CARSON, Calif. (AP) — The awkwardness of playing three seasons in a temporary home where visiting fans usually outnumbered their own is finally over for Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers.
Now the discomfort comes from whether Rivers will be back with the Chargers next season to see if they can finally create a home-field advantage when they move into their new stadium in Inglewood, California.
Rivers said he wants to continue playing after the Chargers lost their home finale 24-17 to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but acknowledged the uncertainty regarding his future.
“Yes, I do. I want to play football,” Rivers said when asked if he currently plans on playing a 17th season. However, Rivers later added the caveat of “that’s what I feel deep down as I stand right here.”
Rivers, 38, is in the final season of a four-year contract. He has 4,334 yards passing with 21 touchdowns and 18 interceptions this season. Add in the Chargers’ regression following a 12-4 campaign in 2018, the possibility exists the team could move on from the quarterback that has started 223 consecutive games for them.
For his part, Rivers believes he can still compete physically at the level necessary for the Chargers to win and that he still feels up to putting in the work required of a starting quarterback.
“And that doesn’t mean that that’s good enough for someone to want you to keep playing, because you got to maintain that consistency throughout games and do enough to win football games, which we haven’t done and I haven’t done well enough this year,” Rivers said. “But am I capable of it physically and mentally? There’s no question.”
Rivers was solid against the Raiders, going 27 of 39 passing for 279 yards, and he did not turn the football over. He did so despite injuring his right thumb blocking for running back Austin Ekeler in the first quarter, playing the second half with a bandage after having X-rays taken.
But the inconsistency that has plagued Rivers and the offense this season was apparent. The Chargers went three-and-out on their first three possessions. Their first five drives ended in punts.
By the time the offense got on track, scoring on three of their final five possessions, the defense was unable to prevent the Raiders from shortening the game and sitting on their lead.
“Just not very complementary, you know,” Rivers said. “The defense was lights out in the first half, and we stunk it up until that last drive before the half. And then in the third, in the second half, it flipped. You know, we were going pretty good and then the D couldn’t get ‘em stopped. … So it was just an all-around bad performance as a team.”
It didn’t help that the crowd was overwhelming pro-Raiders, something Rivers had grown accustomed to as fans of visiting teams have relished the opportunity to attend games at Dignity Health Sports Park with its intimate capacity of 27,000.
Rivers needed to use a silent cadence to get the ball snapped over the roar of black-clad Raiders fans, something he hopes will change when the Chargers move into SoFi Stadium.
“That didn’t have anything to do with the outcome of the game, but being someone that remembers what it used to be like in home games, it’s pretty bad,” Rivers said. “Again, appreciate the Chargers fans that are out there, but it’s disheartening to say the least. I don’t think all our guys understand that, but the guys that have been here a long time certainly know what it used to be like.”
Some semblance of a welcoming atmosphere could be helpful to the Chargers, who went 2-5 at home this season and 11-11 in their three years here.
And it could also give Chargers fans the chance to give Rivers a proper home sendoff, something he said he wasn’t thinking about coming off the field.
“It’s just a unique deal in the sense that there’s still an unknown,” Rivers said. “I thought it was pretty special what happened in New York last week with Eli (Manning). I even sent him a note to tell him how awesome I thought it was, but I think that situation was different. … And, no, I just don’t think I’m done playing. I think it’s more the disappointment in losing another game and just the way the season’s gone all the way around.”