Retiring Philip Rivers never bested Tom Brady’s Patriots

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Philip Rivers had a long, productive and relatively successful NFL career that ended Wednesday when he announced his retirement after 17 seasons.

The longtime Charger closed out his career this fall with the Colts, walking away among the all-time leaders in passing yards (63,440; 5th), touchdown passes (421; 5th) and so many other aerial categories.

Rivers was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection who never reached a Super Bowl in his seven trips to the playoffs, including a Wild Card Weekend loss to the Bills with Indy this season.

As much as he accomplished accumulating passing stats in his time in San Diego/L.A. and Indianapolis, Rivers never beat Tom Brady in head-to-head matchups and never was able to get past the Patriots in the postseason in a trio of January battles, most recently following the 2018 season.

Overall Rivers notched a 1-8 record against New England, his only victory coming against the Matt Cassel-led Patriots in the 2008 regular season. Rivers did put up decent regular season numbers against New England in six battles, notching a 90.2 passer rating while throwing for exactly 1,600 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the six games.

Though he went 0-3 against Bill Belichick’s squad in the postseason, Rivers’ playoff battles with the Patriots were still rather notable.

Atop the list was Rivers playing through a torn ACL in the AFC Championship Game following the 2007 season at Gillette Stadium, coming up just short of beating the undefeated Patriots 21-12 in a toughness-defining moment in his career. That gutsy if error-filled performance in cold, windy conditions – Rivers completed just 19 of his 37 passes for 211 yards with no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions for a 46.1 rating – was in stark contrast to his star running back, LaDainian Tomlinson sitting on the bench in oversized winter coat after trying to play through his own sprained MCL.

That game came a year after Rivers’ Chargers suffered bitter disappointment in a postseason loss to the Patriots in San Diego when Troy Brown literally stripped the home team of the ball and the would-be victory following an interception in the waning minutes. With the Chargers holding a 21-13 lead with less than seven minutes to play, Brady’s fourth-and-5 throw from the San Diego 41 was intercepted by free safety Marlon McCree. The play could have sealed the win for the Chargers, but the heady Brown stripped the ball and Reche Caldwell recovered for the visitors who would take advantage of the second life to score 11 points in the final five minutes to pull out the improbable 24-21 win.

Rivers had plenty of highs in his long NFL career, including production that may one day land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But aside from the ACL-be-damned performance in the title game in Foxborough, Rivers didn’t have much to show over the years for his showdowns with Brady, Belichick and the Patriots.