The final straw was giving New England the ball back with three and a half minutes on the clock. It didn't matter that the drive started at the 15. Seven plays later the ball was on San Diego's 12. Stephen Gostkowski's third field goal of the game gave New England a 24-21 lead.
The Bolts would get the ball back with 70 seconds to go. Philip Rivers gets San Diego down to the New England 37. Nate Kaeding for the tie from 54 is wide left and Schottenheimer endures another playoff loss.
The fifth time was the charm for San Diego. After blowing four straight chances inside New England territory, the Bolts converted on chance number five. On a drive that started out at the Patriots' 48, it was LaDainian Tomlinson who pushed it across the goal line from the two-yard line to give San Diego a 7-3 second quarter lead.
The Chargers would score again, using the one-two punch of Tomlinson and Michael Turner. Tomlinson gained 71 yards on three plays, including a 58-yard screen, to setup a six-yard touchdown run from Michael Turner.
Tom Brady executed the two-minute drill to perfection to end the first half, keeping the game close by engineering a 72-yard drive in 116 seconds. Brady hit Jabar Gafney from six yards out to cap the drive.
Two careless third quarter plays cut the San Diego lead to one. Eric Parker fumbled a punt at the San Diego 31 to start things off and Drayton Florence's 15-yard personal foul penalty after Shaun Phillips sacked Tom Brady and forced a fumble – that New England recovered – turned a fourth down into a first down. Gostowski hit from 34 yards.
San Diego extended their lead to eight points in the fourth quarter. Rivers led the Bolts on a nine play, 83-yard drive that ended with Tomlinson's second touchdown of the day and a 21-13 lead. Rivers hit Jackson for a 31-yard completion to setup the score.
The Patriots never go quietly. When Tom Brady was picked for the third time it seemed like they would but Marlon McCree had the ball stripped on the return by wide receiver Troy Brown. Reche Caldwell would come up with the recovery and Brady would hit Caldwell for the touchdown shortly thereafter. Kevin Faulk to a direct snap to tie the game at 21 with his two-point conversion.
The New England Patriots got on the board first with a Gostkowski 50-yard field goal. San Diego had gone for it on fourth-and-11 on the New England 30 instead of attempting a 48-yard field goal and paid three points for it.