Every year it gets brought up at least once, but usually closer to a handful of times as the season progresses.
Is Philip Rivers done? Will he retire or will the Chargers decline to re-sign him for another year?
Is his arm strength finally gone? Is he finally losing some of that sharp decision-making that has allowed him be one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL for the last 15 years?
These questions, and many more, were running through the brains of countless Chargers fans each and every time Rivers’ chucked another interception to keep the Bolts from ever getting within arms’ length of hope in Monday night’s contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.
At the end, despite the ill-advised choices on offense in the most critical of moments, the Chargers still had a shot to win this one with 18 seconds still on the board.
On a 2nd-and-10 from the Kansas City 14-yard line, Rivers threw a jump-ball to Austin Ekeler who was running up the right sideline into the end zone. Unfortunately, Chiefs safety Daniel Sorenson, who was picked on all night by Rivers, finally got the last laugh as he maintained perfect positioning on Ekeler to box-out the 5-foot-9 running back for the ball, effectively ending the game with fourth and final Kansas City interception.
The Chargers had every chance in the world to put this game away early. Their defense displayed a monumental effort to limit Patrick Mahomes and their high-powered offense, who finished the game with just 182 passing yards, a single touchdown, and an interception, which was also only his second thrown on the year.
It was with his feet, however, that Mahomes was able to keep the chains moving. Prior to the final kneel-down, Mahomes had four scrambles that he took for 60 yards. Each one seeming to come on third-and-long situations where the Chargers desperately needed a stop. The intimidation factor of the KC offense played a huge factor in this one, though. On each scramble, every Chargers defender out in coverage essentially kept their back to Mahomes which allowed the quarterback to find massive running lanes when the pocket collapsed.
The Chargers found plenty of success applying pressure on number 15, but only once did they get home. Every other instance, Mahomes was able to run free. He finished with a team-high 59 rushing yards in a game that saw starting tailback Damien Williams leave early with an injury.
The Chiefs’ most dangerous weapon in wide receiver Tyreek Hill was also knocked-out of this one early in the first quarter when he limped off the field with an apparent hamstring injury. The Chargers were able to capitalize on his absence, but it was simply not enough in the end.
As things stand, the Chargers are 4-7 on the year and 0-3 in the division. They have a game left against each of their division rivals and contests against the 8-3 Minnesota Vikings and 4-6 Jacksonville Jaguars. If they run the table, they’ll finish 9-7 and tie the mark under Anthony Lynn in his first season as head coach.
The likely scenario is they finish under .500 for the first time under Lynn and are probably looking at a draft pick in the top-15. There is a glaring need at offensive tackle and with plenty of phenomenal players at that position in this year’s draft class, it’s starting to look like an easy and early transition into draft season for Chargers fans.
WR Keenan Allen
Allen makes his return to the right side of this column after he barged his way into the end zone for the first time since Week 3 of this season. He also managed to reach 70+ receiving yards for the first time since that Houston Texans game, as well.
Allen finished tied with a team-high eight catches for 71 yards and that touchdown which brought the team within a score following a 2-point conversion to a wide-open Hunter Henry in the back of the end zone.
On the season, Allen has 70 catches for 796 yards and four scores through 11 weeks.
RB Austin Ekeler
While the team played most of this one from behind, Ekeler got the chance to shine where he always does.
Ekeler finished tied for the team lead in catches with eight but managed to lead the Chargers in receiving with 108 yards through the air. He also chipped-in with 25 rushing yards on four carries, including an 18-yard reverse that helped give the Bolts some early momentum in the first quarter.
One of the most notable things that new OC Shane Steichen has done to this offense is utilizing Ekeler more on the outside as a receiver while Melvin Gordon is in the backfield. This was a point of emphasis that fans wanted to see more of over the last year but Ken Whisenhunt seemed a little too grounded in un-originality to ever go through with a decision to put two running backs on the field for the majority of the snaps.
Regardless of the recent losses, the offense philosophy has been good, much better in fact compared to how things were running to start the season. The next step is to now keep the momentum going once you reach the red zone.
