So, here we go again...the Patriots head to San Diego to take on the Chargers, who are quickly gaining ground on the Colts as the Patriots chief rivals. While the New England-Indianapolis rivalry is dominated by the Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning debate and breathtakingly close games, the Chargers-Patriots clashes are often characterized by player rivalries and players crying foul.
Some of the classic games in the bad-blood series:
Jan. 20, 2008: The Patriots improve to 18-0 with a 21-12 victory over San Diego. While New England came in looking to keep its perfect season alive, the Chargers entered with revenge for the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff matchup (more on that later) on their minds. San Diego's upset plans were dampened by injuries to running back LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Philip Rivers, and thanks to 122 rushing yards from Laurence "The Pony" Maroney, the Patriots made it two playoff victories over "America's Finest City" in as many years.
Sept. 16, 2007: In the first game after "Spygate", New England improves to 2-0 with a 38-14 drubbing of the Chargers. Tom Brady threw three touchdowns, two to Randy Moss, on his way to a record-breaking season.
Jan. 14, 2007: The game that made the rivalry what it is today. Overwhelming underdogs in the '06 AFC Divisional Playoffs against a 14-2 Chargers team that didn't lose once at home, the Patriots nonetheless stunned San Diego, 24-21, to advance to the AFC Championship. Notable moments include Troy Brown's stripping Marlon McCree, who had just made what would have been a game-ending interception, and the post-game incident that saw Ellis Hobbs leading a group of Patriots who danced tauntingly on San Diego's logo, infuriating Tomlinson in a moment many maintain he still hasn't gotten over.
Oct. 2, 2005: The defending champion Patriots are rocked at home, 41-17, to fall to 2-2. This time, it's Tom Brady making the the controversial comments. After Charger coach Marty Schottenheimer defended the injury-ravaged Patriots, who were going for a third straight title, Brady misinterpreted and figured the coach was trash-talking, saying:
I just assumed you talk about your own team. You don't talk about our team. He has no business talking about our team. He's not our coach. We'll let our coach talk about our team. We'll let our players talk about our team. The only thing we ever do is give respect to the other teams because that's what they deserve. They played a good game. They beat us. That's what it is - no more, no less - it's one game.The first shots in what has become a war of words were fired.
Oct. 14, 2001: Trailing 26-16 in the fourth quarter, unknown quarterback Tom Brady leads the Patriots into overtime and then, after an Adam Vinatieri field goal, to victory. It's the first miracle work of Brady's career, and was the first hallmark game of what became a Super Bowl-winning season.
Dec. 1, 1996 and Aug. 31, 1997: The Patriots beat the Chargers a combined 86-14. Drew Bledsoe throws for eight touchdowns over the two games, and the Patriot defense knocks starting Charger quarterback Stan Humphries out in the second game.
Nov. 20, 1994: The 1994 Chargers may have gone to the Super Bowl, but the Patriots got the best of them in Foxboro, earning a 23-17 victory.
As for Oct. 12, 2008? We'll see...