Chief among their concerns will be stopping running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who is coming off the greatest individual season in NFL history after scoring a record 31 touchdowns and throwing two more for good measure.Team the greatest L.T. since Lawrence Taylor with one of the hotter up & coming quarterbacks named Philip Rivers, along with arguably the best tight-end since Kellen Winslow Sr., i.e., Antonio Gates, and you can see the mismatch on paper. Gates, meanwhile, pays the usual lip-service "respect" for New England, although it comes easily enough; but, he adds, the Chargers fear no one.
If a vaunted "Big O" wasn't enough, the Chargers have equivalent talent on the defensive side, led by the steriod-enhanced All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman, who's feared today more so, maybe, than is the aging Ray Lewis.
So why should the Pats even bother?
Mmm, well, maybe because they've been 'round this block before?
You remember, right? Super Bowl XXXVI? The Greatest Show On Turf? I mean, Marshall Faulk may be no L.T., but he'll do -- or did. Kurt Warner just came off an MVP season, or Faulk did, or they both did. No tight-ends to speak of, but those wideouts: Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and an underrated Ricky Proehl? Not too shabby.
The question then is, what kind of mind-fuck -- Bill Belichick's raison d'etre -- does the Pats coach intend for Rivers? Oh, the youngster's talented enough; but he's relatively inexperienced, appearing in his first playoff game. Consequently, one can count on Billy B. to present him, as he did Warner back when (and myriad QBs in between), with multiple looks to multiple schemes, the likes of which no signal-caller has seen since the chaotic improv of the sandlot. For bonus amusement, history has shown QBs, who've found themselves bewildered inside Belichick's hall of mirrors, usually play in a semi-stupor for weeks/months/years (Bledsoe, Warner, et al.) after -- that is unless the experience occurred during a playoff game, after which said QB would have the off-season to ponder it and/or his furry navel.
And then there's the opposing head coach; back in '02, it was the insufferable Mike Martz, who fancied himself a genius... until he ran into the genuine article.
Marty Schottenheimer? Puh-leaze! The poor-man's Donald Rumsfeld; barely an adequate plant manager. If anybody "blows it" for the Chargers -- He. Will be the guy.
Chargers D, says you?
Tom Brady, says I.
Pats to take it 34-21.
Ravens over Indy.
Yo, Naahm: Tickets in Bal'mer a week from Sunday, dude!!?
Make it happen!