FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Laurence Maroney scored on a 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter Sunday to give the New England Patriots a 7-3 lead over the San Diego Chargers in the AFC championship game.
The Patriots' attempt to extend their perfect season started slowly, with two punts - one more than in all of last week's playoff victory over Jacksonville - and an uncharacteristic bad pass by Tom Brady that was intercepted by Quentin Jammer.
The pickoff set up Nate Kaeding's 26-yard field goal, then Brady began playing like the NFL MVP who helped the Patriots win all 16 games in the regular season and their first playoff game. With a win Sunday, New England would advance to the Super Bowl and have a chance to match the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only teams to complete an undefeated season.
San Diego started the game with all three of its injured starters: quarterback Philip Rivers, who sprained his right knee in last week's playoff victory over the Colts; tight end Antonio Gates, who has a dislocated toe, and running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who has a hyperextended left knee.
But Gates ran off to the locker room after the first series, and Tomlinson didn't last long, either. Rivers was 4-for-10 for 41 yards in the first quarter; and Tomlinson carried two times for 5 yards on the first drive, but went to the bench after that.
The winner goes to the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 3, against the winner of the NFC title game between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers.
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