Frank Reich defends Philip Rivers despite Colts quarterback's errors in loss

Philip Rivers played his worst game in an Indianapolis Colts jersey during Sunday’s 32-23 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Rivers tossed a costly pick-6, struggled with pressure, took a massive safety on a throwaway in the end zone and threw another interception that essentially squelched any comeback attempt. 

“The interception for a touchdown killed us,” said Rivers said, via the Associated Press. “The other one I’d like back, too. Then obviously, the safety hurt as well. The offense gave them nine points.”

Rivers finished 21-of-33 passing for 243 yards and the two picks for a 60.5 passer rating. It was the first time in Indy he hadn’t thrown a TD pass.

Despite the struggles, coach Frank Reich defended his veteran QB.

“You lose a game like this, and we all share in it,” Reich said. “Everyone shares in it.”

It’s true that no loss is 100 percent on one player. The Colts’ heretofore stifling defense allowed Cleveland to score on its first four possessions to take a double-digit lead. The O-line uncharacteristically gave up pressure. Nyheim Hines fair-caught a punt inside the 5-yard-line setting up the safety that made it a two-score game early in the fourth quarter after Indy fought back into the contest.

“Philip is playing really good football. That is the least of my worries,” Reich said in defending his QB. “Philip is playing good football. You are going to have mistakes when you get in situations like that. I know we would want the interception back, but the safety, is on me.

“You take that away and you get that one mistake, in my mind, that was the big factor. That mistake was not the big factor, the safety, but the one big mistake with Philip was the interception. That is it.”

No one expects Reich to blast his QB. Not after the veteran was imported specifically to upgrade the position. Sunday’s game, however, underscored the limitations of the 38-year-old.

Through the first four weeks, Rivers mostly played the good point guard, distributing the ball where it needed to go and moving the ball between the 20s. The lack of big plays and the red zone struggles, however, underscored that the 17-year-pro doesn’t have the liveliest arm.

Rivers showed Sunday that, like his past few seasons in L.A., when he’s pressured, prayer heaves turn into INTs. Per Next Gen Stats, Rivers was pressured on 10 of 34 dropbacks (29.4 percent). In Weeks 1-4, he was pressured on only 18.5 percent of dropbacks (6th-lowest in NFL). Against better pass rushes, the Colts will need to build a wall around Rivers or we’re likely to see similar results to Sunday.

We saw the positives in the first four weeks to having an aging veteran who can get into the right play and manage an offense while leaning on a stout D. In Week 5, the negative showed up, and it cost the Colts.

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