New England Patriots defeat San Diego Chargers, 24-21

In games like yesterday's, winning football is about two things and two things only.

It comes down to matchups and toughness, both mental and physical. Yesterday the Patriots got the matchups after a shift in offensive formation halfway through the game, and they proved tough all day long until they finally broke down the cocksure but ultimately confused and cowering San Diego Chargers and sent them home for the year far earlier than they had expected.

Chargers front of...

They hung in, hung in, hung in, just barely staying within striking distance.

The Patriots were taking more of the hits than dishing them out in yesterday's AFC divisional-round playoff game against the Chargers. They were battered, but not beaten, living dangerously close to the edge. Yet they never backed down.

That was what stuck out to coach Bill Belichick as he walked the hallways of Qualcomm Stadium after his team's stunning, come-from-behind 24-21 victory befo...

In Tom They Trust.

Fallow stretches, uncharacteristic bad picks, whatever. Doesn't matter. Remember Magic Johnson's celebrated "Winnin' Time?" Mr. Tom Brady has one, too.

"That's Tom Brady," said Heath Evans, spare back and special teamer extraordinaire. "He's the one guy we don't ever worry about."

Tom Brady was not Tom Brady for long stretches of this memorable game, and a lot of that had to do with the San Diego Chargers. "That was as tough a game as I ever rem...

When the helmets and chinstraps have been hung up for good, and the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era is officially over, the men who've made this football magic may look back and rank the best moments of their glory days. They'll certainly cite Super Bowl wins in New Orleans, Houston, and Jacksonville, plus the snowy night when they closed the old stadium in Foxborough, Mass., for the last time.

And for sure they will talk about the second Sunday in January of 2007 when the...