SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers know all about the Patriots.
They know about the three Super Bowl titles in the last five seasons. And Tom Brady's near-perfect postseason success. And Bill Belichick's status as one of the NFL's sharpest -- if not sharpest-dressed -- coaches.
"But we still intend to show up," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said yesterday.
Because of their NFL-best 14-2 record, the Chargers had the luxury of sitting at home Sunday and watching the Patriots beat the New York Jets, 37-16, in a wild-card game.
Led by league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Philip Rivers, who will be making his first playoff start, San Diego will host the Patriots Sunday in the divisional round. The Chargers have home-field advantage as long as they're alive in the AFC playoffs.
The Chargers and Patriots haven't faced each other in the postseason since the 1963 AFL championship game at Balboa Stadium, when Keith Lincoln led San Diego to a 51-10 victory.
San Diego has won two straight against the Patriots in recent years. In 2002, the Chargers beat the defending Super Bowl champions, 21-14, in San Diego. In 2005, they went to New England and again knocked off the defending Super Bowl winners, 41-17, this time ending the Patriots' NFL-record 21-game home winning streak.
"You definitely respect them for the things they've done in the past and the things they've done throughout the season," Chargers All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates said. "You just want to go out and play with respect. But at the same time, you fear no one. That's our mind-set."
When it comes to postseason success, the Chargers and Patriots are polar opposites.
New England won the Super Bowl following the 2001, 2003, and 2004 seasons. During that span, the Chargers appeared in the playoffs once, losing at home in overtime to the New York Jets in the wild-card round following the 2004 season.
San Diego hasn't won in the postseason since stunning Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game following the 1994 season. Including the Super Bowl wipeout that followed, the Chargers have lost three straight postseason games.
Schottenheimer has lost five straight dating to 1993 when he was with Kansas City. Overall, he is 5-12 in the playoffs.
The Chargers think this might be the breakthrough season for themselves and their coach. While beating the Patriots would certainly be a statement, the Chargers are more concerned about themselves.
"If you're going to be a champion, you're going to have to play and win along the way," Schottenheimer said.
"If you play them in the first round, second round, championship game, it really doesn't matter. For us it's staying in the moment and finding a way to win one game this weekend."
Brady is 11-1 in the postseason and won three Super Bowls before he turned 28. He is a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
Rivers, by comparison, will be making his playoff debut. He's an excitable type, but he's also the son of a coach.
"I'm not sure what to expect from him," Tomlinson said. "He is excited about being in the playoffs. Part of being a quarterback, you keep that even keel of not getting too excited. But in the weight room just a while ago he was talking about how after the New England game [vs. the Jets], he was already ready to go. So I'm thinking to myself, 'We've got a long way to go. We've got six days, Philip.'
"It's good, because he's excited to be in his first playoff game. For us who've played in the playoff game, we're reminded that a fast horse runs fast, but it don't run long," Tomlinson said.
Rivers wasn't made available to the media yesterday. He likely was having his sprained right foot treated. Rivers was hurt in the season finale, when he threw two touchdown passes in a 27-20 win over Arizona.
Schottenheimer said Rivers's foot is fine.
Two years ago, the Chargers were quickly ushered out of the playoffs in a 20-17 overtime loss to the Jets.
"I think we were trying too hard," Tomlinson said.
Chargers third-string tight end Ryan Krause was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence during the weekend, the seventh run-in with the law by a team member this season.
Krause was arrested early Saturday and later released on bail. Schottenheimer said he spoke with Krause yesterday about the incident. Krause hasn't played this season because of injuries.