Bolts again better than Colts
By: By The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A trip to New England in the dead of winter hardly captivates San Diegans.
The Chargers can’t wait.
The franchise that couldn’t win a postseason game for more than a decade finds itself one step from the Super Bowl.
Make that one huge leap, because after sending home the defending champion Indianapolis Colts 28-24 on Sunday, the Chargers go for the AFC title next weekend against the unbeaten Patriots.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll be huge underdogs, but it’s still going to be fun, just to get the opportunity,” said LaDainian Tomlinson, who had better recover quickly from a bruised left knee that sidelined him in the first half against Indy. “All the rest of the teams have had their opportunity to play New England, and we’ll get another opportunity to do so in the AFC championship game. What a better way to go back there.”
If the Patriots, who routed the Chargers 38-14 in Week 2, expected a rematch of last January’s conference title game with the Colts, they can’t be depressed to see San Diego traipsing across the country.
An undermanned San Diego, to boot, with Tomlinson, quarterback Philip Rivers (right knee), tight end Antonio Gates (toe) and defensive end Luis Castillo (rib) hobbled.
Not that anyone expects condolences from the 17-0 Patriots, who don’t do sympathy well.
“That was a tremendous win today by San Diego,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Going out on the road and winning in Indy today shows the kind of mental toughness they have.
“We’re prepared for everybody. As we saw today, any number of players could be in the game.”
Last year, the Chargers surged into the postseason with a league-best 14-2 record, only to flop in the first round against New England. It cost Marty Schottenheimer his coaching job, replaced by Norv Turner.
Under Turner, they were just 5-5, but haven’t lost since. Of course, the Patriots haven’t lost since the preseason.
Patriots 31, Jaguars 20
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady was almost perfect. The Patriots still are.
Their poised and prolific quarterback knocked another mark out of the books in their record-breaking season, completing all but two of his 28 passes to lead New England to its second straight AFC championship game with a 31-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night.
The Patriots pulled away in the second half to improve to 17-0, matching the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team to go unbeaten from the first game of the season through the Super Bowl.
Two more wins and the Patriots will join them — much to the chagrin of some of those Dolphins.
“The thing about it now is that none of it matters.” Brady said. “For 17 games, it all comes down to this and we were here last year. I hope we perform better.”
Brady completed 92.9 percent of his passes, breaking Phil Simms record of 88 percent (22-of-25) set in the Super Bowl after the 1986 season in which he led the New York Giants to a 39-20 win over the Denver Broncos.
And Brady did it mostly without Randy Moss, who had only one catch against double- and triple-coverage.
“They went back to the old way of covering me,” Moss said. “We win as a team. I’ve never been a greedy guy. I’m not going to start now.”
Brady hit all the other receivers — throwing for three touchdowns and 262 yards.
“When they’re open like that, it’s my job to hit them,” he said. “They were open every time, so it’s easy to play quarterback.”
While Jacksonville’s defense struggled to stop Brady and crew, New England’s defense had no such problems against the Jaguars’ one-two rushing punch of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. The league’s second-most productive duo during the regular season combined for just 66 yards.
It was the Patriots who dominated on the ground as Laurence Maroney rushed for 122 yards, including a one-yard touchdown.
Add Brady’s on-target passing to these regular-season records — 50 touchdown passes by Brady, 23 scoring catches by Moss and 589 points by the team — and Jacksonville (12-6) became just another team that couldn’t stop the Patriots.
And they’re not done yet.
“Brady’s been great all year,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s as good as they come.”