Twelve years in the making

Yes, the Chargers are gunning for their first playoff win since 1994 on Sunday. Yes, Marty Schottenheimer will try to break his five-game postseason losing streak on Sunday. And yes, they must do both against the New England Patriots, a team which has won three of the past five Super Bowls.

"We've obviously drawn a very, very fine opponent," Schottenheimer said. "They are an outstanding football team in every phase of what that they do. They are extremely well-coached and they have good players. "But we still intend to show up."

Rim shot, please.

The Chargers can't joke around any more. After kicking back and enjoying a bye in the playoffs' first weekend, the rubber hits the road Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.

The AFC's No. 1 seed entertains probably the AFC's most dangerous team: the Patriots.

The Chargers, publicly, just shrug about their opponent. But privately, it would be an upset if they thought that all a franchise-best 14-2 regular-season got them was a matchup with one of the grandest dynasties the NFL has experienced.

"My feeling is if you are going to be a champion you have to play and win along the way," Schottenheimer said. " Play them in the first-round, second-round, championship game, it really doesn't matter. You are going to have to win.

"For us, it's staying in the moment and finding a way to win one game this weekend."

The Patriots may not be as hot as the Chargers - winners of 10 straight - but they looked awfully good in pasting the Jets, 37-16 on Sunday.

"We're going to see a team that knows how to win," said linebacker Shawne Merriman, the NFL sack leader who'll make his playoff debut. "It's big for me to come and to see Tom Brady and the Patriots." But not so big that the Chargers will lose their focus on the task at hand.

"They are a team," Merriman said, "that we have to beat to get to where we want to go."

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