Has Rivers lost his flow?

Philip Rivers never anticipated a season like this. Success came easily for him as a first-year starter when he rattled off 14 wins, 3,388 yards and 22 touchdowns. Now, he is struggling in an offense loaded with explosive talent and his cliché excuses are falling on deaf ears.

Philip Rivers turned the ball over more times through eight games (eight interceptions, four lost fumbles) than he did all of last season. His passer rating has dropped more than nine points and his fourth-quarter passer rating has plummeted an astonishing 55.8 points (113.2 to 57.4).

With Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger reaping the fruits of their experience, Rivers appears to be regressing. However, he insists he is a better quarterback than he was a year ago.

"Whether statistically it shows, I don't know or care," Rivers said. "Again, there's that fine line between making the few plays throughout the course of some of these losses to win, and then not making them.

"If you make a couple of those throws or a couple of those plays, we're sitting here, 5-3, 6-2, 7-1, whatever we would have been, and then the spin of the critique on individual players is totally different."

As the Chargers begin to study tape of Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, it is hard not to wonder if Rivers will ever develop into that type of franchise quarterback. After all, he continues to fail despite having every chance to succeed.

Rivers is protected by a Pro Bowl left tackle in Marcus McNeill. He has a pair of Pro Bowlers to carry the running game (LaDainian Tomlinson and Lorenzo Neal) and two more to catch the ball (Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers). His head coach, Norv Turner, is a recognized offensive guru with a knack for developing young quarterbacks.

If Rivers cannot thrive in this environment, it is fair to question if he ever will.

Compounding matters is that Rivers has failed to outplay the man he replaced, Drew Brees. Last season, Brees took over a 3-13 New Orleans Saints team and led them further in the playoffs than Rivers took a loaded Chargers team. Brees threw for more yards (4,418) and more touchdowns (26) than Rivers while compiling a better passer rating (96.2).

Last week, while Rivers took at least three scores off the board by missing wide open receivers, Brees was throwing for 445 yards and three touchdowns against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that is notably better against the pass than the Minnesota Vikings.

In fact, it was Rivers' inaccuracy that allowed Adrian Peterson to have such a big day. If Rivers would have executed the offense, the Chargers would have gone into the half with at least a two-score lead and forced the Vikings to abandon the running game.

"They were going to run it and keep running it," Rivers said. "When you keep giving them opportunities, they can keep running it when the score is 14-7, 21-17. If we took it to 21-7 ourselves, it could have changed the whole flow of the game."

Rivers missed every opportunity to change the flow. Now, he has his team heading downstream in a hurry.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.

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