Now that New England has had a few days to watch the film, what's sticking out about this San Diego Chargers team?
"I see a confident football team. I see a physical football team," LB Mike Vrabel observed.
"I think their grit. I think that's a way they've learned how to be," added LB 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' never-say-die approach is that it reflects the attitude of their All-Pro running back,LaDainian Tomlinson.
"Every team has a guy that kind of you build around and he's been that guy here," said their head coach, Norv Turner, in a conference call with the New England media this week.
"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."
"I think just his ability to break open a game ... He can take a screen pass and take it the distance and they have numerous guys who can do that, not just LT," noted LB Adalius Thomas.
"So a lot of times they may use LT to get your attention and do it to [Darren] Sproles or someone else."
So, how do you defend a player like that?
"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 linebackers don't seem to think that will be much of an issue for LT 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," Thomas predicted. "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."
"He's had a lot of great games in his career. We would expect that every time we play him we're going to get his best effort," said Vrabel.
And even if he doesn't play, that's still a concern.
"What I see on film," Bruschi concluded, "is that no matter who is in there, they are good. No matter what running back it is, no matter what offensive lineman is, they are scoring points and moving the ball as I look at them offensively. I just see a good team, no matter who is in there."
Thursday Practice Notebook
For the second consecutive day, the Patriots practiced out on the playing field at Gillette Stadium. They practiced in upper pads only.
A notable absentee was left tackle Matt Light. The only other player not in attendance was S Mel Mitchell.