Belichick 20/20: Patriots pull off divisional round stunner over favored Chargers in 2006

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By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Patriots have had some absolutely gut-wrenching, stunning playoff losses over Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's incredible run. But they've had some incredible wins, too. Their 2006 road win in the divisional round over the favored San Diego Chargers ranks among the most stunning playoff victories in this dynasty, and for good reason.

San Diego went 14-2 that season and could have been Super Bowl-bound if they could just get past those pesky Patriots. And it looked like they would for a while. After the Patriots went up 3-0, the Chargers took a 7-3 lead and took a 21-13 advantage well into the fourth quarter. It looked like the Chargers defense led by Shawne Merriman was going to get the best of Brady, especially after No. 12 threw an interception to Marlon McCree.

But then the incredible happened. McCree tried to return the pick instead of making the safe play and going down, which would have given the Chargers a chance to bleed the clock away with 6:25 left and an eight-point lead. Receiver Troy Brown made McCree pay dearly for his decision, rustling the ball loose as Reche Caldwell made the recovery to give the ball right back to the Patriots.

Brady threw a touchdown to Caldwell less than two minutes later and the Patriots converted the must-have two-point attempt to tie the game. Philip Rivers, meanwhile, went 0-for-2 on the ensuing drive and the Chargers were forced to punt it back. Stephen Gostkowski put the Pats up 24-21 with a field goal at the 1:14 mark, but the Chargers had a chance to tie it back up. Their kicker did not do his job, as Nate Kaeding missed a 54-yarder to officially give the game to the Patriots.

Brown's strip of McCree instantly went down as one of the most iconic plays of the Belichick era, even in a season where the Patriots came up short of making the Super Bowl. It was that unbelievable of a play, and that stunning of a win. Despite the Pats not finishing the job, the win deserves to rank among Belichick's best.

Listen below for classic calls from the game by Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].