Patriots Linebackers' Top Priority: Stop LT

The New England Patirots made it to the postseason on the back of their high octane offense. If weather slows down that unit, the Patriots defense will need to step up, and they know it. Tedy Bruschi knows first hand just how dangerous Chargers MVP running back LaDainian Tomlinson can be, which is why stopping the run is at the top of the to do list.

The only team hotter than the Chargers right now is the Patriots. San Diego has won eight games in a row and comes to Gillette Stadium believing it can do what no other team has done this season: beat the Patriots.

"I see a confident football team. I see a physical football team," Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel said.

"I think their grit. I think that's a way they've learned how to be," added linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "They just keep fighting and fighting. That is proven with the win streak they have over the last half of the season since Thanksgiving."

One of the reasons for the Chargers' revival is All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson wasn't being used a lot early in the year but turned it on during the second half of the season, once San Diego returned to the power running game.

"Every team has a guy that kind of you build around and he's been that guy here," said Chargers head coach Norv Turner. "He's persistent in his attitude and his leadership and we all got off to a slow start. It was tough on LT early and we weren't playing as well as we had, but once we got going, he's had the same kind of year he's had over the last seven.

"Obviously when you lead the league in rushing after getting off to a slow start, he's a complete player for us offensively. He makes plays in the passing game, he's an excellent blocker and obviously is a great runner."

The key for the Patriots defense this week is stopping the former NFL MVP, or at the very least, slowing him down.

"You sort of have to be everywhere in the run game," Bruschi explained. "They'll keep it front side and also cut it backside. He's a runner that will find the hole. Just when you think he's running the ball, there's a play fake and he can get it on a screen pass. You have to expect him in running game and the passing game. He's a very dangerous player. He was the MVP last year and that was well deserved. He's a guy you have to focus on every down."

Tomlinson couldn't finish last weekend's game against the Colts after suffering a bruised knee. But the Patriots players don't seem to think that will be much of an issue for Tomlinson this weekend.

"LT is definitely a great back, so his injury, as far as that goes, I don't know how that goes, but I'm sure he'll play," Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas said. "Other than that, I think that he's going to come and play just like he does every Sunday, not just because it's the (AFC) Championship Game."

For the Chargers to pull the upset on Sunday, they'll need a big game from Tomlinson. That's something New England's defense will do its best to prevent from happening.

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