QB Philip Rivers (Nick Laham)
Neither the Patriots nor the Chargers knew which way the cold, gusty winds would blow in Gillette Stadium...Mother Nature must be a Patriots fan. Despite the Chargers' tremor through New England, they go home with a 21-12 loss. The Chargers offense sputtered and gave Junior Seau his birthday present a day late -- a round-trip ticket to Glendale.
LaDainian Tomlinson’s two carries of the first drive were enough to signal that his knee was not ready for game day, even if he was. Norv Turner assigned Tomlinson to sideline duty. He kept his helmet on and the camera never got the money shot -- no doubt a lot of emotions were hid under the visor.
Tomlinson’s carries were split between Michael Turner and Darren Sproles. Both backs felt the weight of Tedy Bruschi as they combined for just four first downs.
San Diego’s defense made a strong push for the Super Bowl, but they could not earn the trip alone. Tom Brady was sacked twice and pressured on numerous occasions.
Downfield, San Diego’s defensive backs ran circles around New England’s routes. The Chargers promised to bring turnovers to Foxborough and produced three. Antonio Cromartie, Drayton Florence and Quentin Jammer churned out the picks. Jammer picked off Brady’s only first-quarter interception in the playoffs. Cromartie saved a touchdown with an interception in the end zone. Cromartie also led the team in tackles (9).
Philip Rivers could barely walk on Saturday, but it was Brady who did not play at 100 percent. The Chargers demanding pass rush defense kept Brady to fewer yards than Rivers (211-209).
Randy Moss was also out of balance. He contributed one catch and one carry for a total 32 yards.
With their passing game out of sync, the Patriots took over the game on the ground. Laurence Maroney piled up 122 yards and a touchdown.
For the Chargers, it was their inability to produce on third down that kept them touchdown free. The made three trips into the red zone and left with only nine points.
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of Shawne Merriman, Lorenzo Neal, Shaun Phillips and others for Sixthman Communications.