November 01, 2011
It was an all-time NFL blunder, the kind that will show up on "SportsCenter" countdowns and career retrospectives for years. With his team preparing to run down the clock and set up a chip-shot, game-winning field goal, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers(notes) mishandled a routine snap on a kneel-down play, fumbled the ball and handed possession to the Kansas City Chiefs, who would go on to win the game in overtime, 23-20.
[Slideshow: Chiefs defeat Chargers on 'MNF']
With 1:04 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Chiefs out of timeouts, all Rivers had to do was take a knee in the center of the field to set up Nick Novak(notes) for a game-winning 32-yard field goal. It wasn't a sure thing; Olindo Mare(notes) missed a game-tying 31-yarder on Sunday in Charlotte, but given that Novak began his season with 13 straight conversions, it seemed like a safe bet. Take a knee, set up the kick, fly back to San Diego with sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
If only. Instead, Rivers mishandled the routine snap he's received thousands of times in his life.
The snap itself was fine. It was Rivers' bottom hand inexplicably curling and punching the ball away as he fell back on his feet. After the game, Norv Turner said Rivers "appeared anxious and came out early."
What a disaster.
After a rough start to the evening, Rivers played nearly perfect football for the final three quarters. At times he evaded the rush like Ben Roethlisberger(notes). On other plays, he looked off multiple covered receivers before firing a bullet to the one open player on the other side of the field. There was a crucial third-and-18 pass on the final drive that Rivers threw flat-footed in the face of a rapidly shrinking pocket and managed to hit the receiver in the numbers. San Diego only had a chance to win because of Philip Rivers. And then he went out and lost it on one snap.
Now, instead of San Diego leading the AFC West by one game over the Raiders and two games over the Chiefs, there's a three-way tie at the top. Philip Rivers knows more than anyone how much it hurts. With time running down in overtime and Kansas City setting up what would be the game-winning kick, ESPN cut to a replay of the quarterback on the sideline. He stood alone and said to nobody in particular, "that was the worst thing ever."
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