FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick has been known to gush about the Patriots’ opponents, but he took it to another level Wednesday when discussing New England’s divisional-round foe and the star quarterback who leads them.
Philip Rivers had a brilliant 2018 season, throwing for 4,308 yards and 32 touchdowns with 12 interceptions while leading the Los Angeles Chargers to a 12-4 record and the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs. He even was in the MVP conversation until Week 16, when the 37-year-old threw up a dud in a home loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Bolts avenged that loss in the wild-card round, eking out a 23-17 win over the Ravens to set up Sunday’s matchup with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. And when asked about the challenges Rivers will present for the Patriots, Belichick praised everything about the veteran QB’s game.
“He’s played great, plays great,” Belichick said Wednesday of Rivers. “Very accurate, obviously a smart guy, offense runs through him, handles things at the line of scrimmage, makes good decisions with the ball, uses everybody as he always does, gets the ball to all the receivers, all the tight ends, all the backs. He’s very efficient, makes big plays in big situations, third down, red area. He’s outstanding. Hard guy to tackle, strong guy, has a good feel for the pocket, knows how to use his blockers, kind of like (Ben) Roethlisberger, same type of thing.”
“He’s good, he’s really good,” Belichick continued. “He’s played in different systems and so forth, but right now he’s playing extremely well again with a good offensive team, good offensive system with coach (Anthony) Lynn, coach (Ken) Whisenhunt. They’re a good football team, and he does a great job at orchestrating and running the offense.”
Rivers is 0-2 against the Patriots in the playoffs during his career, with the last defeat coming in the 2007 AFC Championship Game, when he played on a torn ACL in a 21-13 loss.
As for the rest of the Bolts, Belichick knows this will be New England’s toughest test to date.
“Obviously, the Chargers, really impressive football team,” Belichick said. “Spent a lot of time watching them the last three or four days. They’re really pretty good at everything. There’s a reason they won 13 games. Well-coached, very disciplined. Again, outstanding in every area — make big plays, play good defense, got an explosive group, strong in the kicking game and they just challenge you on every play.
“We’re going to have to do a good job all the way around. There’s no one guy who’s going to be able to stop them or block all of them or cover kicks or anything else. We’re going to need a good team effort from all the units, all the players, staff and everybody to go out there and compete on Sunday afternoon.”