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2019 NFL playoffs: A closer look at Tom Brady’s history against Philip Rivers

A closer look at the seven matchups between the two veterans.

AFC Championship: San Diego Chargers v New England Patriots Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

In order for the Chargers to win this weekend, Philip Rivers is going to have to do something he’s never been able to do in his career: beat Tom Brady. The games between the Patriots and Rivers’ Chargers have typically been close ones, though. Out of the seven matchups between the two quarterbacks, four have been decided by ten points or less, with the biggest win coming in 2007, when the Patriots won by 24.

Rivers has actually beaten the Patriots in his career, but he did it in 2008, when Matt Cassel was starting for the Patriots. And Brady has actually lost to the Chargers twice, but for both of those games, Drew Brees was the starting QB. The first, in 2002, was a 21-14 win by the Chargers where LaDainian Tomlinson had over 200 yards rushing. The second was a 41-17 drubbing in 2005, when Rivers was the backup. In that game, Brees threw touchdown passes to Keenan McCardell and Reche Caldwell.

Overall, Rivers is 1-7 against the Patriots, and Brady is 8-2 against the Chargers, winning his last seven — including playoff games in back-to-back seasons, in 2006 and 2007. So Rivers has never actually beaten Brady, but let’s take a closer look at the matchups by going straight to that stretch between the 2006 and 2008 seasons: the Patriots and Chargers played four times in those two years.

The first was a divisional game in San Diego. I’m sure you remember it, Patriots players were doing Shawn Merriman’s “Lights Out” dance at midfield after the game, and LaDainian Tomlinson was crying at his press conference — good times. What you may not remember is that Brady was intercepted with six minutes left, down eight points, on fourth down. Unfortunately for the Chargers, Marlon McCree stupidly wouldn’t go down, and Troy Brown stripped him. The Patriots suddenly had the ball back, and a first down.

Brady would hit Reche Caldwell for the touchdown, and a direct snap to Kevin Faulk gave them the game-tying two point conversion. After rookie Stephen Gostkowski hit a 31-yard field goal to give the Patriots the lead late in the fourth quarter, the Chargers’ Nate Kaeding came up short on a 54-yard attempt with three seconds left. Brady threw three picks and didn’t play well, and if it wasn’t for Marty Schottenheimer’s terrible coaching — McCree’s decision to not go down, plus going for 4th and 11 from the 30 instead of kicking — the Patriots may not have won.

Then there was a matchup in September of 2007. Nothing to write home about here, huge win by the Patriots, two touchdown catches from Randy Moss, three scoring passes from Brady. Probably the most noteworthy play was a 65-yard pick-six by Adalius Thomas on which he showed off his wheels. What a waste that guy ultimately turned out to be.

The two teams met in the AFC Championship that year. The Patriots’ (almost) perfect season on the line against one of the hottest teams in football. Tomlinson had hurt his knee the week before, when the Chargers had beaten the Colts, and he only managed to be on the field for two plays. Antonio Gates was slowed by a broken toe, and Philip Rivers played with a torn ACL.

I’ll never forget seeing LT on the bench with his helmet and dark visor on while his QB gutted out that performance on a torn ACL. Since that day, I lost what little respect I had for LT, and gained a ton of respect for Rivers. The game itself wasn’t very memorable however. Brady played terrible, but the Chargers were never able to score a touchdown and lost 21-12.

The Patriots and Chargers played in 2008 as well, which is when Rivers got his first and only win against the Patriots. Matt Cassel threw for only 203 yards and an interception in a 30-10 domination by the Chargers. Meanwhile, Rivers threw for 306 yards and three scores.

The last matchup between the two quarterbacks and their teams was one of the best: an October matchup at Gillette Stadium last season, which the Patriots won 21-13. It was a game that saw a 87-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon, a safety on a punt return, three missed field goals, including two in the second half by Stephen Gostkowski, and a Rivers interception at the goal line as time expired.

If this and the other previous games were any indication, it’s going to be a fun matchup on Sunday, regardless of what Rivers’ record is against Brady.

Pat is the host of The Patriot Nation Podcast

Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats