If you have ever heard the proverb, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” you probably have applied it to many life situations. Usually, you would find yourself in a troubling scenario where you feel embarrassed and perhaps even betrayed by your fellow peers. In the following context, we will use this to answer a question that San Diego Charger and Denver Bronco fans alike may ask themselves heading into this Sunday’s Divisional Playoff Game:
Does Philip Rivers have an advantage over Peyton Manning in the playoffs?
It goes without saying that Peyton Manning is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks that the National Football League has ever seen. At 37 years old, Peyton may have produced the single-best passing season in NFL history, demolishing the passing TD record and skimping by the passing yards record by the slimmest of margins. That margin had to be reviewed in the wake of the record-breaking performance, but it stood tall.
The accomplished quarterback who went through career-threatening neck surgery just two years ago, having to be forced off of the field he dominated, had to have one play put under the microscope in order to keep his record. And after much discussion, there it stood: yet another milestone, yet another accolade, and yet anther stud etched onto the Louisiana native’s belt that will no doubt be sent via priority mail to Canton in just a few years time.
But no great stands the test of time without a rival. Magic Johnson had Larry Bird, Muhammad Ali had Joe Frazier, and Bill Russell had Wilt Chamberlain. When you think of Peyton Manning’s rivals, your first thought might be to shorten the word “rivals” to “rival.” Tom Brady, New England Patriots quarterback, has met Peyton Manning on the field 14 times since the year 2001. Should the Broncos and Patriots win their respective games this Sunday, their fifteenth battle will be showcased for all to see.
Does Philip Rivers belong in that category, however? You could make the case that Rivers provides the toughest matchup for Manning.
Consider the following: since 2006, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning have met nine times. In those nine meetings, Rivers and the Chargers hold the edge over Peyton Manning. While Peyton was an Indianapolis Colt, the Chargers were 4-1 when facing Peyton Manning. The only blemish came in the year 2008, when the Colts beat the Chargers during the regular season. It was the Chargers that later got the last laugh, however, when they eliminated Indianapolis from the postseason in the Wild Card Playoff Round.
Manning has since closed the gap as a member of the Denver Broncos. They are 3-1 in the last two seasons against the Chargers. Rivers, though, broke through on Thursday Night Football against the Manning-led Broncos in order to keep the playoff hopes alive. What they may have also done in the process was recreate a sense of doubt. The Chargers have already proven that they can go into Denver and stand toe-to-toe with, statistically, the greatest offense the NFL has ever seen.
In fact, it could be argued that the Chargers snuffed that offense out like no other adversary could. There was only one time in the 2013 season that the Broncos were held to under 27 points. That was against San Diego in Week 15 while they were in Denver. Philip Rivers contributed to the cause that night, as well. Rivers hurled two touchdown passes to rookie standout wide receiver Keenan Allen to help produce this shocking result.
In the postseason, these two have their history. That history reminds us that it is Rivers who has the advantage on the scoreboard. Two wins for Rivers’ bunch, and conversely, two losses for Peyton’s clubs. The Wild Card Weekend victory for the Chargers in San Diego provided late-game theatrics, but their first encounter was perhaps the more memorable one. In the 2007-08 postseason, the Chargers and Colts clashed in the now non-existent RCA Dome. The Chargers were heavy underdogs, with some wondering if they were even supposed to make it to that round following a tough game against Tennessee the week before.
What was supposed to be a precursor to the Colts and the unbeaten Patriots clashing in yet another AFC Championship Game turned out to be a nightmare for Manning.
Rivers and the Chargers stormed ahead at the end of the third quarter via a Darren Sproles 56-yard catch-and-run for six points. Unfortunately, Rivers could not finish the game, as he tore his ACL and did not play a snap in the fourth quarter. With Rivers on the sideline, the Colts climbed back ahead with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Anthony Gonzalez. It appeared that Manning was headed to the Conference Championship, with another opportunity at besting his other rival.
But, it was backup Billy Volek who led the comeback for the Chargers on the ensuing drive, sneaking for the go-ahead touchdown, giving the Bolts a lead they would not relinquish. Rivers went on to display a strong level of toughness the following week in the AFC Championship, as the Chargers fell short to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
It is certainly true that Rivers not completing that game puts his 2-0 record against Manning in the playoffs to question. But the scoreboard does read that the playoff version of the San Diego Chargers have had Peyton’s number since 2006, no matter the uniform donned by the former Tennessee Volunteer.
And so, here we are again: a Peyton Manning-led team with high aspirations is primed for a home playoff game that could help carry them to The Promised Land, and subsequently, against Manning’s biggest of rivals if the Patriots take down the team whose uniform he sported for fourteen seasons. But once again standing in Manning’s way is his other antagonist; his other foe; his other adversary; his other rival, Philip Rivers, who has quarterbacked the San Diego Chargers farther than anyone could have expected.
There does appear to be a sense of advantage in Philip Rivers’ favor, statistically speaking, as the Chargers lace up their cleats to head into Denver this Sunday. Peyton Manning has been fooled twice by Rivers and the Chargers before in his career. Will the Chargers leader make it a third time this Sunday?
Manning’s biggest weakness Sunday? No Bolo tie.