(Photo courtesy of San Diego Chargers)
Talk of Fame Network
It’s closing time in the NFL, and two of the game’s best finishers – San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and Hall-of-Fame coach Marv Levy – explain the success behind their stretch runs on this week's Talk of Fame Network's radio program.
Rivers, who is 30-6 in December, is one of the league’s toughest outs in a season’s final four games. He’s 29-3 there, a percentage so good that it betters the quarterback he faces this weekend, New England’s Tom Brady, 40-8 over the last four starts of each season.
“I don’t know that there’s any secret to it, other than we just play better down the stretch,” said Rivers. “I think there is an element a lot of those years that our backs are against the wall, and it’s kinda like ‘We’ve got no more breathing room, guys. We’ve got to go right now.’ You’d say, ‘Why wouldn’t you do that six weeks prior?’ We try to. Sometimes when you’re down to your last straw you play your best.”
Rivers plays his best when it matters most, and the proof is in the numbers. Not only does he win five times as many games as he loses in December; he throws over three times as many touchdown passes as interceptions. Part of it is ability. But much of it, Rivers acknowledged, is availability, and he quoted something offensive coordinator Frank Reich – a former quarterback – told him.
“He said, ‘It’s not who’s the toughest; it’s who’s the toughest the longest’,” said Rivers. “Everybody’s tough in this league, but it’s who’s going to be toughest the longest. And that goes into finishing a season.”
Levy knows something about that. In the four consecutive years he took Buffalo to Super Bowls he was 12-5 in December, with three of those losses in season finales when he rested many of his starters. Ironically, one of Levy's biggest playoff victories was with Reich, then a backup, as his quarterback.
“It’s important you don’t search for too many deviations from what you’ve been doing all year long,” he said. “You realize you’re drawing toward the finish line. You better keep up momentum. It becomes a dicey thing (of): 'Do we rest our starters? We have home-field clinched.'
“I felt it was good to get some of your backups some action and to not subject your starters to injury. It was a delicate balance at that time. We just kept thinking: This Sunday, this Sunday, this Sunday. We owed our fans a lot.”
Rivers and Levy head a show that focuses on the game's best and worst finishers, with Rivers and Brady prominently featured. There’s also Rick Gosselin telling us why it’s wise not to give up on the run this time of year, Ron Borges pushing former guard Bob Kuechenberg for the Hall of Fame and Rick, Ron and Clark Judge dissecting Cleveland’s decision to start Brian Hoyer. All this, plus the two-minute drill, on this week’s Talk of Fame Network radio show.