Philip Rivers has beaten the Patriots before. All it took was one of the best games of his career — and the absence of one of the best players in NFL history.

The Chargers knocked off New England on a perfect mid-October evening in 2008, winning 30-10 in front of 68,704 at Qualcomm Stadium. Rivers threw for 306 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions — logging a 141.9 passer rating that still stands as his seventh-best single-game mark. Tom Brady, meanwhile, wasn’t even in uniform. He had torn his ACL five weeks earlier, his left leg twisted awkwardly by Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard.

But there’s still plenty of history to look back on. The Patriots’ star quarterback has dueled Rivers four times in the regular season, logging a passer rating of 108.6 — almost identical to his current year-long mark. Brady is also undefeated in their playoff matchups, winning twice despite six combined interceptions.

Will Rivers finally break through this Sunday (10 a.m. PT, CBS) at Gillette Stadium?

“I’m looking forward to getting another shot,” he said this week. “With him as the quarterback over there, we’re 0-for.”

That lone victory in 2008 over the Matt Cassel-led Patriots bumped the Chargers back up to .500, a crucial game en route to an unlikely postseason bid. That year, Rivers and his teammates fought back from a 4-8 start, closing the regular season with four straight wins and beating the Colts in the wild-card round.

Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates are the only holdovers from that roster, but they and the rest of the Chargers hope to spark something similar against the Patriots (5-2). After an 0-4 start under first-year head coach Anthony Lynn, the Chargers have reeled off three consecutive victories. A fourth straight win — especially one in Foxborough — would lend legitimacy to their long-shot postseason aspirations.

But a subplot to the weekend is the matchup between Rivers and Brady. They won’t actually line up against each other, but in a league that is losing stars to injuries on a weekly basis, their names still headline the marquee.