Ugly loss leaves Philip Rivers, Chargers at crossroads

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Quarterback Philip Rivers was a beacon of light for the San Diego Chargers during their surprising, five-game win streak earlier this season. Likewise, his performance in his team’s head-scratching 37-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins was a direct reflection of their miserable effort on Sunday.

Rivers’ 31.0 passer rating is the lowest he’s posted since taking over as the starting quarterback for the Chargers in 2006. The 128 yards passing was Rivers’ lowest output since 2012.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers finished 8-of-16 for 96 yards with three interceptions against four or fewer pass-rushers. Sunday marked the fourth game in the last five years Rivers did not complete more than half of his passes against standard pressure.

“There’s really no excuses,” Rivers said. “I didn’t play good at all, and that’s stating the obvious. I don’t think anybody on our team thinks we played anywhere close to what we’re capable of. That’s what happens when you get beat like we did.”

Rightly sensing this one was over, Chargers coach Mike McCoy waved the white flag, taking Rivers out with two minutes left in the third quarter. But despite how bad Rivers played, San Diego’s abysmal loss should not be placed at the feet of the team’s starting quarterback.

The inability of San Diego’s defense to contain a Ryan Tannehill-led offense that had been inconsistent through seven games was the real culprit for the Chargers, and reason for major concern for this team moving forward.

Once again the Chargers were dominated at the line of scrimmage defensively. San Diego’s defense allowed over 100 rushing yards for a fourth straight week, and failed to finish with a sack for a second straight week.

The Chargers did not force Miami to punt until 3:04 left in the third quarter. The team’s best pass-rusher, Dwight Freeney, hasn’t recorded a sack since September. San Diego’s second-best pass-rusher, Corey Liuget, has just one sack in the last six games.

The Chargers made Tannehill look like Brett Favre. Tannehill finished with 288 yards and three touchdowns passing. He ran for another 47 yards.

“He was back there a long time on some of the pass plays,” Chargers defensive co-captain Eric Weddle said about Tannehill. “We’ve got to cover better, and the D-line has got to get some pressure. You’ve got to win the one-on-one matchups. That’s what it comes down to. If you don’t win them, you’re not going to win.”

McCoy could not provide a good reason for his team’s struggles getting to the passer.

“They’re bringing pressure, the linebacker blitzes and no one gets there,” McCoy said. “There’s a five-man rush -- no one gets there. It’s a number of things. We've got to play better, coach better, and play better.”

At 5-4 heading into the bye week, the Chargers have some time to get things corrected. Having young players such as linebackers Manti Te'o, Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu returning from injury should help.

Still, the Chargers put a lot of pressure on themselves to win on Sunday, in order to go into the bye week with some momentum, and fell woefully short of meeting that goal.

“The main thing we have to do is keep grinding, keep moving forward and stick together,” Chargers linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “This is kind of a pivotal point in our season where you can say, ‘Hey, we got our asses beat today, but we’re still in it. We’ve still got good players. We’ve got a great quarterback. And we can continue to move forward.’

“Or you can make excuses and do the opposite. And I think this group of guys is going to continue to move forward.”

Added Rivers: “We get to come back and play at home in two weeks and we’ll have some time to regroup physically and mentally. We have to get ready to roll. There’s still nothing we can’t accomplish other than being 13-3. That’s the only thing that’s out the window. We still have a lot of football left; we’ve just got to move on.”