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San Diego Errors, Not Patriots... Skills Send New England to AFC Title Game

By Caroline Huang
ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR

As much as I love the Patriots (and Lord knows I do, my friends can attest that I never take off my No. 12 jersey on game days), I have to admit: the Patriots’ victory last Sunday was more of a Chargers’ loss.

The Patriots could not compete physically with the Chargers, particularly after the loss of safety Rodney Harrison. Instead, they relied on quintessential Patriots football: put the team in a position to win, and watch as every other challenger (in this case, the Chargers) self-destructs. Whether it was a receiver dropping yet another pass that should have gone for a first down, or one of three fumbles, or inexplicably choosing to go for a 4th-and-11 play in the first quarter, or a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness...getting the picture?

A member of a Pee Wee team knows that on a fourth-down play, you knock the ball down rather than risk a fumble. If the Chargers’ Marlon McCree had simply batted the ball down, the Patriots would not have regained his fumble and, a few plays later, knotted the game at 21 apiece.

Any decently informed football player is aware that 15-yard penalties for unnecessary roughness are the result of absolute stupidity. Despite what the commentators said — “Oh, it’s an emotional game” — these guys are getting paid to play football, so they might as well get acquainted with the rules. FYI: the rules do not include provisions for head-butting the other team.

Here’s one solution — the Chargers could deduct the cost of books on self-restraint from the paychecks of any offenders. If Drayton Florence had not created an unnecessary roughness penalty, Gostkowski would not have had the chance to kick the field goal that initially brought the score to 14-13.

Keep in mind that the aforementioned penalty occurred on the same drive as a muffed punt. If Eric Parker had caught the ball cleanly, Florence would not have even been in a position to create a pointless penalty, and the Chargers would have had undisputed possession of the ball.

In case it’s not clear, the Chargers basically handed them Sunday’s game on a silver platter. In fact, the game was gift-wrapped in gold foil, white ribbon, and a navy blue bow, specially delivered by Marty Schottenheimer to Bill Belichick.

Despite Tom Brady’s three interceptions and the offense’s general lack of direction (save for the drive before halftime and the renewed drive after Florence’s penalty), I found two comforting aspects to this divisional playoff: first, Peyton Manning and the Colts are next up for the Patriots, and it would be beautifully ironic if a Gostkowski field goal is the difference next weekend. More importantly, though, the Patriots recorded a W in the win-loss column, and my No. 12 jersey isn’t ready to go into storage for two more games.