SportsPulse: The NFL’s first tremendous wild-card Saturday triple-header didn’t disappoint. USA TODAY Sports activities’ Mackenzie Salmon breaks down the largest tale traces from every sport.


The season is over. It’s in point of fact a merciless coincidence that the sour anguish that accompanies that truth has turn into so agonizingly acquainted to him. Philip Rivers can recite its patterns and rhythms with a disgusted ease. He is aware of exactly the ache he’ll stumble upon when a season ends earlier than the Tremendous Bowl. He’d carried out it 16 years in a row. This marks No. 17.   

However that’s no longer what made him cry Saturday evening. 

The primary kick within the intestine will come mid-week when he wakes up within the morning without a enemy to arrange for. No subsequent opponent to wipe the slate blank. No new starting. 

The following will arrive a couple of days later, right through the NFL’s divisional playoffs. He’ll watch 8 groups play for the appropriate to advance to the convention championship video games and lament that he and his brothers aren’t there preventing for it, too. 

Subsequent shall be championship Sunday, and that can truly sting, as a result of he is aware of two groups filled with gamers gets to play for one thing he by no means has: a Tremendous Bowl. 

And that ache will linger for every other two weeks, earlier than he watches one staff reach the dream he’s chased his complete lifestyles, but by no means discovered.

Colts quarterback Philip Rivers reacts during the wild-card game against the Bills.

Colts quarterback Philip Rivers reacts right through the wild-card sport towards the Expenses. (Picture: JAMIE GERMANO, ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE)

The Monday after the Tremendous Bowl generally gives him his first actual respite, when the remainder of the league is going again to Zero-Zero, and he can get started making ready for the following season. 

This time round, regardless that, Rivers may no longer also have that motivating Monday to depend on. At 39 years outdated, he doesn’t know if he’s coming again. Saturday’s 27-24 Wild Card loss to the Expenses may really well had been the final gasp of Rivers’ profession.

And whilst there’s emotional luggage that accompanies that concept, that still isn’t truly what made Rivers cry Saturday evening.

To be transparent, those tears didn’t sneak up on him. Whilst he broke down the main points of the heartbreaking playoff loss – the 7th of his profession – he may really feel them coming. Welling up within him. Everybody may see it. 

The dam in the end broke when Rivers allowed himself to mirror at the season. To reminisce about his teammates and what kind of they’ve supposed to him.

What made Rivers cry is understanding that the struggle is over, and that he and the 2020 Colts received’t get another week in combination. After pouring their hearts and souls into the season, after heading off an endemic and rallying to win 11 video games within the face of such a lot adversity, that they had solid a deep bond. They in point of fact believed they have been a staff of future, that they may win all of it. In combination.

And now that they have arise brief, the ache was once an excessive amount of to stay inside of. It got here flowing out. 

“It’s a truly neat staff. I believe underneath those instances,” Rivers mentioned, his voice quivering, “I do know in my opinion, for me, to increase the kind of bond and camaraderie that we had, it was once beautiful particular needless to say. … It was once a heck of a staff to be part of. For sure disappointing to complete like this while you simply consider it’s the 12 months. … It was once a distinct staff to be part of.”

The object about Rivers it’s a must to perceive, and that I believe I’m most effective simply knowing myself, is that his dogged pursuit of a Tremendous Bowl isn’t truly in regards to the immortality that accompanies it – and even in regards to the bragging rights of being the most efficient staff within the league that 12 months. 

He’s as fierce a competitor as there’s within the NFL, and he desperately likes to win, however a Tremendous Bowl isn’t a person accolade. It’s without equal staff prize. It’s the conclusion of a dream that they had in combination and began preventing for, in combination, since April. Such a lot of the debate surrounding Rivers these types of years is that he’s by no means received the large one, however Rivers himself hasn’t ever cared about that a part of his non-public legacy.

He has chased a championship for goodbye as a result of he’s pursuing the sensation of sheer bliss that accompanies understanding you were given there with the women and men who’ve poured their blood, sweat and tears into reaching the similar function. 

And yearly, all 17 of them that Rivers hasn’t gotten to really feel that bliss breaks his center a bit bit extra. And sure, this 12 months, the ache cuts a bit deeper as a result of he’s no longer positive if he’ll ever get every other likelihood. The Colts nonetheless need to come to a decision if they would like him again – trainer Frank Reich mentioned Saturday evening that he does – and Rivers, too, has to come to a decision if he needs to come back again. 

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His teammates need him to. They adore him. They consider he nonetheless has it within him to steer them the place they need to cross. They need to win it serious about him. They need to win all of it with him. 

“He put the whole lot at the line,” Darius Leonard mentioned. “A damaged toe and the whole lot, and he is nonetheless taking part in, and in go back, we simply need to paintings. We need to get him a Tremendous Bowl ring. For us to not give him one sucks. I am hoping it isn’t his final 12 months. I pray it isn’t.”

Rivers mentioned Saturday evening he doesn’t know if he is carried out, however the concept without a doubt crossed his thoughts.

As he walked in the course of the Expenses tunnel again to the locker room, Rivers questioned if it will be his final time. 

“After your 17th 12 months and also you’re about to be 40, and also you’re no longer positive for those who walked up your final tunnel, heck yeah, heck yeah, it’s extra (emotional),” Rivers mentioned via tears.  “It was once a heck of a amusing season. There’s 0 be apologetic about. Shifting to Indiana, and shoot, and taking part in for this franchise and having a possibility and assembly some new guys that I can stay a courting with. We fell brief these days, however I’ll stroll out of right here with my head held prime, needless to say.”

Apply IndyStar Colts Insider Jim Ayello on Twitter: @jimayello


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