Chargers – Patriots Playoff Blog

SDBoltReport.com's Denis Savage reports live from Qualcomm Stadium as the San Diego Chargers lose 24-21 to the New England Patriots. UPDATED 5:21 PM

5:21 PM- Rivers has three game winning drives in the last seven games...

Fourteen to Gates. Three to Gates. Rivers embellishes a tap by a defender on a spike. He should go back to drama class. Parker with a huge catch, down at the 37-yard line. One last chance...

Kaeding from 54 yards for the tie with eight seconds. He goes wide right and the Chargers lose.

5:18 PM- Seventy to go and New England is up by three.

5:12 PM- After a Graham reception that looked like the Patriots would get the winning drive, the defense proved stout to successive plays, forcing a third-and-10.

Former Charger Reche Caldwell does the rest. The former Bolt beats Quentin Jammer deep, setting up the Pats inside the 20. The Chargers have used two timeouts already. They use their final timeout with the clock at 2:15 and the Pats sitting at second down.

The game will be over if they allow a first down.

The two-minute warning hits with 3rd-and-5.

4:58 PM- Of course Brady converts. He turns a interception fumble into a touchdown to former Bolt Caldwell. Then Kevin Faulk goes in for the two-point conversion and a tie game.

4:51 PM- How else can I stab myself in the foot? Maybe an eye poke would do well this time? I don't need my finger – a hammer misses the nail?

Marlon McCree picks off the fourth down pass from Brady and McCree is stripped by Troy Brown. Reche Caldwell (what are the odds) recovers the ball.

Schottenheimer challenges the call with no chance of winning it.

4:41 PM- Gates comes underneath near the sidelines and has nobody near him as he steps out of bounds. Nineteen on the play and tough for Gates to stop his momentum when he likely thought defenders were waiting on his back. The clear out play came when the linebackers never dropped back and the safeties went deep.

Gates slant on third down gives them a first – his fourth catch of the day.

A deep ball to – who else, Jackson. Rivers airs it out and waits for the ball to arrive, using his frame to box out the defender and catch the ball.

Tomlinson walks it in going left. Touchdown San Diego! 21-13.

4:35 PM- Tomlinson follows Kris Dielman for 13 yards and tops the 100-yard mark for the day with 111.

The word on Phillips is a groin injury but he limped back to the field.

4:35 PM- Cromartie plays Gafney tough at the line. A mean play and almost picks a pass on a quick out. The cornerback has been very visible in the second half.

Fourth-and-two and New England is going for it on the San Diego 41. Timeout for the Patriots and the clock ticks down to one second. Perhaps re-thinking the idea?

Punt it is. Parker is back and now he scares me. It might be the worst game he has ever played.

4:28 PM- Shaun Phillips down and he heads to the locker room on his own power. Hard to see what happened on the play. Let's hope he returns.

4:24 PM- Merriman returns.

Five drives have started at the Chargers 40-yard line or better after New England kicks the ball out of bounds.

I don't understand how the Chargers are even winning this game. It is lunacy. They should be winning 38-13 right now instead of 14-13.

Rivers hits Jackson to cross midfield – the second catch by a wide receiver on the day.

The third quarter comes to an end with Rivers trying to float the ball to Tomlinson but Roosevelt Colvin picks the pass. At least Tomlinson gives him a close-line as payment.

4:19 PM- Merriman is taken to the locker room to have his leg looked at. Still have roughly two minutes to go in the third quarter.

4:17 PM- Stephen Cooper on Ben Watson – great coverage from the linebacker and almost a pick.

When is the last time you heard of pass interference on an offensive lineman? It just happened. I am not sure I have ever witnessed that before.

Shaun Phillips gives Brady a huge shellacking, forcing a fumble that the Patriots recover.

Then stupidity sets in. Drayton Florence gets a personal foul for head butting Daniel Graham and taunting him after the fumble. It gives New England the ball – first down inside the 20 instead of fourth down and just about outside field goal range. Stupid.

Merriman is having his leg stretched out on the sidelines. He got it stuck in the turf trying to get a jump off the snap.

Field goal brings New England within one.

4:07 PM- Eric Parker fumbles a punt and New England recovers. This is the breathe of life that the Patriots have needed with San Diego failing to convert on so many opportunities.

A 50-yard net gain for the Patriots and the ball on the SD 31.

4:01 PM- Sneaky, sneaky. The San Diego Chargers offensive line will not be denied. They are getting a tremendous push along the line and rarely is there an opportunity for the New England defense to get a play at the line.

Of course, as soon as I write this, Goff gets a holding call. Maybe he should cut his hair.

They go deep – Rivers hits Jackson but the feet can't come down in bounds in the back corner of the end zone. His second toe comes out of bounds. A little more tapping, three inches worth, and it is a score for the talented second year player.

