By Nick Shook
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Late in the fourth quarter Sunday, the Chargers found themselves embroiled in yet another heart-stopping affair. And as quickly as they had the win in their sights, it was sprinting away from them, in the form of a linebacker wearing a white and aqua No. 47.
It’s become par for the course for San Diego in 2016. But this one was especially painful for Philip Rivers, who, on the day he joined the 300-touchdown club, was directly responsible for the defeat.
“I hate it for the guys in there,” Rivers said afterward, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We had plenty of opportunities. I know they count on me to make those. I do as well. Just didn’t get it done today.”
Rivers tossed four interceptions in the final quarter, finishing just his second four-pick game in his career. He bookended a touchdown pass with two interceptions on each end, as the Chargers found a new way to lose in the waning moments.
Rivers was pressured often by Miami’s pass rush, being forced to escape a collapsing pocket and take risks with the game hanging in the balance. He tried his best to save it for San Diego, and in turn, lost it. But Rivers wouldn’t blame the crumbling protection for his mistakes.
“That’s just part of it,” he said. “I just didn’t play good…I don’t know any other way to describe it. There wasn’t one of those I was trying to do too much today. It was just I got fooled twice and threw a bad ball.”
It was obvious in Kiko Alonso‘s interception, which he returned for the game-winning touchdown. But in the two interceptions prior, Rivers and Co. came up maddeningly short when the chance to take and then extend the lead evaporated.
There was the unexplainable — let’s not overlook how San Diego shunned Melvin Gordon inside the 5-yard line — when Rivers lofted a pass to Tyrrell Williams, stuck in double coverage in the end zone, resulting in Tony Lippett‘s first interception of the fourth quarter (yes, there’s more). Lippett’s pick bailed out return man Jakeem Grant, who had muffed a punt deep in Miami territory to set up the Chargers with what looked like a golden opportunity to take the lead.
Rivers later sailed a pass wide right of tight end Antonio Gates for his second interception of the quarter, picked off by Byron Maxwell at Miami’s 15 and stopping another possession short of the end zone. It all seemed OK, though, when Rivers found Williams on a 51-yard touchdown strike to take a 24-21 lead with 4:04 left to play. Then came Alonso, slipping out of coverage and into Rivers’ passing window to stop the Chargers‘ next drive in its tracks.
The fourth interception, Lippett’s second, was a desperate situation that we’ll chalk up to Rivers, without any timeouts, being forced to play the sidelines. But it was a withering finish to a nightmarish final quarter. Rivers has made his career on taking risks — most good quarterbacks do. It just didn’t pan out for him Sunday.