In the end, having a gimpy Ryan Mathews, and some poor defensive playcalling as the game closed out, combined with the Broncos having an extra week to prepare, was too much of a disadvantage for the Chargers to overcome.
So here we are, the not-so-great Patriots are about to face off against the record-shattering-juggernaut Offense of Manning, the Patriots are out classed, out gunned, and overmatched.
Does anyone remember the hype and hoopla surrounding "God's greatest gift to Football' Manning prior to the 2003 Patriots - Colts AFCCG playoff game?
The Colts Offense was nearly flawless. In the Colts' two playoff wins over the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, Manning had completed 44-of-56 passes for 681 yards with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions on an offense that never had to punt. Manning put up a perfect 158.3 passer rating against the Broncos and has a combined 156.9 rating in the two games.
Unstoppable... Record breaking... perfection... the best ever...
Or how about in the 2004 Patriots - Colts playoff game. Manning had set records galore that season, throwing 49 TDs and breaking the single season QBR record.
The Patriots, then as now, had a Defense that had no chance of slowing the unstoppable Manning and his record shattering offense. The Patriots were without Ty Law (Randal Gay started in his place) and Richard Seymour (Jarvis Green started in his place) arguably the two best players they had on Defense... the Patriots had barely squeaked out a win against the Colts in the season opener at home (24 - 27), and that was with Law and Seymour starting... the battered Defense that had played musical chairs in the Secondary for most of the season was totally outmatched.
Manning had future hall-of-famer, Marvin Harrison and superstar Reggie Wayne as his primary WR targets, along with all-pro RB Edgerrin James and TE Dallas Clark, and the Welker-before-there-was-Welker WR Brandon Stokley, a perfect compliment in the slot.
The Patriots had who on offense in comparison?
Daniel Graham at TE, Deion Branch at WR and David Givens as the other WR, and I'm not even sure both of them were fully healthy. The Patriots then, as now, were more apt to lean on their running attack (Smith in 03 and Dillon in 04) and their 3rd down back (Faulk) to move the chains as they were Brady's arm.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Manning is less mobile now, than he was back then, and his ability to go deep with the football is less of a threat now, but he is surrounded by top tier playmakers all over the place on Offense, and has shattered nearly every record in the books that a QB can. The Patriots Defense is as under-rated going into this game, as it was in '04.
The Patriots Offense has almost no weapons of note at any of their receiver positions, other than Edelman and oft-injured Amendola, and must rely on their running attack and 3rd down back to move the chains.
Dismiss this Patriots team, and their chances of repeating history, at your own peril.