Patriots-Chargers playoff history is brief but memorable
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The first meeting was Oct. 8, 1960, when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and future Patriot Larry Eisenhauer was a senior defensive end at Boston College. The Chargers were the Los Angeles Chargers and the Patriots were the Boston Patriots.
Two of the AFL’s original eight teams, the Chargers and Patriots have played one another at Nickerson Field, Balboa Stadium, Fenway Park, Alumni Stadium (Boston College), Harvard Stadium, Schaefer (a.k.a. Foxboro and Sullivan) Stadium, Qualcomm (also Jack Murphy) Stadium, and Gillette Stadium. They have met 38 times in the regular season.
Sunday in Foxborough, they will meet in a divisional playoff game for the right to go to the AFC Championship. This will be the fourth playoff meeting between the New Frontier franchises.
The first three Charger-Patriot playoff contests:
■ Jan. 5, 1964, AFL Championship
Chargers 51, Patriots 10
What a beating. After losing regular-season games to the Chargers by modest scores of 17-13 and 7-6, the 1963-64 Patriots were routed by the Sid Gillman Chargers. San Diego bolted to a 31-10 halftime lead and ran up 610 yards of offense. Chargers running back Keith Lincoln ran for 206 yards and wideout Lance Alworth caught four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
How did the Chargers do it? The magic formula was a perfect mix of talent, science, and information.
Taping a walk-through? That would be mere child’s play compared with what the Chargers were able to gather before this game. According to the late, great Globe scribe Will McDonough (as reported in “The Pats” a newly published history of the Patriots), the Chargers arranged for the Patriots to practice at a San Diego Navy base the week before the game, and “the Chargers had several people dressed as Navy guys watching practice all week long.’’
There was more. Patriots coach Mike Holovak spilled his entire game plan to McDonough, and Willie put it all in the Globe. Holovak spelled out the offensive scheme and told Willie he planned to fake blitzes all day long. It was decidedly un-Belichickian.
“The way the Chargers played, especially on offense, it was as if they knew just what we wanted to do,’’ stunned Patriots star Gino Cappelletti said after the rout.
There’s more. According to the Glenn Stout/Richard Johnson history of the Patriots, the 1963-64 Chargers were the first pro football team known to supply players with steroids.
“They were given 5 milligrams of the drug [Dianabol] three times a day,’’ wrote the authors. “A dosage that experts agree is more than enough to impact performance.’’
“It was like they wanted to kill us,’’ said Patriots quarterback Babe Parilli.
■ Jan. 14, 2007, AFC divisional round
Patriots 24, Chargers 21
The Marlon McCree Game.
The 21st century Patriot mystique was born when Tom Brady’s obvious fumble in the 2001-02 divisional playoffs became an incomplete pass because of the little-known and since-erased “Tuck Rule.’’ Five years later, good fortune struck New England again when the Patriots won a playoff game thanks largely to the stupidity of the other team.
The 2006-07 Chargers were a wagon. They went 14-2, had nine Pro Bowlers, and outscored opponents, 492-303. Playing at home, they led the Patriots, 21-13, with just over six minutes remaining when McCree intercepted a Brady pass. Game over, right? Wrong.
Instead of falling on the ground and cradling the ball, which would have ended the game, McCree tried to run with it. He was stripped of the football by Troy Brown and the Patriots recovered.
Given new life, Brady drove the Patriots for a touchdown, then they tied it when they caught Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer napping and executed a direct snap to Kevin Faulk for a 2-point conversion. The Patriots won it on a field goal with 1:10 left.
“If something bad happens, we come back and we deliver,’’ said Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi.
This remains the last road victory in Patriots playoff history. A week after the San Diego miracle, the Patriots were eliminated by the Colts in the AFC Championship at Indianapolis, 38-34.
■ Jan. 20, 2008, AFC Championship
Patriots 21, Chargers 12
A year after winning in San Diego, the 16-0 Patriots improved to 18-0, winning the AFC Championship against the Chargers at Gillette Stadium. Once again, the football gods favored the Patriots.
San Diego’s three best offensive players were all hurt before this game started. Quarterback Philip Rivers played the entire game with a torn ACL and former league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson was unable to contribute because of a knee injury. Tight end Antonio Gates also was injured.
Despite all those injuries, the Patriots struggled to put the Chargers away. It was a 14-12 game after three quarters, and Brady was intercepted three times. New England’s defense won the game, but it was clear that the undefeated conference champs were sliding backward. Two weeks later, the Patriots’ path to perfection was stopped by Eli Manning, David Tyree, and the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
That’s it. Three playoff meetings in 58 years for two of the AFL’s Original Eight. They meet again Sunday in Foxborough.