SAN DIEGO – The New England Patriots spent the week in San Diego, where they got rained on like everyone else for a few days.
By the time Tom Brady took his spot in front of a bed of roses at picturesque University of San Diego for his weekly news conference, the clouds had cleared and the sun came out.
Perfect timing for Brady, a Californian.
If the Patriots (9-3) beat the Chargers (8-4) on Sunday night, the extra time in the Golden State will have been worth it.
"It's been good," Brady said. "I think we've had a good couple days. Now it starts to feel like California weather. ... Guys have a lot of time to kind of be together and spend a lot of time that we don't typically get to spend so that's been a real plus."
In order to cut down on travel, the Patriots flew to San Diego after their loss at Green Bay last Sunday.
Sunday night's game will feature premier quarterbacks in Brady and San Diego's Philip Rivers, and two of the game's top tight ends, New England's Rob Gronkowski and San Diego's Antonio Gates.
Did the Patriots have too much time on their hands in California? Gronkowski and other Patriots hung out with Justin Bieber at a Los Angeles Clippers game Monday night.
Told that some Patriots fans were concerned about a Bieber curse, Gronkowski said, "We're just on to San Diego. Just worried about the Chargers, man."
Spoken like someone who plays for Bill Belichick.
Here are some things to look for when the Patriots and Chargers, two original AFL teams, meet Sunday night:
GRONK & GATES: Gronkowski and Gates each come in with nine touchdown catches, looking to become the first tight end in NFL history to have four 10-TD seasons.
Defensive coordinators John Pagano of the Chargers and Matt Patricia of the Patriots likely have had nightmares all week.
"They're two great players," Brady said. "It's really a tough matchup when you play guys like that. I think that particular position, especially for us and how important it is in our offense, and I know it is in San Diego's offense ... it's just a tough matchup."
GRONK: How will the Chargers cover Gronkowski?
"I think the whole team. Ten guys in coverage. At least one guy rushing the quarterback, and hopefully that's me," joked Chargers outside linebacker Dwight Freeney. "He's having a great year. He's so hard to stop. He has so much size. I think it's unfair for a guy to have that much size and speed and be able to catch the ball and be able to block. So he never leaves the field. He's always a threat."
GRONK II: Gronkowski, who is 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, has 65 catches for 910 yards and nine TDs this season.
Gates said he'll be focused on his own game "but I understand that there's another guy across the way that's pretty good, obviously. He's always talked about. He's catching touchdowns. My whole thing is that he's keeping the tradition going that me and my guy Tony (Gonzalez) started. We're excited that this position is still getting looked at as one of the premier matchup-problem positions."
GATES: The 12-year veteran has 47 catches for 574 yards and nine TDs this season.
"He's an unbelievable player," Gronkowski said. "Ever since high school I've looked up to him. I love the way he runs routes and how he gets open and how he makes it stick at the top of the routes to get open. I've always watched him ever since growing up and I still watch him to do this day to learn from him."
BRADY & RIVERS: The guys throwing to the tight ends are pretty good, too.
Rivers has thrown 69 touchdown passes to Gates, the most from a QB to a tight end in NFL history. Brady has thrown 50 scoring passes to Gronkowski, the most TD connections in Patriots history.
Brady has the upper hand over Rivers, though, beating San Diego four of five times since Rivers became the starter in 2006, including twice in the playoffs. Rivers' only win against the Patriots came in 2008, weeks after Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.
The Chargers have only three sacks in the past five games.
Now would be a good time to get that going.
"Freeney has been a pain in our butt for a long time," Brady said. "They have a good, athletic group of linebackers. They rotate a lot of guys. .. They went on the road in Baltimore and beat a really good team on the road, which is tough to do. That's what we're going to need to be able to do."
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL