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Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is congratulated by Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers after the Patriots 21-12 win in the AFC Championship Game on January 20, 2008 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
By now, the offensive game plan might as well be plastered on billboards outside Qualcomm Stadium and carved into the stone of the surrounding embankments in Mission Valley.
There are no secrets.
The Chargers, per usual, want to run the ball in Sunday's game against the Patriots. Let the blockers clear the road, and have Ryan Mathews and Co. plow through. Win the ground, control the game.
Should that fail, then let the air show begin.
At 96.3, Rivers has the second-highest career passer rating in league history behind only Steve Young. Brady, at 93.5, has the seventh just ahead of Joe Montana. The two quarterbacks, who together have seven Pro Bowls between them, have been intercepted on 2.3 percent of their passes, tied for the fourth-best rate ever.
Of course, Brady, 33, has the upper hand in the most crucial of statistics. His three Super Bowl rings are three more than the 28-year-old Rivers, and he's defeated Rivers in both their playoff meetings.
The most recent one came in the 2007 AFC Championship Game in which Brady guided the perfect Patriots to a 22-12 win. After Brady missed a 2008 game between the teams due to a knee injury, Sunday will mark the two quarterbacks' first matchup since.
“I’ll never forget the toughness that he showed playing on a torn ACL in 10-degree weather in the ’07 season championship game,” Brady said in a conference call. “And he played an incredible game. He’s as tough as they come at quarterback. … He’s a very fiery player, a great leader. I’ve always enjoyed watching him play.”
Rivers, who has yet to beat Brady in three tries, knows what is at stake against the 4-1 Patriots.
He is likely to be without wide receivers Malcom Floyd (hamstring) and Legedu Naanee (hamstring). Tight end Antonio Gates (toe) has missed all week of practice and, while expected to play, is officially a game-time decision.
But he'll have to make do with what he has to get the 2-4 Chargers' season turned around. Since the 2002 divisional realignment, 60 teams have gone 2-4. Only five have made the playoffs. Only one of them, the 2002 New York Jets, did so after falling to 2-5.
Business comes first Sunday. Pleasure second.
“We're playing against that Patriots defense,” Rivers said. “But anytime you're playing an opposing team with a quarterback of his caliber and what he's done, it certainly makes it a lot of fun.”