Rivers and the Chargers look to rewrite history against the Patriots


Philip Rivers has an opportunity to re-write the story of his career this Sunday against the New England Patriots in Foxboro.  The likely future Hall of Fame player has accomplished a lot in his career: eight Pro Bowl appearances, multiple playoff showings, and nearly the entirety of the Chargers passing record book.  What Rivers does not have is a victory against the kings of the AFC, Tom Brady and the Patriots. With the help of a ferocious pass rush and a dynamic Pro Bowl running back, Rivers should have help to change his narrative.

The Patriots will have their hands full with the Chargers, who are coming to Foxboro fresh off of their hard fought road victory against the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday.  That victory was marked with a terrific defensive performance from Los Angeles that was able to ground Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense for the majority of the game.

That defense faces a different challenge in the Patriots offense which is mostly built on Brady’s pinpoint ability to make carve up opposing defenses using the short to medium range passing game.  He will rely heavily on the likes of wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White to be able to move the ball against a defense such as the Chargers. Brady should be able to move the ball somewhat against the Chargers, as his quick passing ability should be able to slightly negate the Chargers pass rush.

Where he may struggle is in the red zone, where the Patriots are missing the kind of weapon that they’ve had in the past: a playmaking pass catcher. Rob Gronkowski has looked a shadow of his former self this season. When Brady will need to wait for his receivers to get open the pass rush provided by Los Angeles’ scary duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, could be absolutely lethal.  The 41-year-old has struggled mightily against overwhelming pass rushes in his career – see the 2015 AFC title game against the Denver Broncos were the five-time Super Bowl winner endured 20 hits at the hands of Von Miller and company, and Bosa and Ingram can provide as good as any he’s faced in recent history.

The screen game will be highly important for the Pats. Running backs White and, to a lesser extent, Sony Michel should be pretty important in the pass game. To go along with all of this, All-Pro rookie safety Derwin James has been an absolute playmaker this season and the Patriots offense will need to be keenly aware of where he is on the field at all times.  If the Gus Bradley’s defense plays up to their abilities, this will be a long afternoon for the Josh McDaniel’s New England offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Patriots will also face a pretty talented Chargers offense as well.  The centerpiece of the offense is Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon. The former first round pick scored 14 touchdowns this season as both a runner and pass catcher and provides the Chargers with a dynamic look on offense.  The Patriots did seem to catch a break as Gordon did pick up a knee injury against the Ravens and was limited in practice on Thursday. If the former Wisconsin Badger is not fully fit for Sunday’s game, the Patriots will have avoided one of the best offensive weapons in football.

New England will still have to deal with a pretty effective passing game led by the 37 year old Rivers.  As it seems like many of his contemporaries like Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are on the decline of their careers, Rivers looks just as good as ever, with 4,300 yards and 32 touchdowns on the season.  Rivers is a big quarterback and his ability to spot open receivers and difficulty to bring down make him a tough quarterback for opposing defenses to corral. One of the Achilles heels of the Chargers however has been rather lackluster pass protection, resulting in Rivers getting sacked 32 times this season.  The Patriots should be able to get pressure on Rivers throughout the game and maybe force a few bad throws that may lead to turnovers.

As the Chargers and Patriots take the field, the weather should be going New England’s way.  While the Northeastern United States has been unseasonably warm this winter, Winter comes back in a serious way this weekend with temperatures expected to be -1 degrees Celsius (29 degrees Fahrenheit), with an outside chance of snow.  The Patriots have played in 12 playoff where the temperature is below freezing in the Belichick/Brady era and have a record of 10-2.


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based in Frederick, MD, USA. Multi-sport correspondent for Prost International and Prost Amerika focusing mainly on Soccer/Football and American Football

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