The Green Bay Packers survived Philip Rivers’ aerial assault Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The team’s record book, its pages still smoldering, did not.
Rivers threw at a record pace in San Diego’s 27-20 loss to Green Bay. The Chargers’ quarterback came within one throw of delivering a touchdown that could have forced overtime or led to an outright win with a two-point conversion.
Rivers completed 43 of 65 passes for 503 yards and two touchdowns. He became the 19th player to attempt 50 or more passes in a regular-season game against the Packers.
The yardage he produced was impressive. He tied Ben Roethlisberger for the second most against the Packers, behind Matthew Stafford’s 520 on New Year’s Day 2012.
But the relentless way he pounded Green Bay was without precedent. Rivers peppered the Packers with quick passes from his first offensive play to his last.
In doing so, Rivers established records for most passes attempted against the Packers through two, three and four quarters.
In general, quarterbacks with mammoth totals tend to inflate their numbers while trying to rally in the second half. Rivers fired 12 or more passes in every quarter, the first time an opposing quarterback has done that to Green Bay.
Rivers found his mark often enough that San Diego engineered six drives of 10 or more plays. The team called 68 pass plays (including three sacks), the most by any team in a regular-season game against the Packers.
In clicking off 89 offensive plays, the Chargers held the ball for 38 minutes. The only other quarterback to throw 50 or more times and own a greater time of possession against Green Bay was Dan Fouts (41:36) in the Chargers’ 34-28 win in 1984.
It became apparent early that Rivers was looking to take flight. Wide receiver Keenan Allen caught a pass on each of the game’s first three offensive plays.
Rivers completed nine of 14 throws in the opening 15 minutes. His 25-yarder to running back Melvin Gordon set up Josh Lambo’s 36-yard field goal that cut Green Bay’s lead to 7-3.
While the 14 attempts were a season-high by an opponent, they were not a first-quarter record. The honor belongs to Peyton Manning, who lobbed 22 in a 45-31 victory over Green Bay in 2004.
But unlike Manning, Rivers did not let up. He threw 18 times in the second quarter for 128 yards and a touchdown (a 1-yard toss to Dontrelle Inman on the final play of the half).
Though the Chargers still were trailing 17-10, Rivers had squeezed past Manning. His 32 pass attempts through two quarters was one better than the 31 the Colts quarterback had tossed in the first half 11 years ago.
Next to be reckoned with: John Elway. Elway had taken to the air a record 46 times through three quarters in a 30-27 loss to Green Bay in 1993.
Rivers moved past the Hall of Famer late in the period. His 16 attempts — including a 19-yard TD pass to Ladarius Green —– ballooned his three-quarter total to 48.
With San Diego behind 24-17 at the start of the fourth quarter, Rivers continued his barrage. His 17 attempts to close the game gave him 65, three more than the record 62 Joey Harrington had fired in Miami’s 34-24 loss to the Packers in 2006.
Rivers passed for six first downs on San Diego’s final drive. He failed to produce a seventh when rookie cornerback Damarious Randall batted away his offering intended for running back Danny Woodhead on fourth down from the Packers’ 3-yard line.
In coming up short, Rivers had to be content with the inroads he made in the record book. Had he connected with Woodhead, he might have joined the five quarterbacks with 50 or more pass attempts (Fouts, Drew Bledsoe, Warren Moon, Chris Chandler and Andrew Luck) who led their teams to victory against the Packers.
■ Rivers also established records for most completions through three quarters with 32 (Donovan McNabb, 31 in 2004) and for a game with 43 (Tommy Kramer, 38 in 1981).
■ Allen also set records. His 11 catches in the first and second quarters were the most in a first half against the Packers (surpassing Antonio Gates’ nine in 2007). His 14 receptions through three quarters broke Kellen’s Winslow’s mark of 12 established in 1984.
Eric Goska is a Packers historian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The start of something big
Quarterbacks who completed 29 or more passes in the first half of a regular-season game against the Packers.
No. Player Date
32 Philip Rivers Oct. 18, 2015
31 Peyton Manning Sept. 26, 2004
29 Fran Tarkenton Nov. 21, 1976
29 Chad Pennington Dec. 3, 2006
29 Matthew Stafford Jan. 1, 2012