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Patriots vs. Chargers: Ranking the Best Games of the 2000s

Former Charger Reche Caldwell saw both sides of the Patriots-Chargers recent rivalry. (Image from usatoday.com)

On Sunday, the New England Patriots (1-0) battle the San Diego Chargers (1-0) in a pivotal early season matchup and possible playoff preview come January.

Throughout the 2000s, these two squads had some memorable contests, from epic postseason contests to the coming-out party of a franchise player. Below are the rankings of the most memorable Patriots-Chargers games over the past decade.

5. Chargers 41, Patriots 17 – Oct. 2, 2005

Winners of three of the past four Super Bowls and riding a 21-game home winning streak, the Patriots and Chargers squared off in a Week 4 tussle. After a 17-17 halftime tie, San Diego came out of the break with a fury in the second half, scoring 24 unanswered points to drop the Patriots to 2-2 on the year.

Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner and Reche Caldwell all had success against the Patriots’ defense in the 41-17 win, while Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer’s post game comments drew the ire of Tom Brady.

4. Patriots 38, Chargers 14 – Sept. 17, 2007

The Spygate game was one of the most inspired performances the Patriots have delivered, blowing out the Chargers 38-14 in front of a Sunday Night audience. Randy Moss made his home debut, corralling eight Tom Brady passes for 105 yards and two scores. Offseason acquisition Adalius Thomas intercepted Phillip Rivers, returning the pick 65-yards for the touchdown.

Prior to the game, Chargers’ RB Tomlinson stated, “I think the Patriots actually live by the saying, ‘If you’re not cheatin, you’re not trying,” fueling the Pats to the huge win.

3. Patriots 24, Chargers 21 – Jan. 14, 2007

Heavy road underdogs to the AFC’s No. 1 seed at 14-2, the Patriots traveled to San Diego for the AFC Divisional Playoff. San Diego, although having superior talent, was noticeably nervous throughout. The Chargers had leads of 14-3 and 21-13, but New England’s cooler heads prevailed as San Diego imploded down the stretch. Marlon McCree’s interception of Brady was the most memorable play, as Troy Brown came from behind to strip the Chargers’ defense to give the Patriots a fresh set of downs.

Stephen Gostowski gave New England a 24-21 lead with just over a minute to play, but Nate Kaeding’s tying attempt fell short to send the Patriots to the AFC Championship against Indianapolis.

2. Patriots 21, Chargers 12 – Jan. 20, 2008

Standing at 17-0, the Patriots battled the Chargers in the most important game in Gillette Stadium history. A resilient Chargers team held tough with the Patriots, including an inspiring performance by quarterback Phillip Rivers, who played the game with a torn ACL.

Meanwhile, 2006 MVP LaDainian Tomlinson sat on the bench most of the game, playing just one snap. Laurence Maroney rushed for 122 yards and a score to lift the Patriots to a Super Bowl XLII appearance.

1. Patriots 29, Chargers 26 (OT) – Oct. 14, 2001

In his third career start, Tom Brady led the Patriots to a thrilling come from behind victory against Doug Flutie and the Chargers. The game was overshadowed by the return of Terry Glenn, who hauled in seven catches for 110 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown in his only game of the season.

New England trailed 26-16 late in the fourth, but Brady led a field goal drive to cut the score to 26-19 with 3:31 left. Brady was given one final chance, and subsequently capitalized with a three-yard strike to Jermaine Wiggins with 36 ticks left. Adam Vinatieri split the uprights with just under 11 minutes left in overtime to improve the Patriots to 2-3 and on their way to their first Super Bowl.

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