New England won its fourth AFC title in seven years and became the first team in NFL history to go 18-0. The Patriots will get the chance to finish the season 19-0 in Super Bowl XLII, set for Feb. 3 in Glendale, Ariz.
Quarterback Tom Brady completed 22 of 33 passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Philip Rivers finished 19 of 37 passing with 211 yards and two interceptions for the Chargers (13-6), who had three key playmakers injured for the playoff game -- including Rivers and top rusher LaDainian Tomlinson, who started but left the game after gaining just five yards on two carries early in the first quarter.
Nate Kaeding had four field goals for San Diego.