COSTA MESA, Calif. — Jan. 20, 2008, serves as a defining second in Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ NFL profession.

The now-37-year-previous quarterback played towards the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Recreation six days after struggling a torn ACL and meniscus in his proper knee.

Though the Chargers misplaced 21-12, Rivers limping through the sport sealed his standing as certainly one of the hardest gamers the league has seen. He has continued to show it in each sport since, along with his energetic streak of 208 consecutive common-season video games played the longest in the NFL.

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Rivers did not have certainly one of his greatest video games that Sunday in 2008, finishing simply 19 of 37 passes for 211 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions, as the Chargers failed to rating something however subject objectives.

However 11 years later, he lastly will get one other postseason shot at Tom Brady when the Chargers go to the Patriots on Sunday (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS) in a divisional-spherical playoff sport. A win would return the Chargers to the AFC title sport for the first time since Rivers’ ACL sport.

“The truth that he played was unbelievable,” Brady mentioned. “They played a good sport. We made a few performs, obtained a couple turnovers from them. It ended up being a powerful sport. It was a exhausting-fought win.

“There’s a purpose why each groups are taking part in right here this weekend — as a result of we have earned it and put ourselves in place for a nice alternative. Each our groups need to win, and it is going to be a powerful sport, no matter the final result.”

Two graybeards, Rivers and Brady may have a mixed age of 78 years and 198 days on Sunday, making it the oldest mixed beginning quarterback matchup in postseason historical past.

Again in January 2008, Brady was 30 and in his eighth NFL yr and Rivers was 26 and in his fourth. The Patriots had been at the finish of a good season and attempting to cement their standing as certainly one of the biggest NFL groups ever by reaching and profitable the Tremendous Bowl.

Nonetheless, an injured Rivers, taking part in with a balky knee, stood in their manner.

“Actually, it wasn’t loopy ache,” Rivers mentioned about taking part in with the damage. “It sort of buckled a few instances in the sport, however I actually was grateful. All through the course of the sport, I did not really feel prefer it hindered me as a lot as I anticipated.

“We did not have our greatest day. It did not assist, however we did not have our greatest day, and I actually do not attribute it to that.”

As well as to Rivers’ damage, operating again LaDainian Tomlinson had a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) and tried to play, however he was unable to make the cuts he usually made and gave manner to Michael Turner.

In accordance to Dr. David Chao, the Chargers’ head staff physician at the time, Rivers and Tomlinson weren’t the solely gamers coping with accidents.

Tight finish Antonio Gates was hobbled and wanted reconstructive surgical procedure on his huge toe. Fullback Lorenzo Neal (fibula fracture) and heart Nick Hardwick (Lisfranc damage) had not too long ago come again from surgical procedures.

And outdoors linebacker Shawne Merriman had delay reconstructive knee surgical procedure that in the end led to his profession being lower quick.

“We actually had been in unhealthy form going in there as a collective unit,” Rivers mentioned. “So, yeah, we had some guys with some issues [back then].”

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After struggling the knee damage in a 28-24 playoff win at the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional spherical, Rivers was insistent that he would play towards the Patriots the following week.

At the same time as followers taunted him when he walked off the subject to the locker room at the RCA Dome, Rivers informed them, “I will be again.”

Rivers was proper.

“That complete week was actually fascinating as a result of a lot of individuals on our staff did not know that Philip even had an ACL tear,” Hardwick mentioned. “We knew that he had surgical procedure and that he had to unlock his knee.

“And we knew he wasn’t going to be out to observe till at the least Friday, possibly not going to be obtainable till the walk-through on Saturday, however all of us understood that he was going to play. And I do not assume there was ever any doubt he was going to play.”

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Hundreds of followers waited to greet the gamers upon their return to Chargers Park from Indianapolis on that Sunday, however Rivers managed to slip through the again of the facility unnoticed, get into his truck and get an MRI that night time, confirming the ACL and meniscus tears.

The Chargers had a competent backup the staff trusted in Billy Volek, who completed out the sport towards the Colts. Nonetheless, Rivers did not need to miss a likelihood to attain his first Tremendous Bowl, so he pushed to play.

After receiving the MRI Sunday night, Rivers had to make a choice on whether or not to have arthroscopic surgical procedure the subsequent day to restore the torn meniscus to unlock his knee.

