It was bad enough losing to New England, but the way the Patriots reacted to their AFC divisional playoff win is what made LaDainian Tomlinson lose his cool.
The San Diego Chargers' running back, upset that some Patriots were dancing on the Chargers' logo at midfield after they had silenced the record crowd of 68,810 at Qualcomm Stadium, went after an unidentified Patriots player, yelling and pointing, and had to be restrained by a teammate and former Charger Reche Caldwell, who had a huge game for the Patriots.
"I would never react in that way. I was very upset," Tomlinson said. "When you go to the middle of our field and start doing the dance Shawne Merriman is known for, that is disrespectful. They showed no class and maybe that comes from the head coach."
Merriman, nicknamed "Lights Out," did a spasmodic dance to celebrate each of his NFL-high 17 sacks. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he saw some Patriots pointing to the scoreboard, mimicking the dance and stomping on the Chargers' logo at midfield.
"I think what got LT, and I was right there, was just a little of the taunting," Rivers said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Hey, celebrate -- we'd have been sprinting on the field, too, I guarantee you. But it was a little finger-pointing and I don't know where it came from."
"It was upsetting to see because they won three Super Bowls," Merriman said, according to the Boston Herald. "It's like a guy on a fast break in basketball and dunking the ball and getting excited. You've won three Super Bowls. You don't do that."
"When you go to the middle of our field and start doing the dance Shawne Merriman is known for, that is disrespectful. They showed no class and maybe that comes from the head coach."
-- LaDainian Tomlinson
The Patriots rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to Caldwell with under five minutes remaining, then executed a fake on a direct snap to running back Kevin Faulk that helped spring the tying two-point conversion. Stephen Gostkowski added a field goal with 1:10 to play to give the Patriots a 24-21 lead, and Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding missed his 54-yard attempt to tie in the final seconds.
The bottom line: No matter how they responded to the win, the Patriots are headed to next week's AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis against the Colts.
"They won and they deserve a lot of credit," Rivers said, according to the Union-Tribune. "Personally I was disappointed in the way they handled winning. … But that's neither here nor there. They're playing next week and we're not."
"We lost to a better team today," Tomlinson said. "Hopefully the next opportunity we have we'll learn something from this."
Tomlinson ran for 123 yards and two scores, and caught two passes for 64 yards in the loss.
The Patriots and Chargers are scheduled to meet again in Foxborough next season, and some Chargers already have the date circled.
"Every time I will play New England it will be a personal grudge," linebacker Shaun Phillips said, according to the Union-Tribune. "That was very classless. … When we went in and beat their head in New England [last season] … we did nothing but compliment them and say they were a good team. We would never disrespect a team like that."
At least one Patriots player did not think the lack of class was so one-sided.
"[The San Diego players] talked from the beginning to the end," linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said, according to the Union-Tribune. "We'll take the win."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.