Worth the Wait?

The Chargers head into Sunday's long-awaited matchup with the Patriots, eager to gain some revenge for last January's heartbreaking playoff loss, right? Not exactly.

"Obviously, you want to win the game; it's the next game," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said.

"But it's not the same situation and it doesn't mean as much. That's probably because after this game, there are 14 more."

So true.

Still, the Chargers are still smarting from squandering an eight-point, fourth-quarter lead to the Patriots at home in their playoff meltdown. While hopes are high for this year, the reality of what the team let slip away last year can't be so easily dismissed.

"To me, that was the worst game we played all year," tight end Antonio Gates said. "We just weren't in sync last year. We weren't in sync offensively and they just outplayed us.

"Your hat has to go off to New England. They came in to San Diego and they wanted it. As a man, we hold each other accountable for the lack of execution in the postseason."

The Chargers travel to New England, some might think, at the right time. While the Patriots looked very good in their season-opening win over the Jets, the Chargers will face a defense which is minus Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison.

But they also know the Patriots never decline a challenge, and they are fully aware the Chargers are out to atone for that playoff pratfall. The Patriots, too, remember the last time the Chargers visited in 2004 -- the Patriots got their doors blown off in a 41-17 loss which snapped their 21-game home winning streak.

But that game has been pushed somewhat into the background, what with the epic loss in January which took the air out of the Chargers' season, despite an NFL-best, 14-2 regular-season mark.

Lightning Quicks:

--QB Philip Rivers had a decent opening day, especially considering the pass protection breakdowns which resulted in three sacks. Rivers was 22-of-31 for 190 yards and an interception. Still, his 73.3 rating paled in comparison of LaDainian Tomlinson's 158.3. Rivers has been sharper and he'll need to be Sunday in New England.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson was held to 25 yards rushing, the second-lowest total in his career. The Bears were determined to stop Tomlinson and they did by stacking the line and having their way they majority of the day with the offensive line. Often Tomlinson wasn't able to get out of the backfield without having to dodge defenders. That was one sweet pass, though -- he threw for a touchdown to Antonio Gates.

--TE Antonio Gates continues to prove he is the best in the game. He led the Chargers with nine catches for 107 yards, and added that touchdown reception from Tomlinson. Gates is even more important as the Chargers continue to search for some consistency on the outside.

--WR Vincent Jackson made three catches for 28 yards but he also had a couple of penalties and had a ball bounce off his shoulder pads in the end zone. An OK day, but the Chargers are hoping for so much more from the guy they are touting as their No. 1 wide receiver.

--WR Craig Davis had two receptions for 15 yards but didn't have much of a real impact. He was also forced into duty on punt returns when Darren Sproles suffered a concussion. Davis looked shaky there, fumble one punt -- the Chargers recovered -- and calling for a fair catch on three other occasions.

--OLB Shaun Phillips might have as good a year as Shawne Merriman. That might be a stretch, but not by much. With teams paying so much attention to Merriman, the NFL sack leader last year, it opens lanes to the pocket for Phillips. And there are few players in the league with a quicker first step than Phillips. He had a sack on the game's second play where he absolutely leveled Rex Grossman. Phillips, who had 11.5 sacks last year, is the real deal.

--DT Jamal Williams was a key because the Bears, rightly so, were trying to get the ball out of QB Rex Grossman's hands and RB LaDainian Tomlinson's hands. So they were bent on establishing a running game, but it could never get off the ground with the beast in the middle -- Williams. He more than held his own against six-time Pro Bowl C Olin Kreutz in one of the day's better matchups.

--ILB Stephen Cooper was an opening day starter for the first time and he looked more than up to the challenge. Stuck behind Randall Godfrey for most of his career, Cooper has quickly become a leader on the defense and was stout against the run. He led the team with eight tackles.

--S Eric Weddle is going to be a player. The rookie was in on dime packages and the majority of the time he was coming off the edge in a blitz package. He got to Grossman one time and was close on other occasions with two quarterback hits.

--RB Michael Turner was eased into the season, as he is still nursing a tender ankle. But when Darren Sproles went down, he returned a kick for 15 yards then ended up rushing for 41 yards on 10 carries. He ran hard, too, which shows you his ankle is almost 100 percent.


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