You kind of wonder where Keenan McCardell has been all game. He is in there now but has been played as a decoy.

Rivers makes a huge mental mistake. He gets sacked at the 38 after being down at the 28 – making a field goal impossible. Dumb, dumb, dumb. How he didn't see the blitz is beyond reason.

The only plus is Kassim Osgood making a heck of a play to prevent the ball from going in the end zone. Pats ball at the two yard line.

3:54 PM- Sweet redemption. Drayton Florence, who missed a pick earlier in the day, picked off Brady and gives San Diego the ball on the New England 32.

Brady was trying to hit Troy Brown but underthrew the ball and Florence went up to catch it at its highest point. Luis Castillo was pressuring up the gut to force Brady to throw off his back foot.

3:50 PM- What is Vincent Jackson doing? Did he think a cornerback was about to intercept a pass? He literally batted the ball straight to the ground instead of trying to catch a wide-open pass on the right sideline. A catch sets up a field goal. Instead, the team is punting on their first possession of the third quarter.

One catch all day by the receivers and three drops counted by that group alone. Antonio Gates also has a drop. Rivers has missed big on three passes and the rest can be considered good coverage. Winning will depend on this.

3:44 PM- Antonio Cromartie makes two big open field tackles to prevent New England from getting a drive going. His stop on Reche Caldwell forces fourth down, despite Caldwell just needing to fall forward. Great job rook! Brady did come out passing on three straight downs from the shotgun, trying to up the tempo of their game. The Chargers defense only allowed underneath grabs and nothing substantial.

3:25 PM - Halftime: Tom Brady executing a two-minute drill is a beautiful thing. The kid is a master of driving the ball in the hurry-up – the best team in the league at scoring with two minutes to go in the half.

Two minutes, 82 yards. Brady to Jabar Gafney for the touchdown, literally giving New England life heading into the half. The place has been rocking but it set the crowd back on its heels for 15 minutes. And New England gets the ball to start the second half.

The big surprise is they haven't run more hurry-up in the first half. Perhaps they are thinking ball control with 143 yards on the board for LT at halftime.

3: 10 PM- Watch LT run. Watch LT wait for his block on a screen. Watch LT run behind Shane Olivea and bounce inside for 58-yards. Mike Goff made a heck of a block as well.

Then give the man a breather. Turner is more than capable. He drops three would be tacklers and follows a Goff block to score the touchdown, 14-3 San Diego.

3:00 PM- I like Carlos Polk. He has energy. But the first penalty of the game is on him – 15-yard face-mask after the touchdown. Brady follows by hitting Daniel Graham for 19 yards to the Chargers' 38.

Then comes the man who was supposed to be traded. Donnie Edwards picks off Brady and returns it to the San Diego 41. His season has been awesome.

A blindside blitz almost sees the ball come loose from Rivers. Antrell Hawkins pummeled Rivers, forcing a three-and-out after the pick.

2:52 PM- Fourth-and-1 at the Patriots' 39 – the Chargers sit Tomlinson on the sidelines and Michael Turner gains 17 yards through a huge hole on the left side!

Antonio Gates then makes a catch at the one-yard line but the ball hits his knee on the way down and the ball pops out – NO! It is ruled a catch and fumble. San Diego challenges the call on the field – of a completed pass. This is a huge play in the game. San Diego has been inside Patriots' territory five times already on the day and has yet to capitalize. That loses games.

The officials rule incomplete – huge, huge play. Gates hasn't fumbles since 2003 – the only fumble of his career.

A nice sneak for a first on third-and-1 after the Pats thwarted Lorenzo Neal on a similar play earlier in the drive. Neal then catches the ball at the one, showing great coordination in catching it over his shoulder.

The touchdown maker on the next play – fa la la la la LaDainian! 7-3 Bolts.

2: 37 PM- LaDainian Tomlinson had 52 yards on seven carries in the first quarter. Unfortunately, the rest of the offense is not playing very nice.

The Chargers have reached midfield on each of their four possessions but have zero points.

2:28 PM-Drayton Florence misses an interception as the ball is threaded through to Troy Brown. He had the house in front of him.

The Pats go for a field goal in a situation that the Chargers went for the first down. Gostowski makes it 3-nill Patriots.

That reverse is still grating my nerves from the last series.

2:25 PM- Marcus McNeill can block. He is fantastic at pulling and leading the charge down the field. There is a reason the Chargers love to run left – behind McNeill and Kris Dielman. His block out front led to a nice 15-yard gain.

Rivers makes his first bad pass – trying to connect with Brandon Manumaleuna. On third-and-10 he hits Parker who makes a great spin to gain 21 yards and put the Bolts in field goal position.

