AFC Notebook

Rivers's Effort Is 'Gutsy'

Laurence Maroney carries the offensive load to vault the Patriots into Super Bowl XLII with a 21-12 victory over the Chargers. Hours later, Eli Manning ensured his family would have a Super Bowl quarterback for the second straight year, leading the Giants to a 23-20 overtime upset of the Packers in the third-coldest playoff game in NFL history.
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2008

FOXBOROUGH, Mass., Jan. 20 -- San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers played the AFC title game Sunday with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered a week earlier during a second-round triumph at Indianapolis.

Rivers played relatively well, completing 19 of 37 passes for 211 yards. But he also threw two interceptions.

"It held up pretty good," Rivers said. "It really was no impact on my play. I couldn't move around quite as good as maybe I could have needed on a couple occasions. But it really didn't have an impact as far as throwing and those kinds of things."

Rivers said he probably will have to undergo offseason knee surgery. He'd also been playing with an injury to his left knee suffered during the regular season.

"You can't ask for more than he gave," Chargers Coach Norv Turner said.

Said Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, "I thought that was a pretty gutsy effort for him to go out and play the entire game."

Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates started the game for the Chargers after having their playing status listed as doubtful in the team's official injury report. Tailback LaDainian Tomlinson wasn't listed at all in the injury report but lasted less than two full series before exiting with a knee injury originally suffered in the Colts game. Tomlinson had said last Monday that an MRI exam showed his knee was only hyperextended. He said after this game that he'd suffered damage to the MCL.

Seau Bests Former Team

Seau, the former Chargers standout, made one of the game's biggest defensive plays for the Patriots by stuffing Michael Turner on a third-and-one run from the New England 4-yard line in the third quarter. That limited the Chargers to a field goal and kept the Patriots ahead 14-12.

Seau went out of his way afterward to praise the Chargers.

"I'm always a Charger," Seau said. "That's my home. I took a scenic route to get here." . . .

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said he didn't think the cold, windy conditions had much of an effect on the play, even on a day when his quarterback, Tom Brady, threw three interceptions.

"I think we've all played and coached in a lot worse," Belichick said.

Washington Shines

Patriots special teamer Kelley Washington (Sherando High) had one of the biggest plays of the day when he kept Chris Hanson's punt from going into the end zone in the second quarter.

Hanson punted from the Chargers 40, and the ball bounced toward the goal line when Washington leapt and knocked it back toward the field of play. Kyle Eckel downed it on the 4.

"That was huge," Belichick said. "That led to a big touchdown for us."

Sending a Message

There wasn't a lot of room on the banner trailing behind the plane flying lazily over Gillette Stadium. But the intrepid pilot did his best to make a statement to the fans trying to stay warm before the start of the AFC championship game.

The message read:

"Salary Cap $109 million.

"Videogate $750,000.

"19-0 Priceless."

Statement delivered, the slow-flying plane was well out of the way before four F-16s buzzed the stadium as the national anthem was ending.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company