Rivers, Charg­ers look to end Pats’ dom­i­nance

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - SPORTS -

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady typ­i­cally shrugs off any men­tion of records or mile­stones he sets.

But even he had to chuckle at the one he and Charg­ers quar­ter­back Philip Rivers will mark when they meet in Sun­day’s di­vi­sional play­offs.

Brady, who will be 41 years and 163 days old, and Rivers, at 37 years and 36 days old, will com­bine to be the old­est pair of quar­ter­backs to face each other in an NFL play­off game, break­ing the mark Brady held with Pey­ton Man­ning.

“Nice,” Brady said of the im­pend­ing foot­note. “Nice and old.”

Sun­day will be just the fourth play­off meet­ing be­tween the teams, with the Pa­tri­ots hold­ing a 2-1 edge.

Rivers en­ters Sun­day with a 1-7 record against the Pa­tri­ots, in­clud­ing 0-4 in games at Foxborough and 0-2 in the play­offs. Rivers earned his lone vic­tory against New Eng­land dur­ing the 2008 reg­u­lar sea­son, when the Charg­ers were still in San Diego. Brady was side­lined for that game by a knee in­jury and Matt Cas­sel started in his place.

Brady is 7-0 as a starter against Rivers.

The Pa­tri­ots (11-5), who cap­tured their 10th straight AFC East ti­tle this sea­son, will be seek­ing their eighth con­sec­u­tive trip to the AFC ti­tle game.

The Charg­ers (13-4) haven’t even been to the con­fer­ence ti­tle game since los­ing 21-12 to the Pa­tri­ots dur­ing the 2007 sea­son.

Rivers played in that game just days re­moved from tear­ing the ACL in his right knee. He limped his way through it while be­ing in­ter­cepted twice and fail­ing to throw a touch­down pass.

It’s be­come the tough­ness brand for a quar­ter­back that hasn’t missed a game since be­com­ing the Charg­ers starter in 2006.

Rivers, who led his team to five wins in its last six reg­u­lar-sea­son

games and a road win at Bal­ti­more in the wild-card round last week, said he’s tried to keep past short­com­ings against New Eng­land out of his mind this week.

“It’s not some­thing you think about a whole lot,” he said. “It ex­ists and it’s there but again, and I mean this, I don’t feel that I’m play­ing Tom. Cer­tainly, it’s a Tom Brady-led team and we know how things work with the quar­ter­back and the head coach that have the record at­tached to it. We’ve got a heck of a chal­lenge.”

It will also be a chance to earn a sig­na­ture win for sec­ond-year Charg­ers coach An­thony Lynn, who has steered Los An­ge­les through its re­lo­ca­tion and a sea­son that in­cluded a game in Lon­don.

To have an­other chance at this stage of his ca­reer to notch a play­off win against a New Eng­land team that has been the stan­dard in the con­fer­ence is an op­por­tu­nity not lost on Rivers.

“Fired up to have a shot,” Rivers said.

Here are some things to watch for in Sun­day’s game:

ROAD WAR­RIORS

One thing that gives the Charg­ers con­fi­dence head­ing into Foxborough is their record away from Los An­ge­les this sea­son.

The Charg­ers are fac­ing a Pa­tri­ots team that is 8-0 in Gillette Sta­dium this sea­son. But Los An­ge­les is 8-1 on the road, with its lone blem­ish com­ing against the crosstown Los An­ge­les Rams.

“We have a tough foot­ball team, no doubt. I be­lieve that. I think go­ing on the road, it re­ally doesn’t faze this team,” Lynn said.

“We love ball, we like play­ing foot­ball, we like com­pet­ing and we know go­ing into Foxborough, they’re un­de­feated there and they’re tough to beat, pe­riod. It doesn’t mat­ter where you play the Pa­tri­ots; they’re tough to beat.”

TOUGH STREAK

In ad­di­tion to earn­ing his first post­sea­son win over New Eng­land, Rivers will also be try­ing to help the Charg­ers end their re­cent strug­gles in the di­vi­sional round.

Each of the Charg­ers’ past three trips to the play­offs have ended in this round — 24-17 to Den­ver in 2013, 17-14 to the New York Jets in 2009 and 35-24 to Pitts­burgh in 2008.

GOR­DON’S A GO

Charg­ers run­ning back Melvin Gor­don is ex­pected to be ac­tive Sun­day, de­spite miss­ing the first prac­tice of the week to rest the knee in­jury he sus­tained in their wild-card win over the Ravens. He was lim­ited for Thurs­day’s work­out, but re­moved from the in­jury re­port on Fri­day.

Los An­ge­les’ of­fense is at its best when Gor­don can take the pres­sure off Rivers. He had an 87-yard touch­down in last year’s reg­u­larsea­son meet­ing with the Pa­tri­ots. He also has 12 touch­downs in the Charg­ers’ past nine games on the road, in­clud­ing the play­offs.

WEATHER FAC­TOR

The fore­cast for Sun­day in Foxborough is 29 de­grees, which re­cently has been a good thing for the Pa­tri­ots.

They are 13-0 at home since 2011 in games in which the tem­per­a­ture was 32 de­grees or colder.

The Charg­ers con­tem­plated stay­ing on the East Coast af­ter last week’s game in Bal­ti­more, but ul­ti­mately de­cided to re­turn to Cal­i­for­nia to prac­tice.

Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick isn’t count­ing on the weather be­ing that much of an ad­van­tage, though.

“They’re a good foot­ball team. We’re play­ing the Charg­ers. We’re not play­ing the weather,” he said. “What­ever it is, it is.”

Steven Senne / As­so­ci­ated Press

Charg­ers quar­ter­back Philip Rivers en­ters Sun­day’s game with a 1-7 ca­reer record against the Pa­tri­ots,

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