Chargers focus on poise against Brady's Patriots

SAN DIEGO — SAN DIEGO -- Philip Rivers has never participated in an NFL postseason game, but the San Diego Chargers' quarterback knows precisely what to expect today from the New England Patriots' defense:



"I'm going to expect everything you can put in a playbook," Rivers said after practice last week. "You study them and be ready for what they've shown and then you don't get surprised by anything."

Thanks to their 14-2 record, best in the NFL, the Chargers will not only play host to the divisional playoff game, but also have had an extra week to prepare for it. That's a welcome advantage for a team facing the Patriots, who are 11-1 in the postseason with Tom Brady at quarterback. Brady's only playoff blemish was a divisional loss in Denver last season.


The last time the Chargers were in the playoffs was 2004, when they lost a home wild-card game to the New York Jets on a field goal in overtime.

San Diego players were ultra-hyped for that game, with the first hint coming when running back LaDainian Tomlinson crawled out of the tunnel during introductions and did a somersault before sprinting to his waiting teammates.

"Guys were overly excited to be in the playoffs and it was a situation where I think we shot our gun too early, being so emotional and playing off adrenaline," Tomlinson said Wednesday. "And so when it came down to the end of the third quarter and fourth quarter, we were kind of out of gas already."

Even from the sidelines, Rivers, then a rookie, could feel things coming to an emotional boil. That helped him better understand the poise required to win a postseason game, how every small mistake is amplified.

"Everybody's going to be a little more excited ... but you have to make sure it works for you and you don't get too carried away.

"Be ready for a few wrinkles from them that you haven't seen and just not try to get everything accomplished in the first 10 minutes of the game."

Rivers plans to heed his own advice. He's among the more animated quarterbacks in the league - the antithesis of the sleepy-eyed Eli Manning - and at times has tried to do too much this season.

The Chargers' quarterback is hoping to pick up where he left off in the finale against the Arizona Cardinals, when he was sharp despite suffering a minor foot injury, one he says has healed.


Sam Farmer writes for the Los Angeles Times.