Reimer: Brady's domination over Rivers shows difference between GOAT and mere Hall of Famer

Alex Reimer
January 14, 2019 - 12:28 pm
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Tom Brady and Philip Rivers are both Hall of Fame quarterbacks. But Brady is the GOAT, whereas Rivers primarily compiles numbers. 

We saw the difference between the two on Sunday. Can you believe some people who have watched Brady’s entire career –– hello Mut Man! –– actually thought the Chargers held the quarterback advantage in this matchup?

Me neither. 

Rivers wound up posting respectable counting stats in the Patriots 41-28 win, throwing for 331 yards and three touchdowns. But outside of Rivers’ 43-yard first quarter touchdown toss to Keenan Allen, the rest of his damage came in the second half, when Los Angeles was already trailing by four scores.

At halftime, Rivers completed just seven passes. Brady, meanwhile, was 23-of-29 for 233 yards and a score. The Patriots amassed more first downs (24) than the Chargers had plays (23).

The Patriots’ pass-rush harassed Rivers all afternoon long, and unlike Brady, he hung in there for seemingly every hit. Whether it was Patrick Chung knocking Rivers on his back following an incomplete hurl to Antonio Gates, or Trey Flowers slamming him into the ground for a sack, Rivers took an absolute beating. No wonder he throws like he needs rotator cuff surgery.

Statistically, Rivers is one of the most prolific passers in league history. He’s eighth all-time in passing yards and sixth in touchdowns. Brady, who’s No. 4 and No. 3 in both categories, respectably, appears to be a relative equal to Rivers on paper. But then you get to their head-to-head meetings. Brady is 8-0 lifetime against Rivers, including 3-0 in the playoffs. Rivers has only five postseason wins in his career, which is the same amount Brady has since his buddy Donald Trump was inaugurated two years ago. 

Rivers has never been to a Super Bowl, and this season may have been his best chance. The Chargers already defeated the Chiefs in Kansas City. But Rivers could retire without ever appearing in the big game, even though he's played with some of his era's best playmakers, from LaDainian Tomlinson to Antonio Gates. 

There are other contributing factors to Rivers’ relative January futility. The Chargers have almost always been poorly coached, making crucial late-game mistakes under Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner. In the 2006 Divisional Round, it was Marlon McCree getting stripped by Troy Brown after what should’ve been a game-clinching interception. The following year, the Chargers actually held a 14-3 second quarter lead on the Patriots in the AFC championship, but only scored once in the final half. 

This season, Los Angeles defensive coordinator Gus Bradley trotted out the Cover 3 defense, even though Brady eviscerates it. Unsurprisingly, Brady did just that, mirroring his dominant performances against the same soft zone in Super Bowl XLIX against the Bradley-coached Seahawks and Super Bowl LI against Atlanta, which adopted the Seattle system. 

The hot take artists who have spent the entire year caterwauling about Brady’s demise look awfully silly right now. At 41 years old, he looks far more composed than quarterbacks who are nearly half his age –– and certainly more than the 37-year-old Rivers. Despite playing with a sprained MCL through portions of the season, Brady is reportedly as healthy as he’s been. 

Rivers looked like a cranky old man Sunday; Brady looked spry. 

Speaking of demeanor, Rivers is one big complainer, huh? He was still kvetching about holding calls with 1:19 left in a three-touchdown game. Tony Romo says it showed Rivers’ competitive nature. I think it just makes him a whiner. Gosh golly is it irritating. 

That’s not to say Brady isn’t known to berate officials himself. TB12 was irate when Phillip Dorsett was ruled in-bounds after attempting to step out with time expiring in the second quarter, even though the Patriots were already up 35-7. But when you’re winning by that much, on-field blowups emanate an assassin-like instinct, which we want out of our gladiator-like football stars. 

When you’re getting blown out, like Rivers was, it comes across as sour grapes. 

Brady hasn’t endured many postseason embarrassments like that. He’s reached the AFC championship 13 times in 17 years, which averages out to 76.4 percent of the time. That’s higher than LeBron James’ career free throw percentage (74.4). 

So Brady is more likely to make the AFC championship than maybe the greatest basketball player of all-time is to hit a free throw. The case is closed. 

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