At age 30 and in reasonably sound health by NFL quarterback standards, Philip Rivers should have four or five more productive seasons ahead _ if not with the San Diego Chargers, then another team.
But during the second half of Monday’s 35-24 loss to visiting Denver, the former N.C. State star for the first time looked old and uncomfortable on a football field.
Rivers always has thrown a lot of interceptions _ 20 last season, four Monday, nine so far this season and 86 during his 102 games as a Charger starter. But there was something about the way Rivers labored through the second half against the Broncos and Peyton Manning, 36, that went beyond turnovers, misreads and an oft-leaky offensive line.
With a 24-0 halftime lead and the hometown audience unusually upbeat, Rivers came across as being overwhelmed and wound up playing the worst game of his career and the team absorbing the most disappointing loss since Norv Turner was hired in 2007.
Now 3-3, the Chargers are 20-18 since winning the American Conference West in 2009.
The season’s not over nor the cause hopeless, of course. Ten other teams are 3-3 and there’s not a team with a winning record in the AFC West. But the fan base was souring on Turner even before Monday’s collapse.
And for the first time, Rivers looked more like a problem than a solution for a franchise suddenly facing the possibility of a fourth straight season out of the playoffs.