Remembering when Chargers talked lots of smack against Patriots, and were forced to eat it all

Alex Reimer
January 07, 2019 - 2:13 pm

Philip Rivers is saying all of the right things heading into the Chargers' showdown against the Patriots in the Divisional Round. But the Chargers didn't always show New England this kind of respect. 

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a period when the Chargers were one of the Patriots’ top challengers for AFC supremacy. San Diego featured one of the most talented rosters in the NFL back then, brimming with stars on both sides of the ball, from Rivers, Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson to Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips and Quentin Jammer. 

Despite all of that talent, the Chargers fell short in their two attempts to oust the Patriots in the playoffs during the mid-aughts. Rivers is 0-7 in his career against Tom Brady.

The Patriots squeaked by the favored Chargers 24-21 in the 2006 Divisional Round, which also happens to be New England’s last road playoff win. The Patriots rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter, with Brady throwing a touchdown pass to Reche Caldwell with under five minutes remaining and Stephen Gostkowski hitting a game-winning field goal. Nate Kaeding missed a 54-yard attempt to tie in the final seconds.

Following the win, several Patriots players danced at midfield of Qualcomm Stadium, back when the Chargers still had fans who attended their home games. Tomlinson charged at the group of players, who were imitating Merriman’s signature sack dance.

"I would never react in that way. I was very upset," Tomlinson said at the time, per ESPN. “When you go to the middle of our field and start doing the dance Shawne Merriman is known for, that is disrespectful. They showed no class and maybe that comes from the head coach.”

Tomlinson has since apologized for bashing Belichick, but still says the Patriots acted disrespectfully in victory. 

The following year, the then-undefeated Patriots clashed with the Chargers again, but this time it happened in the AFC championship. New England edged them 21-12 in a sloppy affair to secure its 18th victory of the season. Rivers completed the game with a torn ACL. One year earlier, Rivers called Ellis Hobbs the “sorriest corner in the league” during their matchup, but was quieter in the rematch. 

Even though the Chargers lost, it was still tougher than expected for the Patriots, and served as a harbinger for what to expect in the Super Bowl.

Like most teams in the NFL, the Chargers have never surpassed Brady and Bill Belichick. But they’ve come close. They enter Sunday’s game as arguably the most complete team in the AFC, so expect another close one –– despite Rivers’ career winless record against Brady and Co.