Sunday, November 13, 2011

What's wrong with Rivers and the Chargers? Nothing

While every broadcaster under the sun gushes over Aaron Rodgers and how he might be the greatest quarterback the universe has ever seen - despite the fact that players like Joe Montana, John Elway and Johnny Unitas dominated the game in the same way and during an era when the QB was less protected - Phillip Rivers and his Chargers deserve some credit.

Rivers has been under the microscope for weeks now, mostly because his San Diego Chargers are on a four-game skid, and Rivers is turning the ball over more than usual. But football people on TV also have a tendency to be melodramatic when it comes to mid-season player assessment, and as we all know, if there's one position that receives unwarranted scrutiny, its the man playing behind center. 

Rivers is the latest scapegoat story in the NFL, especially for a football team that has raised a few doubts about its consistency and ability to perform under pressure. You see, if the Chargers fall short of matching it with the likes of the Green Bay Packers - who won the last Super Bowl by the way - then Rivers is clearly slipping. At least that's the conventional thinking on such matters. The stats that seem to sway most critics in these instances are the dubious "passer rating", and of course, the touchdowns to interceptions ratio. For those keeping score, Rivers posted four TDs against the Pack, along with three interceptions. His passer rating was 85.9. Against the Raiders it dropped to 72.5 - but he was sacked and hurried more than I can recall.

Despite the numbers, Rivers has played well. He took command in a tough contest against Green Bay and marched his group up and down the field with aplomb. Yes, San Diego was defeated, but they went down swinging. Some of Rivers throws in that game, in fact, were superbly swung deep balls - well designed and perfectly placed. Just ask Vincent Jackson. For the statistically-minded, Rivers was 26 of 46 and amassed 385 yards in the air, while Rodgers notched 247. He generated 28 first downs to Green Bay's 21. And his team lost by just one touchdown. Is there really cause for concern here?

If you want to pick at the Raiders game, don't. He played pretty well in that one too, despite a few miscues and an oddly confused home crowd. And his ability to bring the Chargers back into games is uncanny.

The bottom line is that Rivers is a warrior. He plays hard and his team responds to his energy and leadership. He clearly loves to compete, and obviously win. Hey, sometimes the games don't go your way, and that's all there is to San Diego's current funk. They're still in the AFC West and suitably placed to seize control of it. And while we can talk about "pick-sixes" and turnovers and broken plays, the Chargers have the talent and the fortitude to bounce back. Their defense is strong and the offense can tally points faster than a Charger Girl high kick. Again, for the statistically-minded, that's fast.

And while Mike Tolbert isn't fast, he's like a Mack truck with Ferrari power steering. If the Chargers keep feeding him and Ryan Matthews the ball, it'll only open up their potent passing game and generate more success. 

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