Rivers threw three touchdown passes and San Diego's defense stuffed quarterback Matt Cassel on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to highlight a 30-10 win over New England on Sunday night.
Rivers and the rest of the Chargers (3-3) know that beating the Patriots doesn't make up for the loss that kept them out of the Super Bowl or that mind-numbing home playoff defeat two seasons ago.
What it did, though, was put to rest the questions about the Chargers' maddening inconsistency, especially since they head out on a long and winding road trip that takes them to Buffalo and then London for a game against the New Orleans Saints.
"This was obviously a big game for us," Rivers said. "We didn't intentionally downplay it. It wasn't necessarily a payback game at all. But it was big because of the situation we are in, because it gets us back to .500 before we go on this world tour here the next couple of weeks."
Rivers drew raves for his toughness by playing the AFC championship game with a shredded ligament in his right knee, but he couldn't get the Chargers into the end zone that day and they lost 21-12 to the Patriots at Foxborough.
He had no trouble Sunday night, when he threw touchdown passes of 49 yards to Malcom Floyd, 4 yards to Vincent Jackson and 1 yard to Antonio Gates. It was the fourth time this season that Rivers threw three TD passes. Rivers completed 18 of 27 passes for 306 yards.
Of course, the Chargers didn't have to face Tom Brady, out for the season with a knee injury. Cassel, making his fifth career start, was sacked four times and intercepted once. He was 22-of-38 for 203 yards.
"We knew that there was going to be a lot of energy in the stadium tonight. We knew that they were gonna come out and try to shut us out early," Cassel said. "They did a good job. They got ahead, and we weren't able to really catch up and score points."
New England (3-2) had its regular-season road winning streak snapped at 12, which is the second-longest in NFL history. The Patriots scored their fewest points since their last road loss, 21-0 at Miami on Dec. 10, 2006.
Trailing 17-3, the Patriots tried to make a game of it when Cassel led them to a first-and-goal at the 1 on the opening drive of the second half. After Cassel threw two incompletions and running back Sammy Morris was stuffed, Cassel dropped back on fourth down. With all his receivers covered, he attempted to run up the middle but was buried at the 2.
"When you can go out there and have that type of a stand at that crucial point in a game, it bring an attitude, it brings a feeling and an energy that stays with you for the rest of the time," defensive end Luis Castillo said. "We hope it starts the season for us."
Cassel said the last play was a progression read. "We went through it, and I didn't see anybody open. I was hoping to maybe make a play with my legs, and it just didn't happen. Goal line is goal line. You go down there, and it's the grit and the grind of the game. They did a good job. They have good guys up front."
Rivers then led the Chargers 98 yards on four plays, with Gates slipping into the end zone to catch a 1-yard pass for a 24-3 lead.
Rivers had a 59-yard completion to Jackson on the second play of the drive, and the Chargers got the ball at the 1 after Jackson was dragged down by Ellis Hobbs, who was flagged for pass interference.
Rivers threw a touchdown pass of 49 yards to Malcom Floyd and another of 4 yards to Jackson in the first half.
Floyd's first catch in almost a year was a big one. With wide receiver Chris Chambers inactive due to a sprained ankle, Floyd benefited from extra playing time. He ran a post pattern and outjumped cornerback Deltha O'Neal for the ball before tumbling into the end zone with 3:58 to go in the first quarter.
It was Floyd's first catch since Oct. 14, 2007, and his first touchdown since the 2006 season. He was inactive the final 10 regular-season games and all three playoff games.
Rivers threw a 4-yard scoring pass to Jackson just before halftime. Jackson was wide open after Hobbs ran into safety James Sanders.
LaDainian Tomlinson became the 17th player to rush for more than 11,000 career yards.
San Diego's Nate Kaeding kicked field goals of 25, 35 and 23 yards.
- New England's 299 yards were the fewest the Chargers have allowed this season.
- Tomlinson gained 74 yards on 20 carries. His 405 yards (3.7 average) are his lowest total through six games in his eight-season career.
- Chargers RB/PR Darren Sproles left with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter.
- Jackson caught five passes for 134 yards.