The Chargers’ 24-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders Thursday night was alarming from several standpoints. Since the Raiders demonstrated decisive speed on the perimeter and superior muscle on the interior, it’s reasonable to conclude that the balance of power has shifted within the AFC West, and that the Bolts may be looking at a major overhaul before they can regain divisional preeminence.
Yet the more ominous development is that Philip Rivers no longer can be expected to provide deliverance because he’s too busy trying to dodge big men determined to bruise him. Thursday’s casualties on the Chargers’ offensive line cost Rivers his blindside blocker, left tackle Marcus McNeill (stinger), and right guard Louis Vasquez (ankle). With left guard Kris Dielman still sidelined by a concussion, the Chargers’ protective pocket has now achieved critical mess.
Consequently, Rivers is now part passer, part piñata. He was sacked six times Thursday night, including both of the game’s last two plays, and absorbed enough collateral damage to drop a rhinoceros. That he kept climbing back to his feet was a tribute to his toughness. That he failed to complete half of his passes for the first time since Dec. 4, 2008 was largely attributable to his haste.