San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was once on the cusp of being discussed among the elite signal-callers in the NFL. While he never quite made his way into that group, his four interceptions during Monday night's 35-24 loss to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos might guarantee his name is never mentioned alongside the word "elite" ever again.
However, Rivers' individual legacy pales in comparison to how his mistakes are now affecting the Chargers. In addition to the picks, he also lost two fumbles.
Instead of taking a commanding two-game lead in the AFC West with a victory, the 3-3 Chargers are now on the losing end of the tiebreaker that puts the Broncos atop the division.
San Diego was able to build a 24-0 halftime lead after a productive first half from Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates and an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown by Quentin Jammer.
However, it was Manning—once the center of the elite quarterback discussion, and trying to get back there—who did what he needed to do for his team to win on Monday night.
The Broncos rattled off 35 unanswered points to complete the biggest comeback in the history of Monday Night Football. While Denver certainly deserves credit for pulling this one out, it would not have been possible without Rivers' lackluster play.
Rivers is now tied for second-worst in the NFL with nine interceptions, only Cleveland Browns rookie Brandon Weeden has more.
A bye next week could provide the quarterback with a little respite and give the team a chance to regroup from Monday night's heartbreaker. However, Rivers' production has been declining since the 2008 season when he threw for 34 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.
As careers extend, players must find different ways to produce on the field. It becomes more of a thinking game rather than actual talent prevailing.
This is something that Rivers must do if he wants to keep the Chargers relevant this season.
San Diego's schedule eases up after the bye. Away games against the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and a home game with the Kansas City Chiefs in between precede a rematch with the Broncos in Denver.
If that game with the Broncos is to carry as much significance as tonight's, Rivers will need to protect the ball much better. If he does not, the Chargers will miss the postseason for a third-straight year.