Did anyone seriously think the Patriots were going to lose?
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Perfection comes down to one game now.
Despite a shaky Tom Brady, the New England Patriots were still too much for the banged-up San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, pulling out a 21-12 victory that sent them back to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in seven seasons.
Brady made several stunningly poor throws that fluttered in the wind, Randy Moss was a non-factor for the second straight game and the highest-scoring team in NFL history sputtered all afternoon. Instead, the Patriots (18-0) relied on Laurence Maroney's spins, cuts and helmet-rattling runs.
With injured Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson reduced to mostly watching in a parka, the Patriots moved on to a Feb. 3 matchup in Glendale, Ariz., against the winner of the NFC title game between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.
Yet for all the Patriots have accomplished -- they're the only team in NFL history to start out with 18 straight victories -- they're well aware they must win that final game to avoid being relegated to a footnote.