Final

Patriots 24

(12-4, 7-1 away)

Chargers 21

(14-2, 8-0 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:30 PM ET, January 14, 2007

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA 

1 2 3 4 T
NE 3 7 3 1124
SD 0 14 0 721

Top Performers

Passing: T. Brady (NE) - 280 YDS, 2 TD, 3 INT

Rushing: L. Tomlinson (SD) - 23 CAR, 123 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: J. Gaffney (NE) - 10 REC, 103 YDS, 1 TD

Crafty Brady fuels Pats' comeback win over Chargers

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Tom Brady, as cool as ever, delivered every time the San Diego Chargers gave him another chance.

Already a three-time Super Bowl winner, his shot at a fourth is very much alive after the New England Patriots shocked league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers on Sunday, winning 24-21 to advance to the AFC Championship Game.

Clayton: Professor Patriots
Following the Patriots' 24-21 win, Belichick is 13-2 in playoff games. Schottenheimer is 5-13 and has lost six straight postseason games. The uncanny way in which the Patriots rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final 8:35 is why Belechick could be heading to the Pro Football Hall of Fame once he gives up coaching. Column

Brady overcame three interceptions, his career playoff high, to lead the Patriots to 11 points in 3:26 late in the game. He and coach Bill Belichick now have a 12-1 postseason record together, and need to win at Indianapolis next Sunday to make their fourth Super Bowl trip in six seasons.

Brady and linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who also helped the Patriots in their Super Bowl runs earlier this decade, walked off the field together.

"I said to Tedy, 'Man, that was not easy.' He says to me, 'They never are buddy, they never are,'" said Brady, 27-of-51 for 280 yards.

As tough a win as it was for New England, it was a gut-wrenching loss for San Diego and its coach, Marty Schottenheimer, whose job could be in jeopardy after his career postseason record tumbled to 5-13.

Tomlinson shattered several league records in helping the Chargers go an NFL-best 14-2, including 8-0 at home in the regular season.

Elias Says

Stephen Gostkowski
Gostkowski
The next Adam Vinatieri? How about his successor, Stephen Gostkowski, who kicked three field goals in the Patriots' 24-21 victory at San Diego, including a 31-yard game-winner with 1:10 to play. Gostkowski was the first rookie to kick a fourth-quarter game-winning field goal in a postseason game since Jim O'Brien of the Colts broke the hearts of Cowboys fans 36 years ago in Super Bowl V.

Gostkowski's 50-yard field goal to open the scoring was the second longest in NFL history by a rookie in a playoff game. The record is 51 yards by Fuad Reveiz of the Dolphins in a victory over the Browns in January 1986.

• Read more Elias Says.

Once it was over, Tomlinson, like Brady one of the most laid-back superstars in any sport, lost his cool. He went after an unidentified Patriots player and had to be restrained by a teammate and former Charger Reche Caldwell, who had a huge game for the Patriots.

Tomlinson yelled and pointed at the Patriots player, upset that some Patriots were dancing on the Chargers logo at midfield after they had silenced the record crowd of 68,810 at Qualcomm Stadium.

"I would never react in that way. I was very upset," Tomlinson said. "When you go to the middle of our field and start doing the dance Shawne Merriman is known for, that is disrespectful. They showed no class and maybe that comes from the head coach."

Merriman, nicknamed "Lights Out," did a spasmodic dance to celebrate each of his NFL-high 17 sacks.

"We lost to a better team today," Tomlinson said. "Hopefully the next opportunity we have we'll learn something from this."

Tomlinson ran for 123 yards and two scores, and caught two passes for 64 yards.

While the Chargers respected the mystique Brady and the Patriots had built with Super Bowl wins following the 2001, 2002 and 2004 seasons, they hoped to be the ones raising the Lombardi Trophy in Miami on Feb. 4.

San Diego had nine players voted to the Pro Bowl team and five to the All-Pro team. And it had been supercharged by Tomlinson, who became the most prolific scorer in one season in NFL history with 31 touchdowns and 186 points while winning the rushing title with 1,815 yards.

But Brady is the one who's been there before in January. And nearly always has won -- it was Brady's sixth career game-winning drive in the playoffs, and his 24th overall.

The winning points came on a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 1:10 left. That capped a 72-yard drive highlighted by a 49-yard pass to Reche Caldwell, who left the Chargers as a free agent after last season.

With the Patriots trailing 21-13, Brady threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to the wide-open Caldwell with 4:36 to play. The Patriots tied it on a tricky 2-point conversion, snapping the ball directly to running back Kevin Faulk, who was standing next to Brady and ran through the middle of the line.