S Rayshawn Jenkins
Although he leads the team with three interceptions on the season, his first-half pick of Mahomes was the first one that made you go, “Wow.”
Jenkins did a phenomenal job of baiting Mahomes on a deep route up the right seam and his ability to click-and-close on the ball, culminating in a beautiful high-point catch right in front of the receiver was the cherry on top of a play that the Chargers needed to begin this game.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. Jenkins did have a missed tackle or two in this one, as well, but that pick was only the second one thrown by Mahomes this season and that statistic stands by itself. Kudos to Jenkins on the effort and I can only hope that his play will rise when, and if, Derwin James returns to the lineup following the team’s week 12 bye.
QB Philip Rivers
Rivers somehow put together a more forgettable performances against the Chiefs on Monday night than he did the previous week against the Raiders.
How do you top a game where you throw three interceptions and blow a lead against a divisional opponent? Well, you throw FOUR interceptions before blowing that lead against a divisional opponent.
Rivers finished with 28-for-52 passing for 353 yards and a touchdown paired with the quartet of giveaways. The offensive tackle duo of Trey Pipkins and Trent Scott played better than expected, especially early on in the game when the Bolts moved at-will up and down the field.
But, as we’ve gotten used to over the last 11 weeks, it has always come down to Rivers’ arm and whether or not he can be clutch in the most dire of moments.
According to ESPN, Rivers has lost 61 games that have been decided by one score or less. That means he has lost five full seasons worth of games in a close manner. That’s a lot of disappointment.
Rivers has also found little to no success against AFC West opponents over the last five seasons. In fact, here are his touchdown/interception numbers since the 2015 season:
- 2015: 4 TDs - 6 INTs
- 2016: 12 TDs - 8 INTs
- 2017: 10 TDs - 7 INTs
- 2018: 12 TDs - 8 INTs
- 2019: 2 TDs - 9(!) INTs
As you can probably see, things are NOT going too well this year for number 17. His two touchdowns were both against the Raiders and seven of his nine interception have come in the last two weeks. The divisional games are supposed to be your best games. They are the biggest deciding factors on whether or not your team has a shot at making the playoffs. If you take care of enough of those games during the season, you’re sitting much prettier towards the end of the year.
I really don’t know what the future looks like for Rivers. At least, what it SHOULD look like. Was this game the final straw and the final tipping point in his inevitable decline?
Time will tell. In the meantime, his arm will decide just how easy the rest of the season will be on the lives of Chargers fans.
LB Thomas Davis
Like most weeks, Davis finished as the team leader in tackles against the Chiefs. He did, also, lead the team with at least three missed tackles on the night.
This is usually the case with Davis week-in and week-out.
I would be wrong to not mention the plays where he made an impact. Pushing tight end Travis Kelce out of bounds so he couldn’t come down in-bounds for a first down was a huge play in the first half that helped limit the amount of points put up by the Chiefs
It’s just a bummer that the tackles that Davis tends to miss are ones on third downs and in moments when the Chargers NEED a stop on defense. It’s never easy to watch your most veteran linebacker completely wrap up an opposing running back at or behind the line of scrimmage and then watch as the ball-carrier squeezes out of his grasp to run for 5-6 yards more yards which allows the offense to stay on track instead of putting them behind the chains.
At the end of the year, Davis is surely be well over 100 tackles and probably have one of the highest totals for a Chargers player in some time. At the same time, his season and presence on the defense will likely come and go without much thought passed this season. I’m not sure he has done enough to warrant a spot on this team in 2020, especially with promising youngsters Drue Tranquill and Kyzir White ready to take on prominent roles leading the defense into the future.
CB Desmond King
Normally an extremely sure-handed return guy, King was oddly skittish on Monday night. He muffed two punts, including an attempt at catching the ball over his shoulder within his own ten-yard line. He was actually replaced late in the game and Anthony Lynn explained in his post-game presser that King was struggling with the lights in the stadium.
This is a passable excuse and likely won’t lead to a permanent replacement at kick-punt returner but King must return to form and once again bring a rock-steady presence back to an important part of the special teams unit.