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Sometimes, the headlines speak for themselves. After last night — the Chargers lost when the potential game-tying field goal was blocked in the final second — Los Angeles nee San Diego has now lost 18 of its last 23 games decided by 8 or fewer points.

Query Results Table
Poin Poin Poin
Rk Tm Year Date
Time Opp Week G# Day Result OT PF PA PD
1 SDG 2017 2017-09-11 10:20 @ DEN 1 1 Mon L 21-24 21 24 -3
2 SDG 2016 2016-12-24 1:00 @ CLE 16 15 Sat L 17-20 17 20 -3
3 SDG 2016 2016-12-18 4:25 OAK 15 14 Sun L 16-19 16 19 -3
4 SDG 2016 2016-12-04 4:25 TAM 13 12 Sun L 21-28 21 28 -7
5 SDG 2016 2016-11-27 1:00 @ HOU 12 11 Sun W 21-13 21 13 8
6 SDG 2016 2016-11-13 4:05 MIA 10 10 Sun L 24-31 24 31 -7
7 SDG 2016 2016-11-06 4:25 TEN 9 9 Sun W 43-35 43 35 8
8 SDG 2016 2016-10-30 4:05 @ DEN 8 8 Sun L 19-27 19 27 -8
9 SDG 2016 2016-10-23 4:05 @ ATL 7 7 Sun W 33-30 OT 33 30 3
10 SDG 2016 2016-10-13 8:25 DEN 6 6 Thu W 21-13 21 13 8
11 SDG 2016 2016-10-09 4:25 @ OAK 5 5 Sun L 31-34 31 34 -3
12 SDG 2016 2016-10-02 4:25 NOR 4 4 Sun L 34-35 34 35 -1
13 SDG 2016 2016-09-25 4:25 @ IND 3 3 Sun L 22-26 22 26 -4
14 SDG 2016 2016-09-11 1:05 @ KAN 1 1 Sun L 27-33 OT 27 33 -6
15 SDG 2015 2016-01-03 4:25 @ DEN 17 16 Sun L 20-27 20 27 -7
16 SDG 2015 2015-12-24 8:26 @ OAK 16 15 Thu L 20-23 OT 20 23 -3
17 SDG 2015 2015-12-13 1:03 @ KAN 14 13 Sun L 3-10 3 10 -7
18 SDG 2015 2015-11-29 1:03 @ JAX 12 11 Sun W 31-25 31 25 6
19 SDG 2015 2015-11-09 8:30 CHI 9 9 Mon L 19-22 19 22 -3
20 SDG 2015 2015-11-01 1:02 @ BAL 8 8 Sun L 26-29 26 29 -3
21 SDG 2015 2015-10-25 4:05 OAK 7 7 Sun L 29-37 29 37 -8
22 SDG 2015 2015-10-18 4:25 @ GNB 6 6 Sun L 20-27 20 27 -7
23 SDG 2015 2015-10-12 8:30 PIT 5 5 Mon L 20-24 20 24 -4

For his career, Philip Rivers has a 54-26 record in games decided by more than 8 points, and a 43-54 record in games decided by 8 or fewer points. Read differently, Rivers has lost 28 *more* times in close games than in non-close games. That is (for now) tied with Rich Gannon for the largest spread ever.

The table below shows the record for all QBs prior to 2017 (in other words, this is not updated for week 1) with at least 40 starts in both close games and non-close games. Here’s how to read the table below. Gannon last played in 2004, and had 34 wins in close games, 42 losses in close games, and zero ties, for a 0.447 winning percentage. In “big” games – i.e., decided by more than one score — he had 42 wins and 14 losses, for a 0.750 winning percentage. He had 28 more losses in close games than big games, which is the column at the far right.

