Philip Rivers’ regular season statistics make him one of the most sought after commodities in fantasy football. Once the schedule flips to January, though, his statistics are not as glossy. He has a 58.5% completion percentage in seven games compared to 63.7% in the regular season. His postseason record stands at 3-4 and he has more interceptions than touchdowns (8 to 9). These regular season to postseason differences are pounced upon by critics to display that he lacks the clutch gene when it matters most.
What is often overlooked by those who claim Rivers should stand behind rather than beside those like Drew Brees are the circumstances that took place in his playoff losses. Football is a team game and the Chargers have been unable to have all their units in cohesion during the Rivers era in the playoffs.
At home in January 2007 against arguably one of the weakest Patriots squads of the Belichick era, the 14-2 Chargers blew perhaps their greatest chance at a Super Bowl title. Rivers went 14-32 for 230 yards and an interception, but there were six dropped passes and so many other mistakes made that had nothing to do with the Patriots.
After zero fumbles in the regular season, Eric Parker could not gain control of a punt and the Patriots recovered with the Chargers leading 14-10 in the 3rd quarter.
The Chargers defense held the Patriots away from field goal range, but cornerback Drayton Florence committed a personal foul penalty that led to the Patriots knocking in a field goal. Tackle Shane Olivia also had a personal foul penalty during the course of the game.
Cleveland is known for falling victim due to "The Fumble," but the Chargers certainly can give them a run for their money in terms of an unfathomable fumble. With the Chargers ahead 21-13 in the fourth quarter with 6:25 left, safety Marlon McCree picked off a Tom Brady pass—his third of the game. Instead of falling down, McCree tried to gain some yards and was stripped by Troy Brown. The Patriots recovered and went on to score and convert a two-point conversion.
After falling behind 24-21, Rivers got the Chargers into long field goal range with only eight seconds remaining. Nate Kaeding did not make the difficult 54-yard field goal.
In a rematch in the AFC Championship Game the next season, Rivers and the Bolts had the odds stacked against them. This was a much more talented Patriots squad (undefeated regular season) and they were playing at home. In a courageous move, Rivers decided to play on a torn ligament in his knee. Unfortunately, his primary playmakers were also injured. Antonio Gates could barely move and the NFL’s leading rusher, LaDainian Tomlinson, only carried the ball twice.
The Chargers again intercepted Brady three times, but lost 21-12 as they struggled in the red zone.
Rivers had his best playoff game statistically against the Steelers in the 2009 AFC Divisional round. To go along with his three touchdowns, Rivers had 308 yards. He also had an interception in the Steelers' 35-24 victory. Perhaps some of Rivers’ stats are skewed due to the Chargers being behind late.
Tomlinson did not play and the Steelers amazingly held the ball for all but 17 seconds in the third quarter. Darren Sproles returned a kickoff 63 yards to the Pittsburgh 21 after the Steelers had gone on top 21-10. On the very next play, a Rivers pass was tipped and intercepted.
The Chargers defense managed to stop the Steelers, but on the ensuing punt, the ball hit an unsuspecting Eric Weddle on the helmet. The fumble was recovered by the Steelers and enabled them to chew up more time.
2009 saw the Chargers run off 11 straight victories going into the second round match-up with the New York Jets, who had a rookie QB in Mark Sanchez. Unlike in previous years, the Chargers’ superstars were healthy. Rivers finished 27-40 with 298 yards and one TD and two picks. Just like in the first Patriots playoff game, though, the Chargers made mistakes that seemingly had little to do with the other team.
Center Nick Hardwick blasted a snap over Rivers’ head, which basically destroyed the opening drive. Kaeding missed three field goals from distances of 36, 40, and 57 yards. In addition, Vincent Jackson and Shaun Phillips committed personal foul penalties.
The Chargers lost 17-14 and Rivers’ second interception certainly was devastating. It enabled a Jets offense that was struggling to pass the ball to travel a short distance to the goal line, which they reached. That first interception, which came in the third quarter, is extremely tough to blame on Rivers.
On the Jets 37, Rivers launched a pass to Jackson on the right sideline. Jackson dove and got his hands on the ball. He could not corral it as Darrelle Revis was pulling on his right arm. The ball deflected off Jackson into the air at a low trajectory allowing Darrelle Revis, who was lying on the ground, to catch the ball.
Rivers was unable to take a roster ravaged with injuries to a championship like Aaron Rodgers. However, Rivers has been victim time and again to some extremely rotten luck at the worst time as evidenced by the above games.
Brady is one of the best ever, but even he needed a kicker—Adam Vinatieri—to seal the deal a few times. Kaeding has had some good playoff games such as during the battle at New England, but missing three field goals in one game is tough for a squad to overcome.
There are so many factors that go into a win or a loss. At the end of the day, though, the QB gets the majority of the glory or the blame. Rivers has the talent and moxie needed to win a title. A little bit of luck in the postseason, though, certainly would go a long way in transforming that belief from an opinion into a fact.