Back in Week 2, after watching Antonio Gates gut it up and down the field, and after talking to a scout or two, I became pretty convinced the tight end was going to need to shut it down for a good period of time to get his foot right. After the past few Chargers games, and especially Sunday coming in off a bye, I'm getting a similar feeling with one of his San Diego teammates.
I've been pointing it out in this space at times this season, and it's reached a point where I'm starting to think Rivers might be hurting or having an issue with his mechanics. He just looks out of sorts. He hasn't been on any injury reports and I don't have medicine or science to back me up. It could just be Rivers is going through a mental and physical slump, the likes of which we haven't seen from him since he became an established starter.
But I just have a hunch that something might be troubling Rivers to the point where it's not bad enough for him to miss practice, or a game, but perhaps enough to intensify and impact him through the course of a contest as the hits and passing attempts magnify. Maybe I'm just looking to make excuses for a player I thought would flirt with a historically epic passing year, but when you have been as great and accurate as Rivers has been for this long, it's hard to think he's suddenly lost it for an extended period of time.
I can't help but wonder if somewhere in that five-sack game against Denver in Week 5, something got knocked around. Watching Rivers complete only half of his passes in Sunday's collapse to the Jets -- albeit against a superb secondary -- he seems to be thrusting the ball even more than normal. That javelin-type delivery is always awkward, but Rivers didn't seem to have his feet, pushing the ball more than usual.
In the second half of Week 5's escape from Denver, Rivers was sacked four times and went just 8 of 13 for 98 yards. Against the Jets, he sailed some balls and inexplicably threw a pass to the third row of the stands on fourth down with the game on the line. So in his last six quarters of football, Rivers is 24 of 45 for 277 yards, one touchdown and two picks. That's a 61 passer rating.
On the season, he has seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. Those are stunning numbers for someone with a 136/58 differential in his career coming into the season. I know the Chargers have had some weapons in and out of the lineup, but this is not the Rivers I expected to see, or the offense I expected to see. Or San Diego expected to have, for that matter.
Rivers has already thrown as many interceptions as he did in 2006 and 2009; it took him more than twice as many passing attempts to reach that figure in those seasons. Could be nothing. A blip. It happens.
But I was surprised to see the suspect play carry over after the bye. And I'll be watching closely to see how he and the San Diego offense responds. This team has yet to put a complete game together and has an interesting stretch coming up -- at Kansas City, vs. Green Bay and Oakland and at Chicago. Three of those teams can get after the quarterback pretty good, and the Chiefs still have at least one linebacker who can do so as well.