By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
September 29, 2002

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SAN DIEGO, CA -- The12-game winning streak dating back to November 18th of last season has finally come to an end for New England.

The Patriots lost their first game of the 2002 season on Sunday, falling to San Diego 21-14.  New England went into the locker room at half-time tied at 14-14, but San Diego came out and scored on a 58-yard touchdown run by LaDanian Tomlinson on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter and the Chargers defense then went on to frustrate a Patriots' offense that came into Sunday's game averaging 38-points per game, shutting them out the rest of the way.

With Troy Brown out of the line-up quarterback Tom Brady struggled, finishing the day 36-of-53 for 353-yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions, both of which came in San Diego territory and ended any potential scoring chances.  Rookie wide receiver Deion Branch did his best to fill in for Brown after starting the game, stepping up with nine first-half receptions for 97-yards before being shut down with just four catches for 31-yards in the second half.

Not even Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri was immune to New England's frustrating afternoon, missing his only field goal attempt wide right from 41-yards out.

But it was the Chargers running game that was the difference in the second half.  Tomlinson scored to start the third quarter and went on to rush for 123 of his 217-yards through the final two quarters of play, breaking tackles and making life pretty easy for San Diego quarterback Drew Brees who passed for just 104-yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots opened the game with an 11-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Christian Fauria.  They appeared to be in control, and seemed to have the momentum.

But on the second possession for San Diego the Chargers scored on a 52-yard pass play to Curtis Conway who beat Otis Smith, knotting the score at 7-7 with 4:17 left in the first quarter.

New England came right back on their next possession, driving 65-yards on 10-plays, which ended with linebacker Mike Vrabel filling in at tight end and catching his first career touchdown pass from one yard out, putting the Patriots back in control at 14-7.

However after San Diego went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Patriots marched from their own 36 down to the Chargers 23-yard line setting what appeared to be an easy 41-yard attempt for Vinatieri who had been perfect coming to the game.

The kick went up, and wide right.

So went the rest of the afternoon for the Patriots.

The Chargers then put together a 9-play, 69-yard drive that ended on a 37-yard touchdown run by Tomlinson.  San Diego found themselves tied with the Patriots and went into the locker room at the half with the momentum after stopping New England's offense on their final possession before half-time.

They came out in the second half and picked up where they left off, scoring on the second play of the third quarter when Tomlinson took off 58-yards for the endzone and giving the Chargers a 21-14 lead just :46 into the second half.  They then picked off Brady on the Patriots next two possessions, both of which came in San Diego territory.  The second interception set up a 50-yard field goal attempt by Steve Christie.

The Patriots blocked it.  It was the only thing that went right in the second half.

On their final drive New England found themselves pinned inside their own 4-yard line after a 52-yard punt by the Chargers.  Brady got them to midfield after a catch by David Patten had been ruled incomplete and overturned by replay, but Kevin Faulk caught a pass coming across the middle and got leveled as he attempted to lateral and San Diego recovered.

With :08 left Brees took a knee and time ran out.

Now the Patriots sit at 3-1 with a trip to Miami up next on the schedule.  The streak may be over, but their problems appear to be just beginning.  Now they'll need to go back to work and figure out what went wrong, before they start a new streak.

A losing streak.


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