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Judgements: Rivers' struggles behind Bolts power outage

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

1. Something is very, very wrong with San Diego's Philip Rivers and the Chargers' passing game. The guy who the past three seasons had 92 touchdown passes, 33 interceptions and passer ratings of 101.8 or better is in a major slump. He has two more interceptions (9) than TDs (7), and his passer rating is an atypical 82.3. Worse, he's making big mistakes at the wrong time, with four interceptions in two road losses to New England and the Jets. "Everyone wants to know what's the matter," he said after Sunday's loss. He was talking about the Chargers, not himself. "We've been worse." Yeah, but Rivers hasn't. You have to believe he'll come around because he's done it before. But if he doesn't? The Chargers are doomed.

2. The Chargers just got shredded for a season-high 162 yards by the league's 31st-ranked rushing offense. If they can't stop Shonn Greene, how do they stop Darren McFadden?

3. I kept hearing the New York Jets talk about how "explosive" and "dangerous" the San Diego offense is, but, I'm sorry, they're wrong. That was last year and the year before that and the year before that. But this season? This season the Chargers haven't scored 30 once.

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4. When does a loss look like a win? When it's a loss suffered by the Miami Dolphins. Congratulations, guys, you're still one of the favorites in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.

5. Now I know why Cleveland president Mike Holmgren wants an offensive coordinator. Only make it this year, Mike.

6. It's not too early to say that Seattle got snookered on the Charlie Whitehurst deal. When the offense you're running can't produce more than 137 yards and a field goal against Cleveland your boss probably has buyer's remorse.

7. Guess that settles who the favorite is in the AFC South. Remember, people, Houston put up 41 points without Andre Johnson.

8. Oakland's Hue Jackson said he's glad Carson Palmer got a chance to play, and, of course, he is. He made the decision to call him off the bench. I just don't know what purpose it serves to have someone who, by his own admission, knows "10 percent of the offense" on any field but the practice field.

9. Scratch the Felix Jones update. It doesn't matter when he returns to the Dallas lineup. He plays second chair to DeMarco Murray now.

10. I was asked recently if there's anyone in the MVP race other than Aaron Rodgers, and, yeah, I can think of someone. It's Peyton Manning. Look where the Colts were with him; now look where they are without. Guess that's why he was a four-time MVP.

11. OK, now let's get serious. I'll tell you who else I'd push for MVP ... Tom Brady. Look at his supporting cast. Now look at the guys around Rodgers. It's not close. People tell me, "Aw, but Brady has Wes Welker." Yeah, the guy was a journeyman before going to New England. Tom Brady made Wes Welker. All I'm saying is that in the truest sense of the award, Brady is more qualified as an MVP. And Rodgers? Make him Offensive Player of the Year.

12. You watch Christian Ponder make plays ... especially outside the pocket ... and my immediate reaction is: What took the Vikings so long to make a change?

13. Somebody please introduce Curtis Painter to a barber or a weed wacker.

14. So Terrell Owens has a workout this week to demonstrate that his knee is OK. Great ... except it's not Owens' physical condition that's the issue. His ... um ... attitude is. I just remember one guy who coached him telling me he considered Owens "the most divisive" guy he'd been around. That would settle it for me. Check, please.

15. Funny, I don't read stories about Kansas City GM Scott Pioli on the verge of firing coach Todd Haley anymore. Winning will do that.


1. Tight end Tony Gonzalez moving into second on the career pass-receiving list. With five catches, he's within 445 of front-runner Jerry Rice, and good luck with that, Tony. "Trust me," he said. "Jerry Rice will never be caught." I trust you.

2. The return of Ground and Pound. The New York Jets didn't have a chance without the semblance of a running game. So Rex Ryan had offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer dial up the attack that took the club to two conference championship games, and, suddenly, New York has its identity back.

3. Cam Newton winning. He's produced big numbers for weeks, but the NFL isn't fantasy football. It's a bottom-line business, and the bottom line is winning. Newton finally produces his second victory, and it's about time. The more he wins, the smarter GM Marty Hurney looks.

4. Chicago's Matt Forte on either side of the Atlantic. It doesn't matter where he plays, he still makes the Bears' biggest plays. Pay him in Euros, pay him in dollars, I don't care. Just pay him.