QBLast YearCG WCG LCG TCG Win%Big WBig LBig Win%Extra Losses
Rich Gannon2004344200.44742140.75028
Philip Rivers2016435300.44854260.67527
Joe Flacco2016414000.50642150.73725
John Elway1998725210.58076300.71722
Ron Jaworski1989364510.44537240.60721
Randall Cunningham2001393610.52043160.72920
Steve Beuerlein2003223700.37325180.58119
Aaron Rodgers2016333100.51657140.80317
Russell Wilson2016201910.5133640.90015
Joe Montana1994433100.58174160.82215
Brad Johnson2008343400.50038190.66715
Drew Bledsoe2006495500.47149400.55115
Mark Brunell2006414400.48237290.56115
Donovan McNabb2011383810.50060240.71414
Ben Roethlisberger2016513700.58072230.75814
Drew Brees2016615700.51770440.61413
Tom Brady2016703200.686113200.85012
Tony Romo2015333000.52445190.70311
Steve Young1999292900.50065200.7659
Trent Green2007273300.45029240.5479
Peyton Manning2015874400.66499350.7399
Roger Staubach1979311800.63354110.8317
Andy Dalton2016232120.52233140.7027
Ken Stabler1983432810.60453210.7167
Craig Morton1982313410.47750280.6416
Cam Newton2016222310.48929170.6306
Steve McNair2007383400.52853280.6546
Bobby Hebert1996262500.51030190.6126
Matthew Stafford2016333200.50818260.4096
Kurt Warner2009222700.44945220.6725
Matt Ryan2016453100.59240260.6065
Brian Griese2008192100.47526170.6054
Steve Bartkowski1986283600.43831320.4924
Jeff Garcia2008283100.47530270.5264
Dan Marino1999674800.58380450.6403
Gus Frerotte2008232510.48022220.5003
Vinny Testaverde2007506310.44340600.4003
Steve Grogan1990303100.49245290.6082
Jim McMahon1993281600.63639140.7362
Phil Simms1993453300.57750310.6172
Alex Smith2016382910.56641270.6032
Carson Palmer2016434310.50046410.5292
Jay Schroeder1994382000.65523180.5612
Bart Starr1971292960.50065280.6991
Terry Bradshaw1982362600.58171250.7401
Ryan Fitzpatrick2016213510.37725340.4241
Jim Plunkett1986323600.47140360.5260
Bobby Layne1962362440.59444240.6470
Jake Delhomme2010282000.58328200.5830
Bernie Kosar1995272710.50026270.4910
Jim Harbaugh2000373700.50029370.4390
Steve DeBerg1993314310.42022430.3380
Tommy Kramer1989322800.53322280.4400
Milt Plum1967162060.45240210.656-1
Johnny Unitas1973423140.57176320.704-1
Troy Aikman2000363500.50758360.617-1
Matt Schaub2015232200.51124230.511-1
Michael Vick2015312510.55330260.536-1
Roman Gabriel1975283170.47758330.637-2
Norm Van Brocklin1960251740.58736190.655-2
Jon Kitna2010303600.45520380.345-2
Chris Miller1999222800.44012300.286-2
Greg Landry1980172430.42027270.500-3
Joe Theismann1985322200.59345250.643-3
Warren Moon2000464900.48456520.519-3
Trent Dilfer2007292600.52729290.500-3
Boomer Esiason1997434500.48937480.435-3
Chris Chandler2003374100.47430440.405-3
Jay Cutler2016413400.54727370.422-3
Brett Favre2010765400.585110580.655-4
Rodney Peete2003251900.56820230.465-4
Aaron Brooks2006232400.48915280.349-4
Ken Anderson1985373800.49354430.557-5
Daunte Culpepper2009232700.46018320.360-5
Bob Griese1980312530.55161310.663-6
George Blanda1966192210.46434280.548-6
Dan Fouts1987373910.48749450.521-6
Dave Krieg1996473500.57351420.548-7
Jim Kelly1996482600.64953330.616-7
Neil O'Donnell2001271900.58728260.519-7
Brian Sipe1983362400.60021310.404-7
Eli Manning2016484100.53960500.545-9
Jim Everett1996294000.42035490.417-9
Richard Todd1984252510.50023340.404-9
John Hadl1977223290.42160430.583-11
Neil Lomax1988202020.50027320.458-12
Joe Ferguson1989394000.49440520.435-12
Kerry Collins2011404300.48241560.423-13
Ken O'Brien1993252310.52025360.410-13
Jim Hart1983403750.51847510.480-14
Billy Kilmer1978271910.58534330.507-14
Len Dawson1975232180.51971360.664-15
Fran Tarkenton1978564760.54168620.523-15
Lynn Dickey1985212430.46924390.381-15
Dan Pastorini1981332300.58923380.377-15
Jeff Blake2003262300.53113380.255-15
Y.A. Tittle1964271750.60251330.607-16
Jim Zorn1985242300.51120390.339-16
Marc Bulger2009241900.55817350.327-16
Joe Namath1977232340.50039400.494-17
Charley Johnson1975282080.57131370.456-17
Matt Hasselbeck2015432900.59742460.477-17
Jake Plummer2006352500.58334420.447-17
Tobin Rote1964172340.43231410.431-18
Sonny Jurgensen1974332670.55336450.444-19
Norm Snead1976233970.38429610.322-22
Jeff George2000312800.52515500.231-22
Archie Manning1983183830.33117630.213-25
John Brodie1973322280.58142540.438-32

Oh and how about Russell Wilson? After the 8-point loss to the Packers in week 1, Wilson is now an even 20-20-1 in games decided by 8 or fewer points… and 36-4 in all other games! A 50% winning percentage in close games and a 90% winning percentage in all other games is even more ridiculous than Rivers’ numbers.

  • Very cool list. I felt bad for Rivers last night. By this point in his career, it seems like he’s a bit snakebitten.

