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Appreciate Philip Rivers now before it's too late

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Philip Rivers' incredible season is being buried on a patchwork team within a dysfunctional organization. Appreciate him before it's too late.

Philip Rivers is a lunatic on the sideline. Perhaps no player in the league is worse at hiding his emotions. Certainly no quarterback has his range. There's angry clapping Philip Rivers, Rivers so happy he does a Riverdance, Rivers as a grumpy teen and Rivers so overcome by the frustration of another loss that it takes everything for him not to cry.

Rivers won't cry

That's from the Chargers' game against the Bears on Monday night. Rivers did yeoman's work with 280 yards and a touchdown despite the fact that everything around him was crumbling. He lost wide receiver Malcom Floyd on the night, who was acting as his No. 1 target after Keenan Allen lacerated his kidney. His offensive line had three starters who weren't in the Week 1 lineup. The secondary suffered more injuries and couldn't contain Alshon Jeffery, foisting even more burden on the quarterback.

The Chargers lost, 22-19, giving them their seventh loss of the season and sixth within a one-score margin. Imagine the disappointment you feel when your best effort goes squandered. Now imagine that feeling seven times over. Rivers has thrown for 2,272 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions in the Chargers' losses this season. His passer rating over those games would still put him among the league's top 10 quarterbacks.

Rivers is having a season for the ages. At one point he was on pace to break the NFL's single season record for passing yards. After Monday, he is projected to fall short, but not by much. Peyton Manning threw for 5,477 yards in 2013, just surpassing Drew Brees' 5,476 yards in 2011. Rivers will throw for 5,392 if his current averages hold.

He's done it on a team that can't stay healthy, focused, or both. Allen had been alongside Rivers for the ride. Before landing on injured reserve his 67 receptions were second in the league and his 725 yards were third. Floyd stepped up with 92 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens when Allen went down, then promptly injured his shoulder before he could catch another pass. The Chargers had just three wideouts dressed at the end of the Bears game -- Stevie Johnson, Dontrelle Inman and Javontee Herndon. Inman lost a fumble in the first half Monday night. He dropped a pass on the next possession and Herndon committed offensive pass interference -- plays that eventually led to the Chargers settling for a field goal.

The Chargers' offensive line hasn't stayed intact long enough to give Rivers any time to throw, much less the running game much room to work. The defense spent all game giving up long third down conversions, allowing the Bears to convert 9-of-15 attempts. At one point, SB Nation's Chargers blog wondered if the team had just stopped giving a shit.

The Chargers have always wasted Rivers' best efforts. The team hasn't had double-digit wins since 2009 despite the fact that he is one of the league's all-time great passers. His biggest fault is that he's playing during the league's greatest passing era. Rivers has had MVP-caliber seasons, but they went against record-setting campaigns by Brady and Manning.

He's arguably in the midst of an MVP-caliber season now. Though the "value" of anyone on a 2-7 team seems questionable, just try to imagine where the Chargers would be without him. They rank 26th in total defense and 28th in points allowed per game. They're 30th in rushing at 85.3 yards per game and 28th at 3.6 yards per carry. The fact that San Diego is even almost winning games is remarkable.

Of course, "almost" means nothing in the NFL. Because the Chargers have almost been a good team for so long the team has struggled with attendance at Qualcomm Stadium. At one point Monday night, a chant of "Let's go Bears!" was audible. The Chargers are one of three teams threatening to relocate to Los Angeles after the season, in part because Qualcomm is kind of dumpy and the home crowd doesn't show up like it should. And still, Rivers almost didn't sign a contract extension with the team this offseason until it could ensure it would stay in the city in which he has made his home.

Rivers -- his loyalty, his game -- is the best thing about the Chargers, and has been for a long time. He's almost 34, well past the midpoint of his career. At this rate, he will finish up his career un-lauded, at least not with the Chargers, an organization otherwise in turmoil in every feasible sense of the word.

We can't say how much of this was weighing on Rivers as he closed his eyes and pouted his lips while the Chargers endured another agonizing loss. There's no question he's losing time, however, even if the book isn't closing quite as fast San Diego's may be. At least if the franchise moved he could leave the city his singular legacy. Philip Rivers should be and would be the last one to turn out the lights.

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