INDIANAPOLIS – Philip Rivers has been here before.
He’s been in bounce-back mode during his 17-year NFL career. He’s walked into the locker room following a loss without the same bounce in his step that might have been there the week before.
He’s been conscious how those around him perceived him. Is the previous game’s failure lingering? Or has the unquestioned leader of the organization put yesterday behind him, learned from whatever happened and moved on?
There were times Rivers was concerned with the optics and the body language he portrayed immediately after a loss.
“Early on, it was a little more of a feeling like you had to act a certain way around the building a little bit,’’ he said Wednesday on a Zoom conference call.
It had to be obvious the loss – and the part he played in it – gnawed at him.
“Making sure they knew that I was disappointed,’’ Rivers said. “Making sure they knew that I knew that those were dumb plays. Making sure they knew that I care, all those things that you feel like you need to make sure that they guys know.
“I haven’t been around this group for a long time, but hopefully over 16 years worth of experience, surely that’s well established.’’
Yes, Philip Rivers was bummed Sunday evening. The Indianapolis Colts dropped a 32-23 decision at Cleveland, and their QB1 was culpable. He suffered two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and a safety when he was penalized for intentional grounding while throwing to no one in particular out of his end zone.
Rivers reiterated the pick-6 “was terrible’’ and wishes he would have done something different to avoid the safety. Maybe step up in a collapsing pocket, be less conspicuous when throwing the ball away, perhaps dump it at the feet of running back Jonathan Taylor.
“Those are critical mistakes,’’ Rivers said. “I missed Jack (Doyle) on a corner route that I would argue I’d probably hit 95 out of 100. Couple of other throws here and there that are going to happen in every game.
“When you lose they get a little more magnified, and I’m okay with that and understand that and acknowledge that. I’ll be better this week. Bounce back and go.’’
That’s the required mindset after every loss, regardless of position. But it’s especially true for Rivers and his ilk.
There are going to be days like Sunday in Cleveland, and that’s not giving Rivers a pass. It’s reality.
Rivers ranks 6th in NFL history with 401 touchdowns, but is tied for 27th all-time with 203 interceptions.
He was the catalyst as the Chargers reached the playoffs in six of his 14 seasons as a starter, but also under center as three teams lost at least 11 games.
He has won 126 games as a starting quarterback, eighth-most in NFL history. But he’s also lost 104, 12th-most.
More to the point, it still gnaws at Rivers that he was part of a miserable day in Cleveland. But it’s imperative not to allow the previous loss to linger and impact the next game. That would be Sunday’s meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Shoot, it’s hard when you lose,’’ Rivers said. “Nobody feels like we did last Wednesday. From an approach standpoint, I don’t so much worry about that. You care most about what the guys in this building think, but you don’t feel like you have to sell that to them to make sure that they know how you feel and how responsible and aggravated you are that you didn’t play very well.
“Less of that and more of, ‘Shoot, let’s go.’ Acknowledge the fact that individually I didn’t play very well and as a team we didn’t play very well, so what are we going to do about it? Mope around and get beat on Sunday or go out and play the way we know how?’’
Frank Reich has emphasized to the players the importance of “not riding the wave of results.’’
“We talk to every player at every position,’’ he said. “There’s a discipline to putting a last game behind you whether you played lights-out or whether you didn’t play lights-out.
“If you want to be great in this league – and obviously Philip’s done it for a long time – that’s what you do. You block that out and you reset whether it was good or bad or in the middle.’’
Whereas Rivers might have taken a loss home with him during the early portion of his career, his burgeoning family – wife Tiffany and nine children – has kept him grounded. That was especially true his last three seasons with the Chargers after the team relocated to Los Angeles and played their home games at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
Rivers and his family maintained their residence in San Diego, and the long ride home added perspective, which was important after a loss.
“I’ve always been very thankful that having my family at home – my wife and children at home – has always helped that,’’ he said. “Even last year, through one of the worst – living so far away from the facility and having the season we had last season – that was kind of the saving grace for the whole deal.’’
The Chargers finished 5-11, and the hour-and-a-half car ride home after a loss usually started with uncomfortable silence.
“But there were some great teaching moments to say, ‘Shoot, guys, we can still talk about have a good time and pull in here and get takeout somewhere. We’re not going to just mope around because dad lost a game,’’’ Rivers said. “I’m not that tough to be around. I may be a little down, but they certainly kept it all in perspective and keep your spirits up.’’
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo returned to practice Wednesday after missing the Browns game with a rib injury.
Among players not practicing were All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (groin), defensive end Justin Houston (hip), tight end Mo Alie-Cox (knee), defensive lineman Denico Autry (ankle/knee), safety Julian Blackmon (groin) and tight end Trey Burton (rest).
Castonzo was a limited participant as was running back Jordan Wilkins (calf).
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.