Bolts Quickly Turn Focus to Patriots

The dismayed Chargers welcome the New England Patriots, an old foe who has ended both of their last two playoff runs.

The Patriots bounced the Chargers from last season's AFC Championship Game. The previous season, New England upset the host Chargers in a wild-card playoff game, which ultimately cost Marty Schottenheimer his job.

The Chargers look to rebound from their surprising 17-10 defeat Sunday in Miami. But a win, in some ways, will also have a hollow feeling in regard to their rivalry with New England.

"It's not going to do us any good -- it's not the playoffs just a regular-season game," center Nick Hardwick said. "It's not like if we win we get to go play in the Super Bowl. It's not like if we win we get to play in the divisional playoff game."

That AFC Championship Game loss -- only the Chargers' fourth time to advance that far -- still carries a sting. The Chargers nearly handed the undefeated Patriots their first loss despite a long list of hobbling players, falling 21-12.

Quarterback Philip Rivers was playing with a torn ACL in his knee. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson was gone with a knee injury in the first quarter. Tight end Antonio Gates' toe injury compromised his game.

Still, the Chargers nearly prevailed and that memory lives on.

"You hold on to it until you get cranked back in the spring and your offseason workouts," wide receiver Vincent Jackson said. "That is the last taste you have in your mouth.

"Because despite our situations -- what everybody tries to talk about are the injuries and stuff -- I really think we had them where we wanted them late in the game. But we couldn't finish the game."


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Doug Benc/Getty

While respectful of the Patriots, Jackson and many Chargers felt they let a super opportunity slip away on that bitterly cold day at Gillette Stadium.

"(It's) not so much about them, I felt it was more about us and we really let them off the hook," Jackson said. "We just let them off the hook."

In those recent meetings -- the Patriots also waxed the Chargers 38-14 during the 2008 regular season -- Tom Brady has directed New England. Jackson said it would be a mistake to go to sleep on the Patriots just because Brady is injured.

"Absolutely," he said. "They have been a proven team for a long time. They have a veteran leadership on that team and they are going to play smart football and they are well-coached."

Just like the Chargers are well-versed in how the Patriots have wrecked the past two seasons.

"They've just obviously been our postseason rival the past couple of years and it always seems to be a good game," said Jackson, noting the stakes Sunday aren't quite as high. "It's a regular-season game and you want to win as many as you can and that is about as far as we can look about it right now."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We got a lot of traveling coming up so it will be nice to have a home game." -- C Nick Hardwick, regarding the Chargers playing host to the Patriots before heading to Buffalo and London.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15,771 -- Air miles the Chargers will fly in October. After returning from Miami for Sunday's game with the Patriots, they play the Bills at Buffalo and keep heading east to face the Saints in London. The Chargers' October miles are more than 11 of the NFL's 32 teams will travel for a full season. The last leg, London to San Diego, is 5,479 miles.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Chris Chambers, who leads the team with five touchdown receptions, left the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and didn't return.

--OLB Jyles Tucker wasn't able to play against the Dolphins with a hamstring injury. He will be evaluated during the week.

--RG Mike Goff's knee held up OK in the loss at Miami.

--TE Antonio Gates was restricted to one catch for 12 yards.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson failed to rush for 100 yards for the fourth time in five games this year. In his last eight games -- counting the postseason -- Tomlinson has one 100-yard rushing game.


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