One play later, the reverse fails miserably. I actually hate this play. Eric Parker takes the ball and slips, losing seven yards. It is one thing to do it on the 20 – when a loss of yardage won't take you out of field goal position.

Vincent Jackson makes it past the defense but Rivers is forced to throw off his back foot with an all-out blitz coming and can't get the enough air under the ball to make it past the defense. Jackson ran a beauty of a route but batted away.

The Chargers take their first timeout on fourth-and-11. And they are going for it from the 30-yard line instead of the 48-yard field goal. Rivers is sacked, coughs up the ball, and New England takes over. Mike Vrabel wipes Shane Olivea on the play to net the sack.

I would have kicked the field goal with your Pro Bowl kicker. There is a difference between conservative and reckless.

2:12 PM- Shawne Merriman with a strong move past Nick Kaczur forces Brady to toss an incompletion, the second forced three-and-out. Merriman used a beautiful uppercut with his right arm to free himself and the closing burst he has amazes.

Reche Caldwell is the first Patriot to record a catch. Does anyone else want to see him stomped into turf?

2:07 PM- Parker drops his second pass in five minutes. I am not sure he dropped two all year. Scifres pins the Pats inside the 20 again (the 6-yard line) – how this kid isn't a first team Pro Bowl player is beyond me. He leads the league in kicks inside the 20 and when he boots it the odds are pretty good it won't go for a touchback.

1:59 PM- Oh, the humanity! Clinton Hart drops a gift. A tipped pass by Marlon McCree on a blitz came down into his waiting arms and he simply missed the ball – deep in New England territory. The net result is a three-and-out on the pats first possession and the ball at midfield for San Diego.

1:54 PM- Lorenzo Neal may not have the swiftest hips but he punishes a Patriots defensive back for attempting to tackle him.

The sure-handed Parker drops a pass. He rarely drops passes. The drive stalls when Chad Scott makes a great open field tackle on Antonio Gates. Those are the kind of catches - a first down hanging in his hands - that must be made to win this game. It may seem small but that could be one of the three or four plays that matter.

1:49 PM- The crowd has been screaming incessantly for 20 minutes with the late start to the game. Kickoff occurred at 1:49 PM. Tomlinson gains 11 yards on his first carry.

1:47 PM- Tom Brady has not thrown a pick in 159 consecutive passes coming into the game. Superstars pick up their game at the right time.

1:40 PM- San Diego has won the toss and will receive.

Fa-la-la-la-la-LaDainian!

1:29 PM- The elation in Chicago for the overtime kick from Robbie Gould is something the Chargers hope never comes. They want to win this thing early by starting fast and finishing things off.

It wasn't surprising that the Seahawks went for it on fourth-and-one with less than two minutes to go. What was a shock was the play call. How could you run up the gut when the Bears defense was clearly in run blitz, committing everything to the middle. A little toss outside would have won this game for Seattle.

1:25 PM- It has been a long time since this sound has emanated from Qualcomm. Those standing on Friars road are in for a treat – they can hear the roar. Tom Brady and, more importantly, the Patriots' offensive line will have difficulty hearing any snap count.

The loudest crowd I have experienced came in St. Louis in 2002 when the Chargers lost a tough game – a game in which the Rams recovered an onside kick, scoring two touchdowns in less than two minutes. I still believe Tim Dwight caught a touchdown and tapped his toes in the fourth quarter of that game and it may very well have led to a playoff berth. I digress.

This crowd is rivaling that pounding of hooves inside the dome four years back.

12:40 PM- The crowd is already on edge, eager to get to their seats before the start of this playoff contest. You can feel the energy already as the hoots and whoops begin. Save those voices!

12:33 PM- Today's inactives are in.

Chargers inactives:

Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (third quarterback)
Wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim
Cornerback Cletis Gordon
Fullback Andrew Pinnock
Offensive tackle Cory Lekkerkerker
Defensive end Jacques Cesaire
Tight end Ryan Krause
Linebacker Marques Harris

Chargers lineup changes:
None

Patriots inactives:

Wide receiver Bam Childress
Quarterback Vinny Testaverde (third quarterback)
Safety Rashad Baker
Safety Rodney Harrison
Offensive lineman Gene Mruczkowski
Offensive tackle Wesley Britt
Defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith
Defensive end Marquise Hill

Patriots lineup changes:
#36 James Sanders will start at strong safety for #37 Rodney Harrison

12:15 PM- The parking lot was rocking. Powder Blues and Chargers attire are in full force. It is a sea of blue and gold with very few Patriot jerseys. This is a home crowd.

One thing not in favor of San Diego – the weather. It is a bit nippy out here today – somewhere around 47 degrees with a four MPH wind that swirls down towards the field. It could be an interesting kicking day.


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