SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium on September 25, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 20-17. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
This week, I discovered that my DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket package comes with something called "Short Cuts" during the week. These short cuts take out absolutely everything except for the action of the game. The ball is snapped, the tackle is made, the ball is snapped, the pass is incomplete, the ball is snapped....you get the idea. No celebration of tackles or instant replay or commercials or huddling up, just pure action.
Honestly, it takes a while before your brain can process it. I watched the first half of Sunday's game against the Chiefs in about 12 minutes and felt a little like vomited at half-time. You feel like you can't breathe or blink, or else you might miss an entire series. It's unlike any other football watching experience, but I'm not sure I recommend it.
Anyway, with a second half left to watch at home, I noticed something weird about Philip Rivers against the Chiefs. When you see three passes being made in a matter of about 15 seconds, it gets easier to see patterns. Remember a few years ago, when Rivers had issues throwing the ball downfield (earning him a reputation for throwing balls that float for eternity, per Kissing Suzy Kolber), and there was much debate about if Philip was throwing off his back foot, and if that was even the wrong foot? Well, I think that problem is back.
I believe that debate was pre-Bolts from the Blue's existence, so of course in my head I remember it as an angrier conversation amongst some dumber Charger fans in a terrible environment. I never really joined in, but here's what I figured out along the way: It doesn't really matter which foot you're standing on when you throw the football. What matters is where your weight is, and ideally you want that weight to be transferring from you back leg to your front leg as your shoulders turn to fire the ball downfield.
What I saw from Rivers against the Chiefs was a lot of Rivers throwing falling backwards, with his weight moving in the completely opposite direction. It was almost as if the line was doing a terrible job of protecting him, and he was worried about getting hit, but I think it's actually deeper than that. Allow me to wax philosphic about El Capitan and the Chargers offense for a moment....
In the past, when RIvers would look downfield and see good coverage, he had two options. Option number one was to find Antonio Gates and try and throw a ball that nobody can get but him. Option number two was to find Darren Sproles and try and hit him in the chest with the football, because he'd be uncovered. There was a third, lesser-used option that worked better when the coverage downfield wasn't so good, and that was to throw a jump ball to the tall San Diego WRs.
Option number one (Gates) hasn't been right yet this season, and now isn't even on the field at all. Option number two (Sproles) is in New Orleans, and while his replacements have been playmakers with the ball in their hands....they come with reasons not to trust them. For Ryan Mathews, Rivers has admitted that he's still "building trust" as a receiver and a blocker. For Mike Tolbert, he needs to prove he can hang on to the ball. Gates and Sproles were Chargers about as long as Rivers was, and there was a lot of trust there that's gone now.
The third option is the one that's most concerning though. I don't want to say that Rivers is losing confidence in himself, or his line, but he's playing almost as if that's the case. His throws downfield seem to have the old familiar flutter, because he's been falling away when throwing them, and when he actually does have time he seems to hold on and wait for someone to get open before aiming one their way.
Rivers is an elite QB. He has a great arm and pin-point accuracy. He'll get it back, but so far this season he's had a few bad breaks mixed with a bit of nervousness. What El Capitan needs is a few good breaks, and a good game, to get himself back on track. It could be against the Dolphins, who are 30th in the league in passing defense (16th in run defense), or it could still be a few weeks away. For the sake of our sanity, let's hope for the former.
Obligatory WR-CB Height Chart
Patrick Crayton 6'0" vs Will Allen 5'10"