FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -LaDainian Tomlinson spent most of the game bundled up in a parka on the sideline on a freezing, windy day.
The pain Philip Rivers felt from his sprained right knee was matched by the two interceptions he threw.
Combine the two, and that was not going to get the job done against the undefeated New England Patriots.
The aching San Diego Chargers did what most people thought they would do in the AFC championship game. They lost, 21-12, as the Patriots improved to 18-0 and advanced to their fourth Super Bowl in seven seasons. All the Chargers points came on Nate Kaeding field goals.
Although the Chargers (13-6) kept it close, it helped that NFL MVP Tom Brady was intercepted three times.
To have a legitimate chance at a huge upset, however, Norv Turner's team needed to have all its star players healthy.
It didn't.
Coming in, of the three big-name injured Chargers, Tomlinson seemed to have the best chance to play, but he was only able to go the first two series. He carried on the game's first two plays for a total of five yards, then caught a 1-yard swing pass from Rivers on the next drive before retreating to the sideline. Tomlinson rushed for only 75 yards in three playoff games.
The team announced the two-time NFL rushing champion had a sore knee and could return.
He didn't.
Tomlinson, who hyperextended his left knee in the second quarter of a 28-24 upset win over the Indianapolis Colts a week earlier, was replaced by Michael Turner and Darren Sproles.
Rivers started despite being listed as doubtful on the injury report, and Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates played for the second straight week with a dislocated left big toe.
Rivers was intercepted twice in a span of four plays late in the second quarter, and the Patriots turned one of the turnovers into a touchdown.
Rivers released the ball as he was going down deep in his own territory and was picked off by Asante Samuel, giving the Patriots the ball at the San Diego 24. Two plays later, Tom Brady hit Jabar Gaffney on a 12-yard TD pass.
Three plays into the next Chargers drive, Rivers threw deep for Chris Chambers and was picked off. The Patriots ended up punting. Rivers had thrown only four interceptions during the Chargers' eight-game winning streak.
This was San Diego's third straight loss to New England, and the second straight year the Chargers were eliminated by the Patriots.
A year ago, San Diego was an NFL-best 14-2 before committing several blunders in a home playoff game. Brady was intercepted three times in that game, too, but still led the Pats to a 24-21 win.

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