Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reports on the Patriots-Chargers game, in which the Pats came away victorious after Tom Brady and the offense came back from a 21-13 deficit. "I think it says a lot about our character -- when you're down in a football game, how hard are you going to fight then?" said defensive lineman Richard Seymour. "Are you going to try to step up and make some plays for your football team to win? I think we have a lot of guys in this locker room that step up in crucial situations and make plays."
John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports on the game as well, explaining that the comeback win will add to the Pats legacy. "This game just reaffirms everything I believe about us," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "Our fight. We fought all year. The Chargers were the sexy team. Everybody in San Diego had their flights to the Super Bowl already planned. We know it's about getting it done on Sunday, and we got it done." "I don't care how much talent you've got," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "I don't care if you've got 11 Goliaths out there. If you don't know what you're doing, you can't win. When it came down to situational football, we made the plays."
Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal quotes cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who said, "Big-time players make big-time plays." That was the story of the game according to Manza Young. For the fifth time in their last five tries, the Patriots knocked off a number-one seed, ending the San Diego Chargers season in the AFC Divisional round with a 24-21 come-from-behind road victory.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant challenges readers to "try finding a game where Tom Brady throws three interceptions, the opposition outrushes the Patriots 148-51 and New England still wins." That happened in the Chargers game, but the Pats made enough plays to carry them on in the playoffs.
Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe explains that, "When the helmets and chinstraps have been hung up for good, and the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era is officially over, the men who've made this football magic may look back and rank the best moments of their glory days." Shaughnessy argues that this was one for the ages: the Patriots topping the unstoppable Chargers, who weren't beaten at home all season until the Pats arrived. "If something bad happens, we come back and we deliver," said veteran linebacker Tedy Bruschi.
Jim Donaldson of The Providence Journal explains that you knew how this one was going to end. "The Patriots, with three NFL championships in the last five years, already have established themselves as the Team of the Decade. Now they're also looking like a Team of Destiny, with a fourth championship in six years just two wins away," writes Donaldson.
Ron Borges of The Boston Globe reports that winning's about two things in games like the Patriots-Chargers contest. "It comes down to matchups and toughness, both mental and physical." Borges explains that the Chargers jumped the gun, beginning to plan a post-Super Bowl victory parade in San Diego before they even played the Patriots.
Steve Buckley of the* Boston Herald* features Tom Brady. "In a league featuring too many players who do their talking before these issues have been settled, Brady is (and always has been) the plodder, the planner, a guy who would rather make history than make noise. That's what we are talking about here, folks. History. That pass Brady threw to Caldwell yesterday - and did we tell you it was a deep ball? - is part of our lore now, a piece of football history that will never, ever be forgotten. Third-and-10, at his own 34. And then, presto, 49 yards to Caldwell. Just like that," writes Buckley.
Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe reports on Tom Brady, who made the plays he had to make in the three crucial moments in this game. However, Tom Brady was not Tom Brady for long stretches of this memorable game, and a lot of that had to do with the San Diego Chargers. "That was as tough a game as I ever remember playing," said Brady, who had to air it out 51 times yesterday in order to produce a 24-21 triumph. "We were doing everything we could to gain 5 yards out of them."
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald explains that the Patriots made things happen, as winners do. The Chargers, on the other hand, missed opportunities. "There were a million other examples of Chargers stupidity in this game. There was Rivers getting sacked on third down on the Pats 28-yard line to take the Chargers out of field goal range. There was the brutal, immature personal foul on corner Drayton Florence after a Brady strip-sack, which gave the Pats a first down and put three points on the board. There was corner Antonio Cromartie dropping a sure interception in the fourth quarter. The Pats were far from perfect. But, boy, are they clutch. Brady's play was at times an inspiration," writes Felger.
Albert Breer of The MetroWest Daily News reports on the Patriots defense, which "didn't have the guys to shut down the Chargers altogether. But what they did have was a smart group that played solid situational ball. The result was a San Diego offense that converted on just 5-of-14 third downs, and was stopped just a few yards short of where it needed to be at the end of the game when kicker Nate Kaeding's 54-yard game-tying field-goal attempt fell short. "
Gorden Edes of The Boston Globe explains that Pats receiver Troy Brown played in his 19th career playoff game, setting a Patriots record. "At age 35 he still hasn't exhausted the ways in which he can help a team win," writes Edes. "With time running out on the Patriots chances, he stripped Chargers safety Marlon McCree of the ball after McRee's fourth-down interception, setting up a fumble recovery by fellow receiver Reche Caldwell."
Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal reports on Brown's forced fumble and Caldwell's subsequent recovery. "I was just trying to get it back," Brown said after the game. "Those aren't guys that are used to handling the ball."
The *Boston Herald* sports staff offer's thoughts from Patriots and Chargers players on Brown's forced fumble.
Every legend has to start somewhere, writes Christopher L. Gasper of The Boston Globe, who offers a feature on Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The rookie out of the University of Memphis, who had the unenviable task of replacing the most clutch kicker in NFL history, showed that Vinatieri is not the only one who can win games with his leg for the Patriots. Gostkowski calmly drilled a 31-yarder -- his third field goal of the day -- with 1:10 remaining to lift the Patriots to a 24-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers and send a legion of powder blue-clad fans at Qualcomm Stadium home feeling just plain blue.
Tony Massarotti of the* Boston Herald* calls Gostkowski "The new king of clutch," explaining that the rookie kicker is making his own name. "The kicks only get bigger from here, but I think he can be confident that he can make big kicks for us," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said of Gostkowski in the catacombs of Qualcomm Stadium. "I'll tell you what, that (final) kick flew true through the uprights."
Mike Lowe of The Portland Press Herald reports that Gostkowski's first game-winning kick couldn't have come at a better time. For Gostkowski, his winning kick was nothing special. "I don't think about that stuff, you guys do," he said, referring to the media. "We kick 200 kicks a week. It worked out on our side. I can't dissect it. It seemed like every other kick to me."
Reid Laymance of The Boston Globe offers a feature on Pats running back Kevin Faulk, who snuck into the end zone on a 2-point conversion to tie the game in the fourth quarter. "We talked about it on Friday," said Faulk, who also had another 5-yard run on the drive and finished as New England's leading rusher with 25 yards on six carries. "We knew there would come a time to make a drive in the last two minutes."
Rich Garven of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports on Kevin Faulk's 2-point conversion. "Kevin started left and saw the hole open and cut back inside," Brady said. "It was a great run. That was a huge play." Faulk added that "catching the ball" was the hardest part. Included are notes.
Emily Werchadlo of The Boston Globe reports on Pats wide receiver Reche Caldwell, who caught a touchdown pass for the Chargers the last time these two teams met. "I played here for four years, and I didn't get off to the start that I wanted," Caldwell said. "I had the chance to come home and show what I could do."
Sandy Burgin of* The Worcester Telegram & Gazette* reports on Caldwell, who admitted there was some "gratification," but took no extra pleasure in beating his old team — the San Diego Chargers — yesterday. "Yes, there's a lot of gratification out there," Caldwell said, "I played here for four years. I didn't get off to the start I wanted (for the Chargers), but I had a chance to come home and show what I can do and make some plays and I think I made plays, and we made just enough plays to win the football game." He was involved in a number of big plays, catching the longest pass completion Brady threw, and recovering a fumble forced by Troy Brown.
Joseph D'Hippolito of The Standard-Times reports on Pats defensive back Antwain Spann, who hails from San Diego. Spann caused a muffed punt with 5:32 left in the third quarter. Rookie tight end David Thomas recovered. "I was just running down the field, and I had seen that he dropped it," Spann said of Parker. "I went in head first, I just threw my head at him."
Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald offers the best and worst moments of the game.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald reports on how the Patriots defended Chargers All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates. The Pats strong play against Gates began early, as Philip Rivers threw him a swing pass in the flat on third down, and Chad Scott came out of the secondary to make a great shoestring tackle and stop him short of the stakes. On the next series, Rivers went to Gates on third-and-10, and James Sanders and Scott, playing bracket coverage, knocked the ball away.
Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe offers players' thoughts on the Pats upcoming game against the Colts, who beat the Patriots 27-20 in Week 9 at Gillette Stadium. The two teams will square off for the AFC title and a trip to the Super Bowl.
Tom King of The Telegraph explains that Brady and the Pats will take on Manning and the Colts in the upcoming AFC title game. "We have a crucial game coming up," Bruschi said. "We're not looking past it and we're not looking behind us now. Let's celebrate this for six-and-a-half hours on the trip back, but then we need to get ready for the AFC Championship."
Mark Blaundschun of The Boston Globe explains why Chargers running back and league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson was so upset after the game. "Disrespect," said the All-Pro running back. "It showed no class. Maybe it comes from the head coach."
Karen Guregian of the *Boston Herald *also reports on the Patriots celebrations, which upset a number of Chargers players. Apparently, linebacker Rosevelt Colvin was one of the loudest taunters, evidenced by his hoarse voice following the game: "It is, I did a lot of taunting after the buzzer went off," said Colvin.