INDIANAPOLIS — Philip Rivers isn’t one of those guys who tries to block out the noise completely.
He can handle it. Rivers likes to know what people are saying, what people are thinking about the way he and the team are playing, and, for the most part, he’s able to take it in stride.
There was a lot of criticism last year.
Picked as potential playoff contenders after going 12-4 in 2018, the Chargers instead stumbled to 5-11 as Rivers faltered, throwing just 23 touchdowns against 20 interceptions, third-most in the NFL. Rivers turned 38 in December, and for the first time in a long time, some of the talk he was hearing started to bother him.
“At times, I think what may have aggravated me a little bit last year was (the thought) that I just couldn’t play anymore,” Rivers said. “When you heard that, it bothered me, because I wanted to go, ‘Shoot, let’s turn on the tape and watch all the good things.’”
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The Colts did watch the tape.
And they came to the same conclusion as Rivers.
Colts coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady — along with general manager Chris Ballard — watched every throw Rivers made over the last two seasons.
If anybody would be able to tell if Rivers’ ability was draining, it would be Reich and Sirianni. Especially Sirianni, who spent five seasons in southern California with Rivers.
“It’s been two years since I’ve been there and when I’m watching his tape, I didn’t see any drop off in play,” Sirianni said. “You could argue that 2018 might have been his best season that he’s had.”
Rivers completed 68.3% of his passes, averaged 8.5 yards per attempt, tossed 32 touchdowns and only threw 12 interceptions in 2018.
But the Colts didn’t put all of their emphasis on 2018 and ignore what happened in ’19. With his team collapsing around him, Rivers did what he’s always done.
Tried to bring the Chargers back.
“We went back and watched every single interception,” Brady said. “A lot of those came in desperate situations. … He was pushing the ball downfield, forcing some throws, because he had to. Are there some throws in there he probably shouldn’t have made? Yes.”
Knows better than anybody. Rivers, who has had sporadic issues with turnovers throughout his career — he’s led the league in interceptions twice and thrown 20 picks in a season three times — has said since he agreed to a one-year, $25 million deal in Indianapolis that he didn’t make the best decisions in 2019, even when the Chargers weren’t playing from behind.
“Yes, there were some bad plays last year,” Rivers said. “There were certainly throws I want back, and certainly some very costly mistakes. I own up to all of those.”
The idea that Rivers has no good football left in him, though, that’s the part he’s not buying.
Rivers knows he made some mistakes.
He also knows the highlights.
“Shoot, I had some throws last year that were probably as good as I’ve had in my whole career,” Rivers said. “I didn’t feel like I had to sell that to anyone. At the same time, it did aggravate (me) a little bit.”
There was one throw in particular that caught the Colts’ attention, a perfectly-placed bomb to Mike Williams in a win over Jacksonville. Rivers couldn’t take a full step on the throw; he was a few yards on the wrong side of the 50-yard line.
He lofted it perfectly, hitting Williams in stride in good coverage for a touchdown.
Rivers feels like he still has throws like that one left in him. Though he downplayed the idea that he came back solely to chase a long-elusive Super Bowl or to prove a point to critics, he wouldn’t have signed in Indianapolis if he didn’t think he could get closer to his 2018 form.
“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove,” Rivers said. “But I am excited, though, to go have a better season, go play better, help this team win a bunch of games.”
If he does, there won’t be much to aggravate the new Colts quarterback.