  • 619chargers4life

    can season start already so Rivers can silence the violence !!

    • Adam

      Rivers is gonna initiate the violence!!!!

      • 619chargers4life

        Word!!!!

  • Rob Base

    I think as long as the offense stays healthy and does there jobs! Rivers will progress this season from start to finish.

  • Cgoodness13

    Off topic…Happy Shark Week everybody!!!!

  • RZ

    We shall see this season…but on another note.I sure wish the Boltz would bring this look back for a game or two.It’s probably the best uni’s I’ve seen on them and they only did it once. Lightning Blues!! GO BOLTZ!!

    • Adam

      These are MY favorite unis too!!! They’re fear inspiring

      • Adam

        And it makes me sad to see Lorenzo there…I miss him

        • arnie

          Side note, these are the only unis that made to the Superbowl.

          • RZ

            These were so awesome looking!! Love the all blue uni’s!!

          • Nick in PB

            I loved these!!! I like the white helmets now, but hated to see the change when it happened.

  • Ioane

    Nice article. Rivers, like all NFL players that age has declined to some degree. However, I see Rivers playing to a pro bowl level this year.

  • Stefanie Smith

    Neither Peyton or Tom Brady has declined. Rivers is not as old as they are. Give him the tools and we won’t be having this discussion.

    • Daryl Peek

      I’m gonna let this season be the judge but using Brady is a very bad comp. Brady is not of this world when it comes to picks and throwing to different targets! For granted he was not sacked as much this past season, he was sacked more in 2011.

      • Stefanie Smith

        Wait a minute.. This game wasn’t a blow out. Why would you call that amazing? There was only a 9 point difference Against the Philly first teamers, Brady was under pressure. Mallett did okay, and there was no Tebowmania with the 3rd string.. No press conference, nada.

        But I do agree, Pats and Bill B do know how to cut out distractions and they did shut down the Tebowmania train–no separate press conferences etc. Tebow is getting a big dose of reality with the Pats.

        • Daryl Peek

          What the first team did was amazing given all the personnel change from last season. Brady was under pressure as you said. Captain cool didn’t miss a beat throwing to different targets.

          Our biggest excuse for PR is pressure and different receiver targets.

  • FitzWilly

    Another side note

    Mike “Madman” McCoy

    Finally a coach with some honesty and passion :)

    http://www.chargers.com/media-vault/videos/Training_Camp_Day_17_Mike_McCoy/17aafef6-233a-48fc-8e9a-24f7e34367a8

  • Adam

    With the time, Rivers will shine

  • JoseSD

    I know this has nothing to do the article but did anyone else read Kevin Acee’s article on Meachem. its the first respectable article I’ve read from him in years. Finally telling it like it is and the truth is Meachem has to go they might have to bite the bullet and take the cap hit and rid themselves of him. He simply doesn’t have what it takes to fit in here.

  • Boltricity

    The reason Rivers has been bad the last couple of years is our OLine, which has basicaly sucked. Fix the OLine, and you fix Rivers.

    • FitzWilly

      Atta Boy
      long time no talk BC lol

  • Lem

    Same ol’ stuff, how many of the best deep baller in the game (per the media) 3 years ago – can do it without a Oline. I guess none based on everyone’s comments in years past. No Oline no QB when your a pocket passer. Everyone is just looking for something to print, makes you feel better just look at all the facts, what happened to research. “O” I forgot this dumb ass and his little printer.

  • 1961 Fan

    Just like this article Rivers is stale news; let us begin the new era and talk about the NEW kid on the block. Brad Sorensen, he has everything Rivers lacks. Mobility, youth, “pocket awareness” so are you ready for the new Chargers? Can Mike McCoy get over the experience factor and realize that Rivers is a “has been” that should spend this year tutoring the new guy?

    • Stefanie Smith

      lol. Sorensen threw one touchdown and you appear to be ready to crown him the next Tom Brady. What are the specifics as to what Sorensen did so well? He really didn’t play that long.

      • 1961 Fan

        Sorensen did something Rivers never could do, he got out of the way, he ran. he is mobile! GET THE PICTURE?
        If they cut him all it shows is the new regime is not committed to the future and is betting the “old horse” still has some “races” still left in him. I don’t want to be, just in the race, I want to win – you know – like the Triple Crown!

        • joerockt

          Dude, Sorensen is not the future. If this year tanks, we’ll be drafting the future next year.

          • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

            Agreed.. he’s a seventh round draft pick, and looked good for a few plays against the threes. He MAY pan out, but I think we could draft better. I would be fine with replacing Whitehurst with Sorensen.. if Whitehurst continues this bad performance. I still want to wait and see how it plays out.

          • 1961 Fan

            To: Joe “Dude” Rocket, one person said that many years ago about some smuck they thought was a wasted draft choice, lets see, what’s his face, Tom Brady. As I recall the Bolts also cut Wes Welker; you will hear from him two times this year when my Chargers play the Broncos.
            * I will give you credit for your comments about Matthews, he sucks and always will. 10-4

          • joerockt

            lol. Wait, you’re saying that a once in the history of the NFL, 6th round draft pick who’s won 3 super bowls could be the same guy we have on our team? Well shit, what are we waiting for! We saw the guy ball out against 3rd stringers in a preseason game, good enough for me (and apparently for you), give him the start immediately.

          • 1961 Fan

            START grooming him (during pre season) to see if he has the talent to be the next guy, instead of riding an old horse and think he is going to win the race because he was once a Stud. They said the same about Kurt Warner, he can’t do squat, he was a grocery bagger, that got a shot because someone on the team was smart enough to access his talent. If you think Rivers is going to resurrect our season then you are delusional, just like Charger Girl Cindy who says the Bolts will go 14-2

          • joerockt

            Delusional is believing you won the lottery with the ticket you bought.

            Hate on Rivers all you want. He still gives us the best chance to win. Period.

            If he’s still throwing multiple picks every game and we’re losing games because of it, sure, bench him and throw Sorensen to the wolves Brady style and lets see what happens. When it doesn’t pan out like you think it will, we’ll draft a real starter next year.

          • 1961 Fan

            I never said throw his butt in for the regular season. I said “start grooming him during the pre season to see if he has the talent to be the next guy” If the Bolts tank then there are plenty of holes to fill with next years draft choices. I will check back with you after the 7th game, that is the bye week, we will know by then how the season will progress.
            Later!

  • Zoe

    No matter what is wrote or what is wished,, Rivers will Never be good enough to win a SB or a ring!

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