Rivers fell into old habits during what turned into a historic letdown, throwing four interceptions and allowing the pressure of a zoned-in Peyton Manning to affect his play. The turnaround saw Manning glorified as the hero in Denver's 35-24 win, while Rivers played the role of the villain in an epic collapse almost worthy of comparisons to the 2011 Red Sox.
The loss was certainly a difficult pill to swallow for Chargers fans. But at this point they must be used to such massive disappointments, from both the team and Rivers.
Since taking over as the full-time starter back in 2006, Rivers has compiled a regular season record of 63-33 and never finished a season under .500. He's also thrown for over 25,000 yards, completed better than 63 percent of his passes and tossed 173 touchdowns to just 87 interceptions during those 96 regular season games.
His elite skills as a passer are unmatched by few other quarterbacks in the NFL, and it shows in his regular season numbers. But Rivers' biggest problem remains his inability to show up in clutch situations.
In his six seasons behind center, Rivers has managed to lead 16 game-winning drives and 13 fourth quarter comebacks. As a point of reference, in each of their first six seasons here's how some comparable quarterbacks fared.
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both fared better than Rivers in crunch time, leading their respective teams to much more success during their first primitive years at quarterback. Brady led 25 game-winning drives and 16 fourth quarter comebacks from 2001 to 2006. Manning led the Colts on 20 game-winning drives and to 17 fourth quarter comebacks from 1998 to 2003.
Obviously both Brady and Manning are in a class of their own when it comes to clutch quarterbacks, though, and it would appear that Rivers doesn't exactly fit that mold, at least not yet. Instead, Rivers better aligns with company such as Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
During his first six seasons, Marino led 17 game-winning drives and 11 fourth quarter comebacks. Romo, who began starting the same year as Rivers, has spearheaded 14 game-winners and 13 comebacks over the same time period.
Rivers, who led a number of big comebacks early on his career, has cooled off in recent seasons, leading just two game-winning drives since the end of the 2009 season. That lack of late-game heroics either shows a waning will to win or simply a killer instinct deficiency. Either way, it's a clear sign of unnecessary underachievement. Much like Rivers' postseason performances.
In six career postseason games, Rivers record sits at a 3-3. An unimpressive resume for such a talented quarterback, but his career postseason numbers aren't impressive either. Rivers has managed to complete just 58 percent of his passes and has thrown just eight touchdowns to nine interceptions during six playoff appearances.
To add insult to injury, he's never reached a Super Bowl, then again only seven active starting quarterbacks have, but even more depressing is that he hasn't even made the playoffs since 2009. All which would seem to indicate that maybe Rivers isn't quite the leader the Chargers anticipated when trading, even if forcibly so, Eli Manning for him during the 2004 NFL draft.
Rivers is a competitive gunslinger with a bit of a fiery side — Brett Favre rings a bell — so much so that Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork even went as far as to compare Rivers' competitive side with that of Manning and Brady in recent weeks. But given his flaws, it seems he might be better contrasted with the likes of Marino or Romo.
Rivers has proven time and again that he has the skills necessary to be a winner. He's deathly accurate, moderately mobile and has an incredibly strong arm. But even with the full arsenal of talent, apparently he doesn't possess the desire necessary to actually be a winner.
Maybe we're all wrong about him, or maybe Rivers has some serious soul searching to do.
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