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SportsPulse: The NFL’s first tremendous wild-card Saturday triple-header did not disappoint. United states Right now Sports’ Mackenzie Salmon breaks down the most important story lines from each and every activity.

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The period is in excess of. It is truly a cruel twist of destiny that the bitter anguish that accompanies that simple fact has develop into so agonizingly familiar to him. Philip Rivers can recite its patterns and rhythms with a disgusted relieve. He is aware of specifically the discomfort he’ll encounter when a time ends before the Super Bowl. He’d done it 16 several years in a row. This marks No. 17.   

But that’s not what produced him cry Saturday night time. 

The to start with kick in the gut will occur mid-week when he wakes up in the early morning with no enemy to prepare for. No following opponent to wipe the slate thoroughly clean. No new starting. 

The following will get there a few days later, during the NFL’s divisional playoffs. He’ll check out 8 groups play for the proper to progress to the meeting championship online games and lament that he and his brothers are not there fighting for it, far too. 

Future will be championship Sunday, and that will definitely sting, mainly because he appreciates two groups whole of gamers will get to enjoy for some thing he under no circumstances has: a Super Bowl. 

And that discomfort will linger for one more two months, prior to he watches just one group reach the dream he’s chased his overall existence, yet hardly ever understood.

The Monday after the Super Bowl usually gives him his first actual respite, when the relaxation of the league goes back again to -, and he can start off getting ready for the future season. 

This time close to, however, Rivers may possibly not even have that motivating Monday to count on. At 39 yrs aged, he doesn’t know if he’s coming back. Saturday’s 27-24 Wild Card reduction to the Expenses could extremely perfectly have been the previous gasp of Rivers’ occupation.

And while there is psychological baggage that accompanies that believed, that also is not truly what manufactured Rivers cry Saturday night time.

To be apparent, these tears didn’t sneak up on him. Even as he broke down the details of the heartbreaking playoff decline – the seventh of his occupation – he could sense them coming. Welling up inside of him. All people could see it. 

The dam lastly broke when Rivers authorized himself to replicate on the period. To reminisce about his teammates and how a lot they’ve meant to him.

What designed Rivers cry is recognizing that the fight is over, and that he and the 2020 Colts won’t get a single much more week with each other. After pouring their hearts and souls into the time, right after fending off a pandemic and rallying to get 11 video games in the deal with of so substantially adversity, they had forged a deep bond. They truly thought they ended up a workforce of destiny, that they could earn it all. Jointly.

And now that they have arrive up small, the suffering was far too substantially to retain inside of. It came flowing out. 

“It’s a actually neat staff. I assume underneath these situations,” Rivers said, his voice quivering, “I know individually, for me, to acquire the variety of bond and camaraderie that we experienced, it was fairly particular for sure. … It was a heck of a team to be a section of. Surely disappointing to finish like this when you just consider it is the calendar year. … It was a distinctive staff to be a section of.”

The thing about Rivers you have to have an understanding of, and that I feel I’m only just noticing myself, is that his dogged pursuit of a Tremendous Bowl isn’t truly about the immortality that accompanies it – or even about the bragging rights of being the very best group in the league that yr. 

He’s as intense a competitor as there is in the NFL, and he desperately enjoys to win, but a Tremendous Bowl is not an particular person accolade. It’s the top group prize. It is the realization of a desire they experienced collectively and started preventing for, collectively, due to the fact April. So much of the converse encompassing Rivers all these several years is that he’s never ever gained the significant a person, but Rivers himself has by no means cared about that aspect of his private legacy.

He has chased a championship for so extended since he’s pursuing the feeling of sheer bliss that accompanies figuring out you acquired there with the adult men and gals who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into attaining the same purpose. 

And every single 12 months, all 17 of them that Rivers has not gotten to come to feel that bliss breaks his coronary heart a minimal little bit additional. And yes, this 12 months, the ache cuts a small deeper because he’s not certain if he’ll at any time get yet another opportunity. The Colts nonetheless have to decide if they want him back again – coach Frank Reich mentioned Saturday night time that he does – and Rivers, too, has to make your mind up if he needs to occur back again. 

Belief: Indianapolis Colts gave away playoff match towards Buffalo Bills

NFC wild-card action: Los Angeles Rams knock off Seattle Seahawks in playoff upset

His teammates want him to. They adore him. They believe he continue to has it within of him to guideline them where by they want to go. They want to win it all for him. They want to get it all with him. 

“He put every little thing on the line,” Darius Leonard explained. “A broken toe and every thing, and he’s even now participating in, and in return, we just have to perform. We have to get him a Super Bowl ring. For us not to give him a person sucks. I hope it is not his previous calendar year. I pray it is not.”

Rivers claimed Saturday evening he doesn’t know if he’s completed, but the considered certainly crossed his head.

As he walked by way of the Bills tunnel back to the locker space, Rivers questioned if it would be his last time. 

“After your 17th yr and you are about to be 40, and you’re not certain if you walked up your past tunnel, heck yeah, heck yeah, it’s additional (psychological),” Rivers reported through tears.  “It was a heck of a entertaining time. There is zero regret. Going to Indiana, and shoot, and participating in for this franchise and obtaining a likelihood and meeting some new fellas that I will keep a romance with. We fell limited today, but I’ll walk out of here with my head held large, for sure.”

Comply with IndyStar Colts Insider Jim Ayello on Twitter: @jimayello

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