Rivers both a fan and foe of Pa­tri­ots, Brady

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY BOB GLAUBER News­day

Yes, Philip Rivers is the Charg­ers’ quar­ter­back who is on a mis­sion to win the first Su­per Bowl of his glo­ri­ous 15-year ca­reer.

Yes, he will do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to make that hap­pen now that the Charg­ers, com­ing off a 12-4 reg­u­lar sea­son and a 23-17 win over the Ravens in the AFC wild-card play­offs, have ad­vanced to the di­vi­sional round.

But Rivers will also take a mo­ment not as the Charg­ers’ quar­ter­back, but sim­ply as an NFL fan, to be­hold what he’s about to see on Sun­day af­ter­noon at Gil­lette Sta­dium. It is there the Charg­ers will face the Pa­tri­ots, who have dom­i­nated the NFL like no other team, win­ning five Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onships since 2001 and look­ing to qual­ify for their eighth con­sec­u­tive berth in the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game.

“On some level, I’m a fan of those guys,” said Rivers, who is hop­ing to join Eli Man­ning and Ben Roeth­lis­berger as draft class of 2004 Su­per Bowl cham­pion quar­ter­backs. “I have a lot of re­spect for New Eng­land. You’re go­ing against a Bill Belichick team and a Tom Brady-led team. You’re talk­ing about ar­guably the great­est of all time.”

The 37-year-old Rivers knows his op­por­tu­ni­ties are dwin­dling as he ap- proaches the twi­light of his ca­reer, which is why he never takes these mo­ments for granted. Not now, and not be­fore, as he harkened back to his days bat­tling Pey­ton Man­ning when he was with the Colts and Bron­cos.

“Pey­ton’s al­ways a fa­vorite,” said Rivers, who was 22-for-32 for 160 yards and led six scor­ing drives against the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked de­fense. “It is spe­cial to look over and say, ‘Pey­ton Man­ning is lead­ing that team over there.’ That’s spe­cial to me. Tom Brady’s lead­ing that (Pa­tri­ots) team, and that’s spe­cial. I’m not go­ing against Tom, but it’s spe­cial. Just that fran­chise. They’ve been in eight, nine straight con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships? Our task is to see if we can stop the streak.”

Rivers in­flated the Pa­tri­ots’ record cham­pi­onship-game streak just a bit, but who can blame him? It sure feels like eight or nine, the way New Eng­land reg­u­larly dom­i­nates in Jan­uary and quite of­ten in Fe­bru­ary at the Su­per Bowl.

Play­ing the Pa­tri­ots has been a Sisy­phus-like propo­si­tion for Rivers, who has never beaten Brady headto-head. He is 0-7 against the Pa­tri­ots when Brady plays, and his only ca­reer win over New Eng­land came after Matt Cas­sel re­placed an in­jured Brady in the 2008 sea­son. Two of Rivers’ losses to the Pa­tri­ots came in the play­offs, in­clud­ing the 2007 AFC Cham­pi­onship Game, when the quar­ter­back played de­spite a torn ACL.

“It’s go­ing to be a heck of a chal­lenge,” Rivers said. “When you have a chance to go against them 11 years after we had that op­por­tu­nity, yeah, it’s awe­some.”

A chance to avenge one of his most painful de­feats? Well, yes and no.

“Only one other guy’s on that (Charg­ers) team is here,” Rivers said, re­fer­ring to vet­eran tight end An­to­nio Gates.

The pas­sage of time has dulled the pain – both emo­tional and phys­i­cal – but Rivers very much looks for­ward to stay­ing alive for at least an­other week.

“It’s ex­cit­ing to get an­other chance,” he said. “Just goes to show, un­less you’re the Pa­tri­ots, it’s hard. For most of us, it’s not that easy to get in and when you get in and now you know you’re one of eight teams, that’s all you ask for is a chance.”

GAIL BUR­TON AP

Los An­ge­les Charg­ers quar­ter­back Philip Rivers’ only win against New Eng­land came when Tom Brady didn’t play.

KEITH SRAKO­CIC AP

New Eng­land and quar­ter­back Tom Brady are try­ing for the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game for the eighth straight year.

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