The Chargers were among the favorites to reach last season's Super Bowl when spitting out an NFL-best 14-2 mark, earning the AFC's No. 1 seed and clinching a lead at home against the Patriots.
Final score: Patriots 24, Chargers 21.
"It's a new season," Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "If we start thinking too much about last year's playoff loss, you are kind of living in the past."
The future shows a juicy game awaiting for a nationally televised audience. And that was before the news broke that the Patriots had resorted to video cheating in their season-opening win over the Jets.
But know this: The Chargers could win 41-0 and tear down the North Church on the way out of town and it still wouldn't erase one of the most heartbreaking defeats in Chargers history.
"But this game doesn't change that one win or loss," said quarterback Philip Rivers, who was among the Chargers getting upset with the Patriots doing the "Lights Out" dance after January's playoff game. "You can't fix that game. It's a new year.
"Two years ago we went out there and won and then we didn't make the playoffs. For us, what's important is this is the second game on the schedule. We're 1-0, one of 16 teams that are 1-0 after the first week. Chicago and New England are two teams picked to be playing in early February, so we're getting some tests early."
The Chargers get testy talking about their reaction to the Patriots having all but a tea party at midfield after last season's playoff upset. But All-Pro tight end said the Chargers have moved on and grown up.
"We're much more prepared and experienced than last year," Gates said. "Emotions may get in the way of a game when you have a battle like we had last year. Emotions get involved, but at the same time we understand this is our job. This is our business to go out and perform to our highest level. We weren't able to do that last year."
Chargers head coach Norv Turner wasn't roaming the sidelines that dark day in team lore. But he said such a stinging defense can often pay positives down the road. That road on Sunday leads to New England.
"Those experiences, if you learn from them, help you," he said.
The Chargers won't need any assistance in getting up for this game. Not with the memories still so fresh of exiting Qualcomm Stadium with a Super Bowl dream all but danced on by the Patriots.
"To me, this is Game No. 2," general manager A. J. Smith told reporters. "That's all it means to me. And after that will be Game No. 3."
The stoic Smith is trying to downplay a match-up that is the marquee pairing of the NFL's second week. Good luck is ramping down the adrenaline, which will be flowing through every player's veins come kickoff on Sunday night.
"The fact of the matter is, we've got to go out and play," Gates said. "The New England Patriots guys came out and they outplayed us, man to man. Going into this game, we understand the focus that we've got to outplay the New England Patriots team. It ain't got nothing to do with the coaches, it ain't got nothing to do with the play calling, it's got something to do with the execution."
SERIES HISTORY: 33rd regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 17-13-2. The teams have also met twice in the postseason, with both games holding a special place in the Chargers history. In the last meeting, the Chargers squandered an eight-point lead at home as the AFC's top seed and fell in the divisional playoff game in January. The Chargers won their only league championship when beating the Boston Patriots for the 1963 AFL title. In the Chargers' last visit to New England in 2005, they blasted the Patriots, 41-17, and snapped their 21-game home winning streak.
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