San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers looks downfield against the Cincinnati Bengals during last Sunday’s game in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO — Eli Manning and Philip Rivers will meet Sunday for the third time since being traded for each other on draft day 2004.
Chargers fans will get another chance to boo the player who spurned their city back then.
Otherwise, it’ll be a showdown between desperate teams that are 5-7 and closer to last place than first place in their respective divisions.
Manning claims he can’t even remember why Archie Manning told the Chargers not to take his son with the No. 1 pick overall in 2004.
“It’s been 10 years. It slipped my mind,” said Manning, whose receivers, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, are sure to test San Diego’s porous secondary.
The Chargers took Manning anyway, then sent him to the Giants about 45 minutes later for Rivers and a handful of draft picks, two of which they later used to take kicker Nate Kaeding and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman.
“It always brings up memories, certainly, of that 30 or 45 minutes when we were on each other’s teams,” Rivers said. “I never really thought I was going to New York. When you get drafted by a team and you still have never spoken to them, there usually is a chance it’s not real. It certainly was crazy and to think it has been almost 10 years. Time does fly.”
Manning went on to win two Super Bowl rings with the Giants. Rivers is still trying to get his first NFL championship game.
Rivers said he’s not motivated to catch up to Manning or even Ben Roethlisberger, another member of the Class of 2004 who has two Super Bowl rings.
“I want to help lead this team to win,” Rivers said. “I want to do it because I want to do it with these guys that we’ve put so much time in together. I want to help lead us to get there. Not because they got it. It’s really not about that.”
Manning is 0-2 against the Chargers, with losses in San Diego in 2005, when Drew Brees was still the Chargers’ starter, and at home in 2009, when Rivers threw three touchdown passes, including a last-minute winner to Vincent Jackson.
Here are five things to watch for when the Giants visit the Chargers on Sunday:
MUST WIN: Both teams continue to fight for their playoff lives, with their chances dwindling with each loss. The Giants have rallied nicely from their 0-6 start, winning five of six, including 24-17 at Washington on Sunday night. Their only loss in that span was at Dallas. The Chargers, meanwhile, have gone from 4-3 and a promising outlook under rookie coach Mike McCoy to losing four of their last five. They were manhandled in a 17-10 home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, losing all the momentum they gained with a thrilling 41-38 win at Kansas City a week earlier.
TALE OF THE TAPE: Manning has been the Giants’ starter since midway through his rookie season of 2004. He’s 83-64 (.565) and has thrown for 34,522 yards and 226 touchdowns, with 162 interceptions. He’s 8-3 in the playoffs, with two Super Bowl victories and two Super Bowl MVP awards. Rivers became the starter in 2006, after the Chargers let Brees leave as a free agent. He’s 75-49 (.605), with 31,524 yards, 212 touchdowns and 102 interceptions. Rivers is 3-4 in the playoffs.
JUSTIN TUCK: The Giants’ defensive end is coming off a career-best four sacks against Robert Griffin III in New York’s 24-17 win against Washington. Tuck is showing how good he can be when healthy. He played with shoulder and neck injuries the past two seasons and many wondered whether his best days were behind him. “Honestly, it wouldn’t have meant anything to me if we had lost that football game,” Tuck said of his sacks Sunday night. “With the win you can kind of feel good about the performance, but also understand that the only reason why I was able to get sacks was because 10 other guys were doing their job on the football field.”
Coach Tom Coughlin has said repeatedly this year that Tuck has been a major factor in the Giants’ ability to stop the run. Tuck leads the Giants with 6 1/2 sacks.
KEVIN GILBRIDE: Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride coached the Chargers from 2007 until being fired six games into the 2008 season, with a 6-16 overall record. He replaced Bobby Ross and presided over the end Stan Humphries’ career as quarterback and the beginning of Ryan Leaf’s career. Gilbride never got another head coaching job, but he does own two Super Bowl rings from his time with the Giants.
KEENAN ALLEN: The San Diego wide receiver continues to make his case for rookie honors. He leads all NFL rookies with 58 catches for 843 yards. He needs two more catches to break the team rookie record of 59 set by LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001. Allen needs 159 yards to break John Jefferson’s rookie record of 1,001 in 1978. A third-round draft pick out of Cal, Allen has two straight 100-yard games and five overall.
NFL website: —www.pro32.ap.org
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