San Diego's Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding was short on a 54-yard field goal try with 3 seconds left.

Schottenheimer will no doubt be criticized for going for it on fourth-and-11 from the New England 30 in the first quarter rather than having Kaeding try a field goal.

Philip Rivers, the Chargers' first-year starting quarterback, was sacked by Mike Vrabel and fumbled, giving the Patriots the ball at their 35.

Although Schottenheimer has a year left on his contract, at more than $3 million, he and general manager A.J. Smith have had an icy relationship for months, and the front-office felt this team was built for a Super Bowl run.

The Chargers had four turnovers -- they had only 15 in the regular season -- and made other critical mistakes.

"Anytime you're in the playoffs and lose, and certainly I have plenty of experience at it, there's a disappointment," Schottenheimer said.

Punt returner Eric Parker had a double muff to give the Patriots the ball on their 31 late in the third quarter. Following a third-and-13 on which Brady fumbled and Matt Light recovered, Chargers cornerback Drayton Florence head-butted tight end Daniel Graham and drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That led to Gostkowski's 24-yard field that pulled the Patriots to 14-13.

Tomlinson scored on a 3-yard run with 8:35 left in the game for a 21-13 lead.

On the next Patriots drive, Brady was intercepted by safety Marlon McCree, who, rather than going down, tried for a return and was hit by Troy Brown and fumbled, with Caldwell recovering.

The Chargers challenged, but the play was upheld, and the Patriots had the ball at the Chargers 32. Five plays later, Brady hit Caldwell and Faulk added the conversion.

"There was a lot of gratification," Caldwell said. "I had a chance to come home and show what I could do and I think I made plays."

Tomlinson scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter for a 7-3 lead. Later, he turned a screen pass into a brilliant 58-yard gain, leaving two defenders grasping at air while he scooted to the New England 6. His backup, Michael Turner, scored on the next play for a 14-3 lead.

Brady kept the Patriots in it by running the two-minute offense to perfection, pulling New England to 14-10 just before halftime. At the end of the 10-play, 72-yard drive, Brady had all day to throw a 6-yard pass to Jabar Gaffney in the back of the end zone.

Game notes


San Diego lost its fourth straight postseason game dating to the Super Bowl following the 1994 season ... The kicker rookie Gostkowski replaced, Adam Vinatieri, kicked five field goals for all of Indianapolis' points in a 15-6 win at Baltimore on Saturday.

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Team Stat Comparison

 
NE
SD
1st Downs1821
Passing 1st downs
129
Rushing 1st downs
312
1st downs from penalties
30
3rd down efficiency
4-175-14
4th down efficiency
0-11-2
Total Plays7468
Total Yards327352
Yards per play4.45.2
Total Drives1414
Passing276204
Comp-Att
27-5114-32
Yards per pass
5.25.8
Interceptions thrown
31
Sacks-Yards Lost
2-43-26
Rushing51148
Rushing Attempts
2133
Yards per rush
2.44.5
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-43-3
Penalties4-456-64
Turnovers34
Fumbles lost
03
Interceptions thrown
31
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession29:0630:54

Passing Leaders

NEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brady27/512805.5232-4
SDC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Rivers14/322307.2013-26

Rushing Leaders

NECARYDSAVGTDLG
Faulk6254.207
Dillon8182.305
SDCARYDSAVGTDLG
Tomlinson231235.3215
Turner3248.0117

Receiving Leaders

NERECYDSAVGTDLG
Gaffney1010310.3117
Caldwell78011.4149
SDRECYDSAVGTDLG
Tomlinson26432.0058
Gates66110.2019

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERNESD
neFG0:46Stephen Gostkowski 50 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 9 plays, 33 yds, 4:35
30
SECOND QUARTERNESD
sdTD7:24LaDainian Tomlinson, 2 yd run (Nate Kaeding kick is good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 48 yds, 4:31
37
sdTD2:10Michael Turner, 6 yd run (Nate Kaeding kick is good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 77 yds, 2:23
314
neTD0:13Jabar Gaffney, 6 yd pass from Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski kick is good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 72 yds, 1:56
1014
THIRD QUARTERNESD
neFG2:15Stephen Gostkowski 34 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 15 yds, 3:09
1314
FOURTH QUARTERNESD
sdTD8:40LaDainian Tomlinson, 3 yd run (Nate Kaeding kick is good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 83 yds, 4:44
1321
neTD4:41Reche Caldwell, 4 yd pass from Tom Brady
Drive info: 5 plays, 32 yds, 1:40
1921
neFG1:14Stephen Gostkowski 31 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 72 yds, 2:20
2421