    Many people use record in close games as a key factor in ranking quarterbacks. And by sorting by Close Game Winning %, it makes a compelling argument for that to be true. The leaders in CG Win % are your who’s who of all time great comeback masters like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Jay Schroeder, Jim Kelly, Roger Staubach, Ken Stabl……wait JAY SCHROEDER!?. Hmmm. Didn’t expect that one.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Jay Schroeder would definitely be an outlier here, but Phillip Rivers has also struggled winning close games in the postseason. Only two wins of seven points or less as compared with three losses of seven points or less. It’s been an issue for his overall career, late game mistakes. While Rivers will eventually earn the HOF, it will take much longer than some of the other locks of this era. Always felt Rivers became too emotional, and that’s not always what you want in that position.

    • Deacon Drake

      Hey, if you are always trying to throw home runs, you are bound to get some.

  • JeremyDeShetler

    Question. Is the close games record based on games that are 7-points or fewer prior to 1994?

    Chase, did you calculate that or is it on PFR somewhere?

    • It is not: I used 8 points throughout.

      And I did have to calculate it: not sure it’s anywhere on PFR.

      • Adam

        Wouldn’t it make more sense to define a close game as 7 points regardless of era? An 8 point lead is really 1.5 possessions since a two point conversion is only a 50/50 shot.

  • Richie

    Russell Wilson is weird. I would think that his ability to extend plays with his legs and his low interception rate would make him good in close games.

    Of course, looking at the bottom of the list I see a lot of HOFers who get blown out a lot. (Tarkenton, Namath, Tittle, Dawson, Jurgensen)

  • Mark Growcott

    What is also disturbing for the Chargers of late is their propensity to blow large leads and in embarrassing fashion. In their past 5 seasons they have blown a 24 point lead at home against the Broncos and 2 21 point leads against the Chiefs and Texans. These 3 instances make up 3 of the top 4 blown leads in franchise history.

  • Deacon Drake

    The top 3 guys on that list are ones who thrived when their defense was good, but can’t seal the deal when it is just average. And winning 50% of 1 score games isn’t terrible, as so much of the result is out of the QBs hands (cough Cundiff).

    Elway is just unique in a lot of ways

  • Adam

    Tom Brady winning 73% of close games is just ludicrous. The Patriots have handcuffed regression to the mean and made it their bitch.

    • WR

      I’m not sure where you’re getting that figure from. The chart has Brady at 68.6%, with Peyton 2nd at 66.4%. The fact that those two guys are at the top of the list isn’t a surprise.

  • Joseph

    I take it that being under 50% in winning percentage for close games is an indirect indicator that the QB is not “rising to the occasion”? If so, anyone care to share their thoughts on the following cases: Warner (45%), Gabriel (48%), Moon (48%), Fouts (49%), Ken Anderson (49%), Steve Young (50%), and perhaps the biggest shocker to me, Bart Starr (50%). Some of these played on great teams, so I find it a bit puzzling. Blow out losses are likely to be due to the defense, unless the offense is turn-over prone, so no mystery there. But why are Young, Starr, and Gabriel down so low? Would if make a difference if you could distinguish between high-scoring shoot-out games and low-scoring defensive domination games? Thanks for putting together this interesting material.

    • sacramento gold miners

      HOF QBs like Moon, Fouts, Young, and Starr played on bad teams early on, that that likely influenced where they stand in the rankings. Rivers walked into a good situation in San Diego, and it is troubling to see a 5-19 record with a veteran QB at the helm over the last 24 games in this category. Even when San Diego had a better team record, Rivers was making costly mistakes in close games. It’s a real problem.

      • Joseph

        But if “bad teams” is the decisive factor, then wouldn’t that diminish the value of calculating win percentages for close games, as is proposed here? I can see your point on Rivers, but Starr generally played on great teams, and Young and Fouts were on playoff teams as well. Gabriel’s Ram teams were nearly always at the top; Warner’s teams won more than lost. So I’m still a bit unclear as to what weight can be assigned to significant differences in close game winning percentages, if overall team quality is not ultimately the primary variable (as it clearly is with bad luck Archie Manning, who probably would be wearing four championship rings now if he had been drafted by Pittsburg, and if Bradshaw stayed in Louisiana and went to the Saints)..

  • Through 4 weeks in 2017, Philip Rivers is now:

    43-56 for his career in games decided by 8 or fewer points
    54-27 for his career in games decided by more than 8 points

    So Rivers has 29 more losses in close games than in two-score games, which is a record.

    • Richie

      This can’t just be bad luck, can it?

      There must be something about him (or maybe the team) that causes him to struggle in close games?

      I didn’t see yesterday’s game, but the Chargers trailed by 9 at the end of the third quarter, and they scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and just came up short. Rivers didn’t have an interception. And both of his sacks were in the first quarter. So the game was close most of the way, and the team just came up short. So maybe this one was just bad luck? The loss to Miami and Denver were bad luck missing those field goals.

      Do you have an easy way to pull his career passing stats, split by 8+ and 8- games?