Coming off the most interception-filled back-to-back games of his 16-year career, Philip Rivers remains the Chargers’ starting quarterback.
Coach Anthony Lynn indicated he wasn’t going to make a switch during the team’s week off but said every position will be re-evaluated given the team’s 4-7 record.
“I’m not going to entertain that right now,” Lynn said of possibly replacing Rivers. “I’m evaluating everything. Right now, Philip Rivers is our starting quarterback.”
Rivers threw four interceptions Monday in a 24-17 loss to Kansas City at Aztec Stadium, a home game for the Chargers as part of the NFL’s annual international schedule. He has been picked off seven times over the last two games, his highest total in consecutive weeks.
“I’m not going to single one position out,” Lynn said. “I’m looking at everybody. You know, we’re sitting here 4-7. Everybody could be doing something better.”
Tyrod Taylor is the Chargers’ backup. Rivers has been the team’s No. 1 quarterback since 2006 and Monday started his 230th consecutive game, including the playoffs.
With 14 interceptions, Rivers already has topped his totals from each of the last two seasons. He has been picked off on 3.4% of his attempts this year, matching the second-highest rate since he became a starter, and with just 15 touchdown passes, he’s on pace for his fewest since 2007.
The Chargers’ offense has struggled with turnovers and reaching the end zone, the main reasons the team’s seven losses have come by one score.
Those issues were most glaring over the last two games, in which the Chargers outgained Oakland and Kansas City but lost to both after they turned the ball over seven times and managed one takeaway.
“I like the way the offense has been moving the ball…” Lynn said. “We have to stop turning it over.”
Rivers was intercepted seven times on his first 333 attempts this season. He has been intercepted seven times on 83 passes since.
And those numbers could be worse. Against the Raiders, two other Rivers interceptions where nullified by defensive penalties. Also, Kansas City safety Tyrann Mathieu dropped a deflected ball that floated into his hands Monday.
“I know he would like to have those interceptions back,” Lynn said. “I mean, hell, who wouldn’t? But it’s got to get better. He knows that. … He understands where we’re at right now and how we’ve got to win.”
Against the Chiefs, Rivers was picked off by two safeties, a cornerback and a defensive tackle.
One of the interceptions led to a Kansas City touchdown on the subsequent play. The loss was sealed when Rivers threw short trying to pass to Austin Ekeler in the end zone in the final 25 seconds. Free safety Daniel Sorensen easily grabbed the underthrow, leaving Rivers face down on the turf as his teammates trudged off the field and the Chiefs celebrated.
Rivers’ second interception came when Mathieu read the situation perfectly and cut in front of Keenan Allen just as the ball was arriving. Mathieu’s 35-yard return set up Kansas City’s first touchdown.
“‘Honey Badger’ did a good job of reading his eyes and picking him off in the middle of the field,” Lynn said. “Give Kansas City some credit. They forced some of those plays.”
Lynn particularly referenced defensive end Frank Clark, who continually pressured Rivers, often at the expense of Chargers rookie left tackle Trey Pipkins. Clark finished with five tackles, a sack, two other quarterback hits, a pass knocked down and a forced fumble. His hit on Rivers led to one interception as the ball fell right to teammate Derrick Nnadi.
“Kansas City forced some of that,” Lynn said. “We’ve just got to do a better job making decisions with the football, period.”
Rivers’ recent struggles also include a failed final drive in Oakland when he threw eight consecutive incompletions — one of which was wiped out by a defensive penalty — to kill the Chargers’ last hope.
In that sequence, and again Monday night, Rivers was victimized by throwing deep instead of taking safer, shorter routes that appeared to be open.
“If he feels like someone drops coverage and he has a chance to go deep, that’s where the ball may go,” Lynn said. “But, for the most part overall, he’s been pretty intelligent with where he’s going with the football.”
James nearing return?
All-Pro safety Derwin James appears to be close to returning and could rejoin the Chargers in practice after the week off.
Lynn said James will continue to rehabilitate at the team’s Costa Mesa facility while most teammates receive a break. He has been on injured reserve all season because of a stress fracture in his right foot that required surgery in August.
Despite the Chargers’ record and third-place standing in the AFC West, Lynn said James won’t remain sidelined just to further protect a player who emerged as a rookie in 2018.
“Why would we do that?” Lynn said. “If we’ve got a healthy player as good as D.J., if he can play, he’s going to play. But we’re definitely not going to put him out there until he’s ready.
“We’re not tanking, guys. We’re 4-7. Last time I checked, we got five games left. We still have a chance to have a winning record here and maybe get some help. Who knows?”