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Colts’ Old Man Rivers just keeps on rollin’

With the Bears making yet another change in search of consistency at quarterback, Colts veteran Philip Rivers prepares for his 239th consecutive NFL start Sunday at Soldier Field.

Philip Rivers (17, scrambling away from Bears defensive tackle John Jenkins in a 22-19 loss to the Bears in 2015 in San Diego) is 2-2 against the Bears in his career, with a 77.9 passer rating (five touchdowns, six interceptions).
Philip Rivers (17, scrambling away from Bears defensive tackle John Jenkins in a 22-19 loss to the Bears in 2015 in San Diego) is 2-2 against the Bears in his career, with a 77.9 passer rating (five touchdowns, six interceptions).
Denis Poroy/AP

When Philip Rivers made his first start against the Bears in the 2007 season opener, his counterpart was Rex Grossman.

That was 14 starting quarterbacks ago for the Bears.

Rex Grossman . . . Brian Griese . . . Kyle Orton . . .

Fast forward 13 seasons and Rivers will be making his 228th consecutive regular-season start — 239 including playoff games — when the Colts face the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field. It’s the longest active streak in the NFL and the second-longest for a quarterback in NFL history behind Brett Favre.

Rivers is a fitting opponent for Nick Foles’ first start with the Bears. His durability and dependability are a stark contrast to the Bears’ inability to sustain anything at quarterback throughout the Super Bowl era. Since Rivers started against the Bears in 2007 — a 14-3 Chargers victory marked by running back LaDainian Tomlinson throwing the only touchdown pass of the game — the Bears have changed starting quarterbacks 31 times.

Jay Cutler . . . Todd Collins . . . Caleb Hanie . . .

In fact, when Foles starts Sunday, it’ll mark the sixth time just in the Matt Nagy era that the Bears have started a different quarterback than they did in the previous game. Their longest string of quarterback starts in the Rivers era is 23 games — by Grossman in 2006-07. Their longest in the Super Bowl era is 43 games by Bob Avellini (1975-78).

Rivers started every game for the Chargers for 14 seasons from 2006 to 2019. In that span, a Bears quarterback has started every game in a season just twice — Grossman in 2006 and Jay Cutler in 2009. In fact, a Bears quarterback has started every game in a season just five times in the last 40 years. Vince Evans (1981), Jim Harbaugh (1991) and Erik Kramer (1995) are the others.

Josh McCown . . . Jason Campbell . . . Jimmy Clausen . . .

But Rivers keeps on rollin’. After the Chargers declined to offer him a contract after last season, he signed with the Colts and is still productive at 38. His 217 passing yards in a 36-7 victory over the Jets last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium gave him 60,065 for his career — sixth on the all-time list. His 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mo Alie-Cox in the second quarter was the 400th touchdown pass of his career — sixth on the all-time list. His 95.1 career passer rating is 10th all-time.

“I think that’s the biggest part — the significance of his durability at his age to have the success he’s had,” Nagy said. “I have a lot of respect for him. I was able to coach him in the Pro Bowl when I was in Kansas City, so I got to know him a little bit there. You just have a fond respect for him.”

Brian Hoyer . . . Matt Barkley . . . Mike Glennon . . .

Rivers’ toughness is unquestioned. In 2008, he played in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots six days after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee.

But even Rivers acknowledges there’s luck involved. Cutler was every bit as tough as Rivers as an NFL quarterback but still suffered injuries that kept him out of a game in six of his eight seasons with the Bears. One of the biggest, in fact, came against Rivers and the Chargers in 2011 — a broken thumb when he tried to make a tackle after throwing an interception.

Rivers has had his share of trials in his career. Despite the 60,065 yards and 400 touchdowns, he’s only 125-102 as a starter. But he has avoided the serious injuries that have crippled other quarterbacks.

Mitch Trubisky . . . Chase Daniel . . . Nick Foles . . .

“After all these years, he’s still productive,” Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “His accuracy and decision-making is off the charts. So it’s amazing. He’s a great competitor. He loves to compete, and he loves to play.”