SAN DIEGO — Philip Rivers was jogging to the locker room and usually that’s not a big deal.
The Chargers are hoping just that.
In his last series of the first half, Rivers smacked his right hand on Seattle’s Kevin Pierre-Louis when following through on a pass. That could be an oh-no for the Chargers as they lost to the Seahawks, 16-15, on a steamy Saturday night.
Rivers stayed in the game after absorbing the hit, but his next offering was high and off target. Soon after, he was huddling with trainer James Collins and they exited the field as the final minute ticked down.
If we’re Rivers, we might just be ticked off.
The Chargers’ grand experiment regarding their offensive line do-over is unsettling. The most important Charger — OK, Dean Spanos we hate to say, is probably that – was knocked around like a bowling pin.
In 19 pass attempts, Rivers was smacked four times and sacked twice. Plus when brought down by defensive end Frank Clark it came with an extended stay on Rivers’ chest.
Left tackle King Dunlap came to the rescue, shedding Clark from Rivers like he was picking a puppy off a bone. Dunlap drew a flag, but the admiration of Rivers.
We love what Rivers did with Stevie Johnson. The fresh face caught four passes for 63 yards and doesn’t look as ordinary as his last name.
We dig rookie Melvin Gordon, although often his best moves just got him back to the line of scrimmage. The man from the Speed Stick commercials displayed a couple of gears, and this is going to be fun.
Although his 2.4-yard average on 14 carries won’t prevent Chargers coaches from sweating over their suspect running game.
But all this comes with an if, as we circle back to the offensive line. The Chargers didn’t really just throw five names in the air, and where they landed, that’s where the big uglies lined up. And to be fair, left guard Orlando Franklin didn’t play. But this was more Cinco de Stinko than the Fab Five.
“I think it’s harder than a quarterback and a receiver getting on the same page,” Rivers said. “Getting five offensive linemen on the same page, that are new playing together, I think it’s hard. But I think they have done a good job.”
Still, the right side of tackle Joe Barksdale and guard D.J. Fluker showed much room for improvement.
Center Chris Watt, who was a guard at Notre Dame, is wrestling with a learning curve.
Left guard Chris Hairston replaced Franklin, and what we say to that is get well in a hurry, Big O.
The massive Dunlap remains the San Diego Monument, a big man with a big attitude. But please know he’s the only lineman at the same spot from last year’s opening day. Speaking of which, Sept. 15 is getting here way too fast.
The Detroit Lions will roll in to play for keeps and let’s hope they don’t roll over Rivers.
Rivers didn’t see the field in the second half. And if his $84 million throwing hand was hurt, he did a good job of hiding it.
He roamed the sidelines with that aw-shucks demeanor we appreciate. He yucked it up with Johnson. He was having fun with LaDarius Green; earlier Rivers aired Green out when he whiffed on a pass protection.
So it appears Rivers dodged a bullet as X-rays on his hand were negative. But that doesn’t compromised the concern every Chargers follower should posses.
Maybe this line gels quickly and what other options does it have? The final preseason game is Thursday and it’s doubtful it sees extended action against the 49ers.
Rivers, we would bet, won’t see the field in Santa Clara. And if the blocking remains inconsistent, it’s clear the Chargers won’t return to Levi Stadium for Super Bowl 50.
When given time, Rivers’ passes had plenty of zip.
But that happens only if the offensive line button-ups its protection.