Also, Rivera had Shaun Phillips spending way too much time in coverage, often sliding into the middle of the defense and playing zone. While Phillips has the athleticism to handle this role, his skill-set is best utilized rushing the passer.
That's what Rivera must do a better job of during the final 11 games of the season -- maximizing the unique skill-sets of each of his defenders.
One week later, it looks like Cromartie knew what he was talking about. Rivera played much more man coverage versus the Broncos and Cromartie responded with his best game of the year, finishing with two pass breakups and narrowly missing his first pick of the '09 season.
Rivera's struggles serve as a reminder this is his first season as the full-time coordinator of a 3-4 defense. Most people assumed he could handle the role based on how well the Chargers finished under his guidance last season, surging to win their final four games and steal their third straight AFC West title.
However, the Chargers' defenders may have been reacting to a change in leadership more than a change in the defense. It wasn't until this offseason Rivera implemented his own game plan -- last year, he was working within the frame set up by Ted Cottrell -- and the results have been awful.
The Chargers currently rank No. 23 in total defense; No. 27 against the run (141 yards per game); and No. 29 in sacks (seven).
Injuries have certainly handicapped Rivera, especially the season-ending triceps injury to Jamal Williams, but injuries are a part of the game. Williams is an elite run-stuffer, but the Chargers held the Broncos to 3.3 yards per carry in Williams' absence Monday and still yielded 17 second-half points to Denver.
Up next for the Chargers are divisional games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, teams that rank No. 30 and No. 32 in overall offense, respectively. If Rivera's unit can't deliver winning efforts in both of those outings, it's worth wondering if he's capable of ever directing a championship-caliber 3-4 defense.
What are your thoughts on Rivera's performance? Talk it out in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.