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Chargers

Philip Rivers admits ‘uncertainty’ over his future after Chargers’ loss to Vikings

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) strips the ball from Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter strips the ball from quarterback Philip Rivers during the Chargers’ loss Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers guaranteed they’d fight Sunday despite the circumstances, promised they wouldn’t give away anything to Minnesota.

To be fair, they never actually mentioned the football by name.

Seven turnovers doomed them in a 39-10 loss that unraveled in a quick and ugly manner immediately after they appeared poised to take the lead just before halftime.

The final score marked the most lopsided loss in Anthony Lynn’s three seasons as coach and the franchise’s worst since a 33-3 defeat to Kansas City at Qualcomm Stadium in November 2015.

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“I haven’t seen that team all year,” Lynn said. “We’ve gotten beat. We’ve never gotten beat like that. That was my problem today. That’s my frustration right now. I haven’t seen that team in three years since I’ve been here.”

This was the Chargers’ first game since being mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. In the previous week, the theme in the locker room had been one of continued commitment, effort and focus.
Yet, their sloppiness on offense helped gift the Vikings five possessions that began on the Chargers’ side of midfield. Minnesota scored 20 points off the turnovers.

Key defensive score before half helps Vikings go on to rout the Chargers, move closer to playoff spot and practically eliminate the Rams from contention.

“Lack of focus,” running back Melvin Gordon said. “You’re itching to make a play, make something happen. You worry so much about trying to make something happen you lose focus on the ball.”

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Gordon lost two fumbles, continuing what has been a flustering season for him, beginning with an ill-fated contract holdout that cost him four games and netted him nothing. Tight end Hunter Henry fumbled once.
The other four turnovers — three interceptions and a fumble — belonged to Philip Rivers, the veteran quarterback experiencing another day when he was loose with the ball.

He now has been intercepted 18 times — 11 of them coming in the last five games — and lost three fumbles. His single-season career high for interceptions is 21, set in 2016.

Lynn, however, said he never considered pulling Rivers in favor of backup Tyrod Taylor.

“I didn’t think the quarterback was the reason why we were turning the football over,” he said. “The seven turnovers, that wasn’t on him.”

Given that he is unsigned after this season, Rivers acknowledged he could looking at his final weeks as a Charger, though both sides remain interested in extending their relationship at least through 2020.

Still, having turned 38 this month and in his 16th season, Rivers did entertain a question afterward about potentially being down to two games with a lightning bolt on his helmet.

“I mean, they could be,” he answered. “I don’t necessarily expect that it is or I don’t necessarily think it’s a crazy thought that it will be. I think you just don’t know.”

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Later, Rivers added: “It’s not solely going to be my decision. That’s where I think that uncertainty lies. We will just kind of have to see. … I think with that uncertainty it does add some emotion.”

Before things went sour for them, the Chargers led 10-9 after Rivers hooked up with wide receiver Mike Williams on a two-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter.

Minnesota came back to take the lead 12-10 on a 44-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

That’s when the Chargers managed to reestablish some momentum before the afternoon blew up in their faces. They moved to the Vikings’ 26-yard line in the final 30 seconds of the first half, looking to erase their two-point deficit with at least a field goal.

But on second and two, Rivers fumbled when he was sacked by defensive end Danielle Hunter. Austin Ekeler was first to the bounding ball, but he too failed to secure it. Minnesota defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo eventually picked up the fumble and ran 56 yards for a touchdown.

The Chargers went from possibly moving ahead to trailing 19-10. The situation was made worse when left tackle Russell Okung suffered a groin injury on the play and did not return.

Then, on the first play after the Chargers received the second-half kickoff, Gordon fumbled, leading to a Vikings field goal. The rout was in motion.

“That kind of killed momentum a lot,” Gordon said of Rivers’ late second-quarter turnover. “As bad as that was, we were still in the game. Then we come out and I fumble on the first play. … It was just downhill after that. Turnover, turnover, turnover, turnover.”

Tom Brady throws a pair of touchdown passes to move within one of the NFL career record in the Patriots’ 34-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
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After that fumble, Gordon was benched for the remainder of the third quarter. He eventually returned but finished with only seven carries for 28 yards as the Chargers were limited to 62 yards on the ground in 19 attempts.

Lynn afterward explained that he gave Gordon “a break,” before adding, “Yes, I was bothered by the fumbles.”

The final margin represented a glaring departure from the Chargers’ recent history of tight defeats. They hadn’t lost by more than one score since being eliminated from the playoffs 41-28 by New England in January.

In the end Sunday, the Chargers (5-9) and Vikings (10-4) were separated statistically by one first down, one yard of offense, one offensive play and one third-down conversion. But the Chargers’ seven turnovers more than made up for all of that.

Way more.

Their lone takeaway was a second-quarter interception by edge rusher Melvin Ingram on a screen pass.

“It was just something I saw,” Ingram said later. “I wish I could have gotten 10 of them so we could have won.”


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