FOXBORO, Mass. — How quickly opinions can change.
Prior to the Patriots' victory against the Chargers in the 2007 AFC Championship game, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers was a loud, obnoxious, annoying on-field presence. He yelled too much for a guy who, at that point, had accomplished so little.
But Rivers gutted it out against the Patriots, essentially playing the game without an ACL in his right knee and keeping the Chargers within striking distance before an eventual 21-12 loss. He completed 19-of-37 passes for 211 yards, and it was just a wildly impressive display from a guy who had arthroscopic surgery six days before the game, and then reconstructive surgery a few weeks after the loss.
Rivers was building something of a negative reputation around the league for trash talking opposing sidelines and calling out people when he probably shouldn’t have, but that performance against the Patriots really changed the way players perceived him. The Patriots, no doubt, gained a ton of respect for Rivers that day.
Rivers, whose Chargers host New England on Sunday, was asked if that game served as somewhat of a jumping-off point for his career. After all, he's put forth his two best seasons since then — including a pair of 4,000-yard campaigns — and become one of the league's best quarterbacks.
"I think, had we won that game, obviously it may have been different," Rivers said. "Certainly, that wasn’t my intention playing the game to receive any attention or credit for playing injured. But I do think anytime, like we’ve had many guys do around here, anytime you fight through something like that, and play and try to be there for your team, you earn some respect around the locker room and on your team. We had a lot of guys that day play hurt that needed some offseason surgeries and a lot of time to heal up. I was just trying to help us go win a game and get ourselves to the big game, and we fell short. I was certainly appreciative of some of the compliments or whatever, but that certainly wasn’t my intentions of playing. The intention was to go win the game, and we fell short."
Due to the severity of the injury, as well as Rivers' willingness to talk about it, the Chargers quarterback was asked if he would have been able to even suit up in the Super Bowl if they had beaten the Patriots.
"Yeah, I would have been two weeks better, to be honest with you," Rivers said. "I think I would have been in a lot better shape two weeks down the road, just from getting a little bit of extra strengthening in and rehab and stuff like that. There was some pain, but it wasn’t so much the pain as just the unstableness of not having an ACL in there. It was a little wobbly. Having gotten through that one, I would have been glad to try to give it four more quarters."