INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Philip Rivers has heard and seen nearly everything during his 17-year NFL career.
So the Indianapolis Colts quarterback knows how to deal with poor performances and those who question his play, perhaps even his future, after one of those games.
His response is simple: follow the routine, focus on the next challenge and fix the mistakes.
“You certainly don’t want to ever get used to or comfortable handling it because you hope you don’t have it happen too often,” Rivers said Wednesday. “But when you’ve played this long, you’ve obviously had to handle it quite a bit. You have to act the same way if you throw for 350, not turned it over and won the game. You’re the same guy whether you play really good or really bad.”
Last weekend, Rivers struggled.
While completing 21 of 33 passes for 243 yards, Rivers threw two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown, and ended up with a safety when he was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. His passer rating of 60.5 was the worst since he signed with Indianapolis (3-2) in March.
But the worst part was he gave nine points away in a 32-23 loss at Cleveland.
Questions about his arm strength and decision making understandably came up immediately. Some critics openly questioned whether a not-so-nimble 38-year-old quarterback was holding back the Colts. Ohers wondered if they Colts might hand over the reins to Jacoby Brissett, last year’s starter.
“No, no consideration for that,” coach Frank Reich said Monday. “Philip is our quarterback.”
Meanwhile, Rivers went back to work disappointed but unfazed as he accepted responsibility for the mistakes, including the safety, which turned a one-possession game into a two-possession game.
Of course, the loss wasn’t all Rivers’ fault.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo missed the game because of a rib injury, and Rivers spent much of the second half under duress from the Browns’ defense as the Colts tried to rally from a 10-point halftime deficit. The consistent pressure led to three poor passes from Rivers — both interceptions and the throwaway from the pocket.
“ The first one for the touchdown was obviously terrible, and then having the ball down seven with a chance and to have the safety obviously hurt,” Rivers said. “I wish I had maybe moved up a little harder right in the pocket; had I not been in the end zone, I probably would have. A little more air, a little more further down the field or throwing at Jonathan Taylor’s feet, all those things you wished you had back. I’ll be better this week.”
Castonzo’s status remains unclear for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati (1-3-1) after he did limited work in Wednesday’s practice. Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard missed practice again after sitting out with an injured groin last Sunday. Reich said both will continue to be evaluated this week.
Injuries have taken a toll on an offense which is ranked among the league’s bottom half in total yards (349.8), yards rushing (105.8), yards passing (244.0), points (25.2) and is 31st in yards per carry (3.55). In 2019, the Colts had the No. 7 ground game.
Running back Marlon Mack went down with a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in the first half of the opener, derailing Reich’s intention of using Mack and Taylor in tandem.
Starting receiver Parris Campbell injured his right knee on the second play in Week 2 and still isn’t back.
Then the Colts lost their top draft pick, receiver Michael Pittman Jr., in Week 3 with a right calf injury. Pittman finished the game but was later diagnosed with compartment leg syndrome, a condition that requires surgery to alleviate pressure which builds up on arteries, veins or nerves. He hasn’t made it back yet, either.
In addition, Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle missed one game with knee and ankle injuries, and No. 2 tight end Trey Burton missed the first three games with a calf injury.
While the absences have hurt, the Colts insist it’s not an excuse.
“We all need to get better,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. “We know Philip is going to want a couple of those throws back, but it’s all of us together that have to get better for the product to be what we want it to be.”
And Rivers knows it starts with him.
“I think the best thing I can do is be myself all week.” he said. “So acknowledge the fact that individually I didn’t play very well and as a team we didn’t play very well. But what are you going to do about it? Mope around and get beat on Sunday or go out and play the way we know how.”
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