2006 divisional playoff
Patriots 24, Chargers 21
For my money, this is the most heartbreaking loss in Chargers history. Yes, that even includes getting blown out by the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.
The 2006 Chargers were the best team in franchise history. They were dominant. They had playmakers on both sides of the ball. They had a young, hungry quarterback in Philip Rivers and even though the Patriots had Brady, the Chargers were going to win this game. They went 14-2 in the regular season and were going to be the team to win it all.
But that’s not what happened.
If you go back and watch this game, it’s hard to believe the Chargers found a way to lose it. For the most part, they executed a solid game plan. But when it came to putting the final touches on the victory, they couldn’t get it done.
LaDainian Tomlinson, who had perhaps the best individual season in NFL history in 2006, rushed for over 100 yards in this game and two touchdowns. The Chargers got out to a 14-3 lead and it looked like they might run away with it.
But with just seconds before halftime, Brady threw a crucial touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney to draw the Patriots to within four points. They then kicked a field late in the third quarter to make the score 14-13.
But the fourth quarter is when things got interesting.
The Chargers responded with a 9-play, 83-yard drive that culminated in a 3-yard touchdown run by Tomlinson. The Chargers were up 21-13 with 8:35 to play. But on the Patriots’ next possession came the play Chargers fans will always be sick about.
With just over six minutes to play, the Patriots faced a 4th-and-5 from the Chargers’ 41-yard line. Brady had his pass intercepted by Marlon McCree who tried to get something on a return and had the ball ripped out of his hands. The Pats recovered and got a fresh set of downs.
The Patriots would score a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game at 21 apiece. The Chargers went three-and-out on their next possession and Brady had them right where he wanted them,
Brady hit Reche Caldwell with a perfect throw on the next drive to set up a short Stephen Gostkowski field goal to put the Patriots ahead to stay with just over one minute to play in the game.
It was a devastating loss for the Chargers, one that was made worse when Patriots players began to mock the Chargers by performing Shawne Merriman’s “lights out” dance. That set off a bit of an emotional tirade from Tomlinson which extended into the post-game press conference.
The loss also cost head coach Marty Schottenheimer his job, a move that was an extra kick to the gut for Chargers fans.