Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
A lot of people (in the media, at least) appear to be blaming San Diego Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson for his team's loss to the Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.
Nursing a bruised knee, he played just three snaps before leaving the game in the first quarter. Tomlinson never returned, as he watched his Chargers make numerous trips to the New England red zone, only to kick field goals.
"Sometimes your body tells you it ain't going to happen," said Tomlinson immediately after the game. "So you've got to listen to your body. Obviously, I wanted to play, but if I did try to play, I would be hurting my team because I didn't have any explosiveness, and I wouldn't have been myself.
Tomlinson could only watch as his Chargers made numerous trips to the New England red zone, only to kick field goals, while the Pats scored
"It was crucial that we had those red zone stops," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "I mean, when you hug your coach after you've won the AFC championship and the first thing he says was, 'Great job in the red area,' you know it was important."
The AFC Championship Game was especially poignant for S Rodney Harrison and LB Junior Seau, both of whom played most of their careers for the Chargers, and G Stephen Neal, a native of San Diego.
"We had a moment between us when the game was over," Harrison told reporters in the Pats locker room. "We hugged. Junior kissed me on the cheek. I didn't mind."
Even those who aren't exactly Patriots fans are finding it hard not to respect what New England has done.
But at least one West Coast writer is predicting a Giants upset of New England in Super Bowl XLII.
FOXSports.com is already offering 10 Super Bowl story lines to keep in mind over the next fortnight.
The Sporting News is giving the Giants advice on how to defeat undefeated New England.