The rebound of Rivers may have to wait

San Diego Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer has a tough assignment ahead of him. He has a third-year quarterback that is coming off a tough week and can't get him in the finale with his offensive line in flux, can he?

The Chargers head to San Francisco to wrap up their exhibition season Friday, with the initial thought of getting Philip Rivers back on track.

Rivers, their first-year starting quarterback, has struggled with ball security issues after his impressive debut against the Packers.

Rivers fumbled the ball away on his first two plays in Saturday's win over the Seahawks. The previous week, Rivers was baited by Chicago's Brian Urlacher on a first-possession interception that he returned for a touchdown.

In addition, Rivers suffered a slight injury in his throwing shoulder against Seattle; he was sacked twice.

"It's a little ding, a little bruise, it's not an issue at all," Rivers said. "If we would have played four quarters I would have played four quarters."

If so, Rivers was on pace for four turnovers before the game ended. That's something that riles any coach, but especially field-position conscious Marty Schottenheimer.

But Schottenheimer and the Chargers' brass is preaching patience. Really, they don't have any other choice after showing Drew Brees the door and heaping their hopes on Rivers. Behind Rivers is rookie Charlie Whitehurst and undrafted free agent Brett Elliot - after the release of A.J. Feeley.

Rivers' trouble against the Seahawks was entirely of his own doing. He botched a handoff exchange with running back Michael Turner, then Rivers couldn't handle a hike from center Nick Hardwick.

"The first two plays were inexcusable and can't happen," Rivers said. "I don't have an explanation for it.

"I just put the ball on the ground. You would love to at least see a mistake and know what happened -- that blows my mind. Then obviously I can't drop a snap."

Rivers, though, is taking the setbacks in stride.

"Those (things) can't happen, but you are going to face some adversity obviously," said Rivers, who at one point had three turnovers in eight series "You hope it is never that kind of adversity because those two plays are unacceptable."

Rivers directed the offense on 17 plays in three games. Over that span, the Chargers scored four touchdowns and kicked two field goals.

The Chargers are able to handle Rivers' growing pains as they will lean on Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson once the regular season begins. Tomlinson won't have one exhibition-season carry, as the Chargers don't want to risk getting Tomlinson hurt.

That should help Rivers in keeping him upright as well. With defenses having to worry about Tomlinson, they won't be able to tee off with the same intensity on Rivers.

What compounds Rivers' problems is an offensive line that has a huge question at the most critical position: left tackle.

Veteran Roman Oben was placed on the physically unable to perform list after two foot surgeries. Rookie Marcus McNeill, a second-round pick, passed backup Leander Jordan in their competition. Then McNeill broke a finger in practice and is likely out another week. Then, against the Seahawks, Jordan was forced to the sideline with a stinger.

That catapulted backup guard Cory Lekkerkerker into the left tackle spot - hardly a comfortable fit for a team that has so much riding on a young quarterback.

While the idea would be to get Rivers game action so he can taste success, that likely won't happen with the current state of the offensive line and fear of injury to their starting quarterback - a man that is currently backed up by two rookies.

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