There have been well over 20,000 games played since the 1966 NFL merger.
No quarterback ever put up the numbers Philip Rivers did Sunday in the Chargers’ 45-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
His performance truly was astounding, accomplishing a feat that defies any reasonable expectation.
Rivers set the NFL single-game record by completing 25-straight passes on Sunday, passing Mark Brunell and David Carr who previously shared the record with 22. He also set an NFL record for the best single-game completion percentage (96.6) in league history for quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts
In addition, his 25-straight completions tied Ryan Tannehill, who also had 25 straight over two games in 2015, for the longest multi-game streak in league history. They also occurred to start the game, which is also an NFL record.
As if that wasn’t enough, with three touchdown passes on the afternoon, Rivers became only the fourth quarterback ever to throw multiple touchdown passes in each of the first 11 games to start a season. The other three are Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.
Overall, Rivers finished the day completing 28 of 29 passes for 259 yards and three TDs for a 138.4 passer rating.
Rivers knew he was perfect while the game was going on, but he had no idea he was making history.
He just thought he was having a good day.
“I didn’t know it was 25 in a row,” he said after the game. “I knew we hadn’t missed. I did know that we hadn’t missed, but I didn’t know where it was. I did know that that first miss was that little short throw to (Austin) Ekeler of all things. It was an efficient day, to say the least. There were so many guys today who were making catches; the guys protecting. A lot goes into completing the ball, more than just me throwing it. It was a fun day, to say the least.”
After the game, Rivers explained how Sunday’s performance is likely as close as he’ll ever come to what he dubbed the “dream” game – one you play out in your head but never think will actually come true.
“Those are kind of those far-off dreams you think about,” he said. “Like, (what if I would ever play a game) where I don't miss one (pass)? Then you quickly say (to yourself) — (it's) probably not (going to happen), but there (is) the fact that we were standing there (midway through the third quarter) and we hadn't (missed a pass). Again, I know I keep saying 'we', because some of the great catches — and they were great catches — could've easily fallen (as) incomplete. There are the guys protecting up front. So, 'we' completed 25 in a row. I mean, there are a lot of guys involved in all of those (passes).”
It’s ironic that arguably the greatest day for a QB in NFL history got off to an auspicious start as his first pass went for zero yards as the Bolts went three-and-out. However, he jumpstarted the next drive with a picture-perfect throw to Travis Benjamin for a 27-yard gain. That drive ended with a nine-yard TD reception by Mike Williams on a play that showed Rivers’ greatness in recognizing coverages while in the heat of battle.
“We thought (Arizona) was going to play Cover 2,” he explained. “So, we called a high-low on both sides on the outsides, and we had (Antonio] Gates running down the middle. We were just going to sit it down right on the goal line. (Arizona) ended up not playing (Cover 2). They kind of played three over (on one side) and I wasn't sure how they were going to play the front side, so I eliminated one side to Keenan (Allen), and I think it was Melvin (Gordon) who was in at that point. I was thinking (to throw it to) Gates and the safety hung on Gates. I think when the cornerback saw Gates going vertical, he thought Mike was going to stay vertical and run a seam route. Then, all of a sudden, Mike went to the corner and got lost behind him. I wasn't sure how much room we had, so instead of hitting (Williams) in stride, I (thought) to let the ball go high to let him go up and get it. He did it on that (pass) and on the fade route later (for another TD).”
Interestingly enough, when Rivers reflects back on his banner day, it’s the two-minute drive at the end of the first half that he’ll think about first. After all, those types of drives usually include throwaways and spiked balls in order to stop the clock.
Instead, the offense rattled off completion after completion, including several highlight-reel worthy grabs.
“I thought the two-minute drive was huge,” he said. “We had some good drives, but (with) the two-minute drive, usually (there will be) some 'throw away' (passes) and have to do some things (to preserve time). We didn't have to throw one away. I don't know if we hit 10 (completions) on that drive or how many there were, but that was to me a huge drive. We were just efficient.”