Chargers vs. Buccaneers: Is Philip Rivers Part of the Problem in San Diego?

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystNovember 12, 2012

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 11:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers hands the ball off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on November 11, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

It seems insane that Philip Rivers could be part of the problem in San Diego because just two seasons ago he looked like an elite quarterback. There’s little doubt that Rivers can still put points on the board; he just makes mental errors that costs his team wins.

The Chargers lost 34-24 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers largely because of one such mental error by Rivers. The incongruous decision-making by Rivers is maddening to coaches and fans because he can still tear through a secondary like an elite quarterback.

After gouging a defense all day, Rivers can throw it directly to a defender without any warning signs. The result of those interceptions are usually some combination between fewer opportunities for the Chargers, fewer points for the Chargers and more points for the opponent.

It all makes you wonder if Rivers is now part of the problem in San Diego. That doesn’t mean Rivers is no longer part of the solution, just that he is no longer a quarterback that is going to hide all of San Diego’s other blemishes.

Rivers shredded the Buccaneers and finished with 337 yards passing on 29 completions and three touchdowns. Of course, he also threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown when the Chargers were in position to tie the game with a field goal. Rivers' second interception would result in the game-clinching field goal for Tampa Bay. 

The two interceptions were a gift of 10 points from Rivers to the Bucs and happened to also be the margin of defeat. Although the Chargers were far from perfect in other areas, it was Rivers who cost them the game. If he continues to take risks with the football, the Chargers will continue to struggle.

Rivers needs to be managed now more than ever. Norv Turner’s close relationship with the quarterback could be impacting his ability to reel in Rivers and his mistakes. Of course, it doesn’t help Rivers when the defense or special teams are also an issue.

The Chargers allowed a punt to be blocked and returned 29 yards for a touchdown, which made it 21-17 at the half instead of 21-10. Tampa Bay would later take the lead on a touchdown pass in the third quarter and never trailed again throughout the game. 

On a positive note, the Chargers have found a wide receiver that Rivers can trust on the other side of Malcom Floyd. Danario Alexander had an 80-yard touchdown catch and finished with five catches for 134 yards. Robert Meachem had just one catch for eight yards and looks like the backup at this point.

The defense held Doug Martin to just 68 yards on 19 carries and only allowed 20 points to a pretty good offense on the road. If it wasn’t for big breakdowns in the passing game by Rivers and the special teams, the Chargers could be a really good team.

The loss drops the Chargers two games behind the Broncos in the AFC West, and they will now travel to Denver to try to narrow that gap in Week 11. With a somewhat difficult second-half schedule, the Chargers could find themselves with more losses than wins and way out of the playoff race by the end of Week 13.

If Rivers wants to save his head coach from a certain firing, he needs to show up in a big way in Week 11 against the Broncos. It’s virtually the same team that came back from a 24-point deficit against the Chargers in Week 6.