Philip Rivers’ four interceptions doom Chargers in loss to Chiefs
He threw four interceptions a game after he threw three interceptions, as Philip Rivers was picked off in the end zone Monday night to seal a bitter defeat for the second time this season.
And so the Chargers’ fleeting playoff hopes in all practicality died at Aztec Stadium with another wrenching, one-score loss, this time 24-17 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It’s not about pointing fingers and saying this and that about Phil,” running back Melvin Gordon said. “We lost as a team. Phil didn’t lose. We lost as a unit.”
The Chargers dropped to 4-7, while the first-place Chiefs improved to 7-4 atop the AFC West.
Rivers moved the Chargers into position to possibly tie the score or win the game in the closing seconds before disaster struck. Again.
Starting at his own nine-yard line with just under two minutes to go, Rivers took the offense down the field, eventually reaching the Kansas City 14 with fewer than 30 seconds remaining.
The big play was a 50-yard completion to Mike Williams, whose ability to rise above defenders and pluck footballs from the sky gave the Chargers a chance. His acrobatic catch between two Chiefs converted a third-and-15 play just as it appeared time and opportunity were about to expire on the Chargers.
Now, the Chargers’ season is over. And their next one might already be too.
But then, four snaps later, Rivers’ lofted attempt in the direction of Austin Ekeler near the goal line came up short and was intercepted by Kansas City safety Daniel Sorensen in the final 20 seconds.
“Nobody plays perfect football,” Gordon said. “I don’t care if you’re a gold-jacket player or not. Perfect football is just impossible. You can’t put it on Phil. If he made some bad throws, it’s up to us to make some more plays to pick him up.”
Rivers was intercepted twice in the first half Monday and two more times in the second half.
He was coming off a game in which he threw three interceptions at Oakland. He has been picked off 14 times this year, two more than he totaled in 16 regular-season games last season.
In 2017, Rivers was intercepted only 10 times as then-new head coach Anthony Lynn preached ball security and clearly sold Rivers on the importance of the concept.
“It’s a football game,” Rivers said Monday. “If you could pick and choose and never throw them ever, I’d choose to throw zero. Certainly don’t want to throw them. But, certainly, I know it’s hurting us right now.”
In a 13-10 loss at Detroit in Week 2, Rivers moved the Chargers into position to attempt a game-tying field goal late and possibly send the game into overtime.
But that chance disappeared when he threw into tight coverage and was intercepted by Darius Slay in the end zone.
“Nothing’s different,” Lynn said when asked about the spike in interceptions this season. “We’re emphasizing the same things. Phil just has to execute better as far as turnovers.”
Rivers, who turns 38 next month, is unsigned after this year. He has said he would like to play at least one more season, when the Chargers move into the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
Any talks regarding an extension were shelved before the start of training camp. Both sides said the topic would be revisited after the 2019 season.
Given Rivers’ contract situation and recent play, his future with this franchise never has been more uncertain.
“I don’t have that luxury to think about Philip and the future and his contract,” Lynn said. “My focus is on our very next game, the Denver Broncos. At the end of the season, that will take care of itself.”
Though the game was decided in the final seconds, the Chargers put themselves in a difficult spot because of an inefficient first half offensively.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has put together an MVP-caliber season that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Rams.
They reached halftime with 312 total yards to Kansas City’s 109 and 14 first downs to the Chiefs’ five. They had more than double the time of possession.
Yet they still trailed 10-9 because of Rivers’ two interceptions and an 0-for-2 performance in the red zone.
Michael Badgley kicked field goals of 27, 26 and — on the final play of the second quarter — 49 yards.
Rivers’ first interception came when rookie left tackle Trey Pipkins was beaten off the edge by defensive end Frank Clark. As Rivers was making the throw, Clark hit him and the ball ended up in the hands of defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi.
The second interception came when Rivers attempted to fit the ball into Keenan Allen. Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu made the pickoff and returned the ball 35 yards to the Chargers’ six-yard line.
On the next play, LeSean McCoy ran in for the only touchdown of the first half.
The Chargers had the ball six times over the first two quarters and advanced into Kansas City territory on five of those possessions. They ran 20 plays from scrimmage on the Chiefs’ side of the field.
And they still failed to reach the end zone, continuing a season-long struggle to score points.
Now they reach their open week knowing the final five weeks of their season likely hold little meaning beyond playing for pride.
“This was a playoff game for us,” Gordon said. “We fell short. It just sucks to be in this position with that many games left. But we got to show up to work. It’s not in me to quit. It’s not in a lot of these guys to quit.”
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