Why San Diego's Offensive Line, Not Philip Rivers, Is the Chargers' Big Problem

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Why San Diego's Offensive Line, Not Philip Rivers, Is the Chargers' Big Problem
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Philip Rivers needs help from the guys up front.

A mere few steps after taking a shotgun snap in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked by Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil. Rivers fumbled the ball, recovered it and—despite being down one score with nine seconds left on the clock—tossed the ball to a referee.

He had already greeted an opponent before the clock ticked to zero.

Rivers seemed to be resigned to the fact that he would not get protection from his offensive line to make a game-tying play from his own 12-yard line. He was out of Hail-Mary range and without timeouts.

There was still enough time for San Diego to run two plays—assuming the receiver of the would-be completion gets out of bounds in time—which makes it a bit perplexing that Rivers didn’t go for overtime when he had the (slim) chance.

It’s almost hard to blame him, though.

ESPN.com reported that Jared Gaither was going to miss San Diego’s Week 11 game against the Broncos. Without his starting left tackle and facing a long field with very limited time on the clock, Rivers may have made the right decision by opting to fight another day.

It’s impossible to make big plays from the pocket when there isn’t a pocket.

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Rivers threw two interceptions on Sunday. He’s been extremely turnover-prone since the start of 2011, with 47 combined interceptions and fumbles in his last 26 games. One of his picks was from a clean backfield after a play-action fake—linebacker Wesley Woodyard made a tremendous play in zone coverage to intercept the pass.

Those happen.

The other was set up by Rivers who was under duress in the pocket and chucked a ball to the deep-middle of the field, which was picked off by a diving Jim Leonhard. That was another spectacular play by the Denver defense, but the fact remains that Rivers is having trouble completing progressions while avoiding the opponent’s pass rush on a regular basis.

Running back Ryan Mathews is even averaging a career-low 4.1 yards per carry behind the Chargers' offensive line in 2012. He averaged 4.9 per carry last season. The 25-year-old has not lost a step.

San Diego’s offense will continue to struggle until the O-line gets better. The blame for Rivers’ struggles, therefore, can’t be placed only on his shoulders.

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