5. What Dolphins' center Mike Pouncey said about Tim Tebow after Sunday's Miracle in Miami. Granted, Pouncey played with Tebow at the University of Florida, but so what? He was dead on when he talked about what Tebow accomplished. "Hopefully," Pouncey said, "critics will get off what he can't do and talk about things that he can do, and that's figure out a way to win a game, no matter what."


1. Detroit's Matthew Stafford limping off the field with a bad ankle, knee or both. "I can't really tell right now," he said later. Uh-oh. The Lions have been down this road too many times before. Please say the guy's OK. It's more interesting having Detroit up instead of down.

2. What's ahead for Arizona. Bad enough that the Cards are 1-5 and in the midst of a five-game skid. Four of their next five are on the road -- beginning next week in Baltimore -- and the Cards lost their last 10 away from home.

3. Anything about the Colts' defense. They can't tackle, they can't cover, they can't do much of anything, and that has nothing to do with Peyton Manning. That's just a bad football team going nowhere.

4. San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason vs. the Jets' Plaxico Burress. Burress had three touchdown catches, all over Cason. "I just didn't play well in the red zone," Cason told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "In the red area, I was my own worst enemy. As crazy as this sounds, they were simple, simple mistakes." One question: If they were so simple, why didn't he correct them?

5. Miami at home. Talk about a homefield disadvantage. The Dolphins lost 12 of their last 13 there, including Sunday's overtime defeat by Denver. Tony Sparano, you're invited to audition for "Home Alone Three."


1. Anyone on San Diego's defensive line. The Chargers were called for six off-sides penalties. Worse, they were committed by six different players. "It's disappointing," said losing coach Norv Turner. Not it's not. It's unimaginable.

2. Detroit's Cliff Avril and Ndamukong Suh. Did they or did they not taunt Atlanta's Matt Ryan after he was hurt? The Falcons said they did; Ryan said he didn't hear anything. "I lost a whole lot of respect for 90 [Suh] and also 2 [Avril]," wide receiver Roddy White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. If it's true, he should.

3. Seattle defensive end Red Bryant. He blocked two field goals, which was good, but then he head-butted tight end Alex Smith, which was not. In fact, he was ejected for it. "He was talking the whole game," Bryant said. "He was taking cheap shots at me. That's what guys do when they can't block you. He did a great job of getting in my head. I should've been smarter than that." I'll second that.

4. Miami coach Tony Sparano. Instead of kicking an extra point after going up for 12-0 with 14:54 left he gets the bright idea to go for two. Why? Because that's what winless coaches do. So he misses, and you know what happened. If Sparano doesn't go brain-dead Tim Tebow and Denver would've had to produce two two-point conversions. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

5. The Jets' Shonn Greene running out of bounds with 1:51 remaining. San Diego had two timeouts left. The Jets had three plays. Do the math. Greene did not. Instead, he spared the Chargers 40 seconds by not staying in bounds and gave them a shot at a last-minute score.


What happens first, a Green Bay loss or an Indianapolis/St. Louis/Miami win?

How soon before Jake Locker starts in Tennessee?

Has Jimmy Graham become the game's most dangerous tight end?

What in the world must Peyton Manning be thinking?

Is this where the season goes south on Detroit?


2.9 -- Chris Johnson rushing average

3 -- Pittsburgh takeaways, last in the NFL

6 -- Oakland interceptions, three by Kyle Boller, three by Carson Palmer

7 -- Straight contests where Aaron Rodgers has a passer rating of 110 or better

21 -- Penalties in the Chargers-Jets game

21 -- Times teams have come from 10-point deficits to win

27 -- Number of games since Seattle had a 100-yard rusher

69 -- Oakland penalties this season

1973 -- Last time Kansas City scored a road shutout


1. Green Bay

2. New England

3. Baltimore

4. San Francisco

5. New Orleans


32. St. Louis

31. Miami

30. Indianapolis

29. Arizona

28. Jacksonville


New England at Pittsburgh ... Patriots won four of last five, seven of last nine.

Dallas at Philadelphia ... It's DeMarco Murray vs. Eagles' bulletproof bye record under Andy Reid.

San Diego at Kansas City ... Suddenly, Chiefs back in AFC West race.


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