December 03, 2014

Tom Brady will be facing another star quarterback this weekend. This time, it's one he has never lost to.

The New England Patriots are 5-0 when Brady has played against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers heading into Sunday night's crucial matchup at Qualcomm Stadium.

New England (9-3) saw its seven-game winning streak end last Sunday with a 26-21 loss at Green Bay. That marked the first time Brady started in a game against Aaron Rodgers, who was brilliant with 368 passing yards and two touchdowns.

''I just wish we would have won this one. We put a lot into this one, and this was a great test for us,'' Brady said. ''I think the guys knew how important this was for our season.''

These teams haven't met since 2011. New England is 5-1 against San Diego (8-4) since Rivers became the Chargers' starter, with the loss coming when Matt Cassel was the Patriots' quarterback Oct. 12, 2008.

Rivers has five touchdowns, eight interceptions, a 60.8 completion percentage and a 73.4 passer rating in the five games he has opposed Brady, who has 11 TDs, seven interceptions and a 91.4 rating in those matchups.

''We've never played this Patriot team," Rivers said. "We're 0-0 against this group. There's a lot of guys in that locker room that have never played the Patriots in their life. You can't really say this team is 1-5 against them.''

Rivers boasts an AFC-best 69.1 completion percentage and enters after his sixth three-touchdown performance of the season in last Sunday's thrilling 34-33 win at Baltimore. He threw a one-yard touchdown to Eddie Royal with 38 seconds left in the Chargers' third straight win.

"Having a franchise quarterback like who he is, he goes out and earns everything he gets," coach Mike McCoy said. "It's great to have him on our football team. He's been very efficient. He's done a great job of leading not only the team, but the offense week in and week out."

Rivers will have to be wary of a new weapon for New England in cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has intercepted the quarterback the last two games he has faced him.

Brady threw for two touchdowns last week to bring his season total to 28 - fourth in the NFL. New England has three players with at least six TD catches to tie Denver and Indianapolis for the most in the NFL.

Among quarterbacks with at least 25 career starts in December since 1950, Brady has the best record at 45-7 and Rivers the second-best at 30-6.

Their passing attacks feature top tight ends. New England's Rob Gronkowski leads all players at that position with 910 yards receiving and has hauled in nine TDs to match the total of San Diego's Antonio Gates.

"Rob has done a good job for us and been on the field a lot, plays in a lot of situations, been productive in the passing game and the running game," coach Bill Belichick said. "Gates seems timeless. He's a hard guy to defend. He's got great size, athleticism, hands, does a real good job setting up his routes, beating man or zone coverage."

Rather than have the team return to New England last weekend, Belichick opted to fly directly from Wisconsin to the West Coast.

''We were able to get in here Sunday night and really have kind of a pretty normal day (Monday) and a normal Tuesday,'' Belichick said.

The Patriots are insisting they will be focused on the Chargers and not by any distractions even though Gronkowski posted a photo to social media of himself with entertainer Justin Bieber from a trip to Los Angeles for Monday's Clippers game.

''It's important for us to not be distracted by nice weather and things that are going on out here and realize that we have a job to do this week,'' left guard Dan Connolly said. ''We have to treat it as much like a regular week as we can.''

San Diego's win streak has coincided with the return of Ryan Mathews, who has 215 rushing yards and two scores after missing seven games with a sprained knee.

"It's great to have him back," McCoy said. "He's worked extremely hard to get back where he is today. He does everything the way you want him to do it."

The Patriots have given the bulk of the carries the last two weeks to LeGarrette Blount, who has 136 yards and two scores with them since being released Nov. 18 by Pittsburgh.

The Chargers are one game behind the AFC West-leading Broncos, who visit San Diego next week. The East-leading Patriots have the same record as Denver but own the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed in the conference.

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