Rivers met with the staff’s medical workers and coach Norv Turner, remaining insistent that he would play.

“Folks ask about groups and coaches forcing gamers to play damage,” Chao mentioned. “However in my expertise, it is the gamers themselves that power themselves to play. Norv wasn’t telling Philip to get the surgical procedure and are available again rapidly. He was like, ‘Take your time, Philip, we obtained you. You have obtained a lengthy profession, Billy’s obtained this.’

“However Philip remained steadfast to do what it took to play, and we moved ahead with surgical procedure.”

So how exhausting is it to play with a torn ACL?

“You could possibly name the ACL an inner seat belt,” Chao mentioned. “No query, you’ll be able to drive your automobile with out a seat belt on and get away with it. However in the NFL you are racing NASCAR, and also you higher have your seat belt on.

“So it isn’t regular to play with out an ACL. In Rivers’ case, we had him in some particular bracing that we felt might briefly maintain him protected. However even then, we made him conscious of the dangers, and he needed to play.”

Hardwick mentioned Rivers appeared to handle the damage properly for the most half.

“I do not keep in mind something about him not having the ability to execute his job,” Hardwick mentioned. “It was fairly exceptional what he was in a position to do in such a fast turnaround. Not solely having an ACL tear, however having a meniscus cleaned out the week earlier than. It is fairly gritty.

“That’s Philip. We knew it meant a lot to him that he was going to discover a manner to get it executed. He was not going to let this second move him by.”

Philip Rivers accomplished 19 of 37 passes for 211 passing yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions, towards the Patriots in January 2008. Elsa/Getty Photos

All through his 15-year profession, Rivers has dealt along with his justifiable share of accidents however has all the time answered the bell.

Rivers played through a chest damage and bulging disk in his again throughout the backstretch of the 2014 season, lacking his first observe since 2007.

Rivers additionally was identified along with his first concussion throughout the 2017 season and didn’t clear concussion protocol till Friday, two days earlier than taking the subject towards the Buffalo Payments in a 54-24 victory in Week 10.

A religious Catholic who has all the time been outspoken about his religion, Rivers wears a medal round his neck of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes. Main up to the playoff sport towards the Patriots greater than a decade in the past, a involved Rivers was buoyed by a remark over the cellphone from his mom, Joan, who reminded her son that St. Sebastian’s feast day was Jan. 20, the day of the Patriots sport.

“The week following [the Colts] sport was a very religious one for me,” Rivers informed the Nationwide Catholic Register. “… Amazingly, possibly even miraculously, I used to be in a position to play [against the Patriots].”

“Actually, it wasn’t loopy ache,” Philip Rivers mentioned about taking part in with the damage. “It sort of buckled a few instances in the sport, however I actually was grateful. All through of the course of the sport I did not really feel prefer it hindered me as a lot as I anticipated.” Joe Robbins/Getty Photos

Rivers is aware of the numbers.

He is zero-7 total towards Brady, a future Corridor of Famer and the GOAT. That contains an zero-2 file in the postseason, with Rivers finishing solely 48 % of his passes, with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Patriots have won eight straight playoff video games at Gillette Stadium, the fifth-longest residence playoff win streak in league historical past, in accordance to the Elias Sports activities Bureau.

New England is eight-zero at residence this season.

Nonetheless, Rivers says this season is a new yr, and the Chargers are 9-zero when boarding a aircraft this season.

“This staff is zero-zero,” Rivers mentioned. “We have by no means played them. Definitely, I used to be a a part of all these groups that did not win in these video games, however this staff proper right here has by no means played them, and that is the manner I have a look at it.”

Hardwick remembers the confetti falling from the sky at the finish of the 2008 sport and his former faculty teammate and Patriots offensive lineman Matt Gentle celebrating a return journey to the Tremendous Bowl as he watched from the sideline.

He is trying ahead to a higher result for his former staff this time round.

“We had our likelihood at them and we had been unsuccessful,” Hardwick mentioned. “For me as a former teammate of a couple of those guys and a fan of the remainder of them, I actually simply want them the better of luck. And I hope they go there and may execute their assignments and maintain their feelings in verify sufficient to find a way to fulfill their potential.

“I actually do really feel that that is the greatest-coached Chargers soccer staff that I can keep in mind in fairly a lengthy time.”

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