FOXBORO, Mass. — Two of the most accomplished quarterbacks of the past decade will square off Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, with Tom Brady’s New England Patriots hosting Philip Rivers’ Los Angeles Chargers.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick has faced Rivers seven times — including twice in the playoffs — and also had him on his team at the 2007 and 2011 Pro Bowls. He raved about the 35-year-old QB during his Wednesday morning news conference.
“Phil’s a tremendous player,” Belichick said. “A great competitor. Really smart player. I had him at the Pro Bowl and got to know him a little bit out there. He’s got a real thirst for knowledge. Not that there’s a lot of scheme at the Pro Bowl — I’m not saying that. It’s one coverage. But conversations lead beyond that (about) how to attack different schemes and so forth.
“He’s a real football guy. Like Tom, like Peyton Manning — guys like that who are just deep, deep into it.”
Rivers has not missed a single game since he became the Chargers’ starting quarterback in 2006. He’s earned five Pro Bowl selections and has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in a season eight times.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Belichick said. “He’s a big, strong guy, too. A lot of guys can be hanging on him or draped all over him, and he’s still strong enough to stand in there and throw the ball and throw it accurately, and he’s very good with the deep ball. He kind of drives the deep ball, but he drives it very accurately, so he gets it into some tight spots.”
Rivers has not been particularly accurate with his passes this season, ranking 26th in the NFL in completion percentage at 60.9 percent. But Belichick was highly complimentary of his ability to read and exploit defenses.
“He has a ton of experience,” the coach said. “He does a great job of making adjustments on the line of scrimmage, whether it’s changing protections, or if he sees a certain coverage, he can get into a play that’ll attack that coverage. He’s had a number of checks like that.
“… So, being able to disguise our coverages and not just tell him what we’re in — I mean, that’s really suicide, because he’ll just chew that up. We’re going to have to do a good job of not declaring exactly what we’re in so he doesn’t get to the perfect play every time.”
Los Angeles lost its first four games this season but entered this week on a three-game winning streak, including a 21-0 blanking of the Denver Broncos last Sunday.
Thumbnail photo via Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports Images
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