Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers comes up short in trying to build legacy

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is now 0-8 in his career against Tom Brady after 41-28 loss Sunday in the AFC Divisional round.

Philip Rivers has built up an impressive resume in his 13 years as starting quarterback of the Los Angeles Chargers. One thing he’s never done, however, is beat Tom Brady.

That didn’t change on Sunday, as the Chargers fell to the New England Patriots 41-28 in their AFC Divisional round matchup in Foxborough. Rivers, hurried and pressure all game by the Patriots defense, finished the game completing less than 50 per cent of his passes while throwing for 331 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Most of his stats were compiled in the second half, as Rivers was held to 121 yards while the Patriots built up a 35-7 lead by halftime.

Rivers is now 0-8 in his career against Brady, including the playoffs (his only win against the Patriots came in 2008 when Brady was injured). Three of those defeats have come in the postseason. In 2006, Rivers’ first as a starter, the Chargers went 14-2 and led the Patriots 21-13 in the fourth quarter of the Divisional round; the Patriots went on to win 24-21. A year later Rivers gamely took the field with a torn-up knee as the Chargers played New England in the AFC Championship. The Patriots won again, this time 21-12.

Eleven years after their last matchup, Rivers was looking forward to exorcising his demons against the Patriots this week and burnishing his legacy.

“It’s tough. I was excited this week. I was excited to come back here,” he said at his post-game press conference. “It was an emotional week a little bit, just being back here in the postseason after being here eleven years ago.”

By almost any measure Rivers is one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. He ranks eighth all-time in passing yards, sixth in touchdowns. But the absence of a Super Bowl title remains a mark against his legacy. This was his 11th playoff start, the most by a quarterback without a Super Bowl appearance.

He may never get a better opportunity to remove that black mark from his record than he had this year. The Chargers went 12-4, tied with Kansas City for the best record in the AFC. They went 9-1 on the road, their only loss coming in a crosstown matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. At 37, Rivers had one of the best years of his career. His 68.3 completion percentage was his best in five years. His 105.5 passer rating tied a career-high.

Still, that means nothing after yet another disappointing playoff run. Rivers knows as much as anybody how hard it is just getting to this point; the Chargers were making their first playoff appearance since 2013. To once again miss a chance at a career-defining title, Rivers admits, will take him a while to get over.

“It is emotional just because I think you know how hard it is to get to Jan. 13 and be in a playoff game. You’re talking about an eight, nine-month deal,” he said. “To come up short again is tough.”

Rivers may not be a Super Bowl champion, but you also can’t call him a quitter. Even facing a big deficit against the Patriots, he continued to rally his team until the final whistle. “We’re going to fight until the end. At least we can say we did that,” he said. “It doesn’t count for much at this point, but in the scheme of things it counts a whole lot.”

That trademark competitiveness may turn out to be his final legacy in the game when his career is done.

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