Brady has great respect for Rivers

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady doesn’t know Philip Rivers well on a personal level.

But as the Patriots quarterback began his preparations for Sunday’s divisional playoff game with the Chargers, he said he only had to think back to their AFC championship game matchup during the 2007 season to remind himself of Rivers’ toughness.

“I mean the guy played with a torn ACL. We played in 10-degree weather and he was still firing dimes out there,” Brady said Monday on Boston’s WEEI radio. “So, the guy’s got all of the confidence in the world. It makes for a great matchup.”

New England won that day and Brady enters Sunday’s game with a 7-0 record as a starter against Rivers, including 4-0 in games played in Foxborough and 2-0 in the playoffs.

Rivers earned his lone victory against New England during the 2008 regular season when the Chargers were still in San Diego. Brady was sidelined for that game by a knee injury he sustained in the Patriots’ season opener and Matt Cassel started in his place.

New England has won four straight games in the series since then , with the Chargers getting within a touchdown when they lost 23-20 at home in 2010. The Patriots beat the Chargers 21-13 last season.

History aside, Brady said it doesn’t diminish his respect for Rivers’ abilities on the field. At age 37, Rivers ended the regular season by throwing for at least 4,000 yards for the sixth straight season. He also posted at least 30 passing touchdowns for the sixth time since becoming the Chargers’ starter in 2006.

Like Brady he’s also been incredibly durable during his career, not missing a regular-season start for 13 consecutive seasons.

“He’s a great leader. He’s a great passer of the football,” Brady said. “He’s kind of like me. He wants the ball out of his hands. He kind of wants to be able to anticipate coverages. He’s got really a great group of skill players — backs, tight ends, receivers. They’re playing as well as any offense that’s played all season. He’s having an incredible year.”

So, too, is Los Angeles’ defense.

The Chargers ended the regular season ranked eighth in the NFL allowing 21 points per game, while allowing only 228 yards passing per game (ranked ninth). They beat the Ravens 23-17 in the wild-card round, but led 23-3 in the fourth quarter before allowing a pair of late touchdowns.