Contrary to popular belief, the New England Patriots are not dead, as they decisively routed the Los Angeles Chargers (13-5) 41-28 in a Divisional Round game that was not as close as the final score indicates. The Pats took control early by scoring on their first 4 drives and never gave the Chargers a chance of coming back in the second half. This victory improved the Pats to 12-5 on the season and set up a date with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
Here are some takeaways from today’s victory.
1. Michel leads the way!
Sony Michel ended his collegiate career with the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoffs, where he dominated Oklahoma to set up an appearance in the National Championship Game. Michel didn’t disappoint in his playoff debut with the Pats as he shredded the Chargers for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns off of 24 carries. A week after shutting down Baltimore’s vaunted rushing attack, the Chargers had no answer for the dominant Pats’ offensive line, who were able to consistently open holes for Michel to run through. Rob Gronkowski and James Develin were also essential parts of the rushing attack, as they assisted in pushing back the Chargers.
If the Patriots want to advance further, they’ll need Michel to continue playing like this.
2. Don’t doubt the GOAT and his weapons!
Most pundits entered this game wondering if Tom Brady and his receivers stood much of a chance against the Chargers who featured elite defenders in their defensive line and their secondary. Let’s just say that they were wrong, because the Brady Bunch dissected the Chargers defense early and often. The lethal duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram were neutralized, as they combined for 1 hit on TB12. All in all, the Chargers never sacked Brady and only hit him once, due to the remarkable job done by the offensive line. Julian Edelman had one of his best performances in recent memory, as he corralled 9 receptions for 151 yards. Edelman was consistently a mismatch for the Chargers’ secondary, and was even harder to bring down as demonstrated by an epic conversion on 2nd & 13 when he broke free of a sure tackle to dive for a first down. Edelman’s 9 receptions helped him pass Reggie Wayne for second place in career postseason receptions. James White (15 catches for 97 yards) was a constant problem for the Chargers as he used his speed and agility to get past defenders. White’s 15 catches helped tie a record for receptions in a postseason game, and exceeded the 14 catches he had during Super Bowl LI. Phillip Dorsett (4 catches for 41 yards and a touchdown) and Chris Hogan (3 catches for 13 yards) also pitched in for the passing game. Gronk had 1 catch for 25 yards, but his impact was felt due to his effective blocking and the penalty he drew on the opening drive.
There was no denying that Tom Brady was surgical today, and he will need to be at his absolute best for the Patriots to be successful next week.
3. The defense stifled Rivers & company!
The Pats defense was otherworldly today as they consistently stopped the Chargers and enabled the offense to lengthen their lead. The Chargers had one of the NFL’s best running backs in Melvin Gordon, but the Pats never let him get him settled as they limited him to 15 yards and a touchdown off of 9 carries. Trey Flowers, Dont’a Hightower and the rest of the pass rushers made life miserable for Philip Rivers, as they hit him 7 times and sacked him 2 times. Rivers became increasingly frustrated and emotional throughout the game due to the constant hits he endured. He finished with 331 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception, with most of his production coming in garbage time.
Stephon Gilmore continued his impressive season, as he rebounded from an early error (which resulted in a 43-yard touchdown by Keenan Allen) by not allowing another completion and also picking off Rivers in the fourth quarter.
The Pats were exceptional in shutting down one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses, and they’ll need to be even better to stand a chance next week.
- Passing: Tom Brady – 34/44 for 341 yards and 1 touchdown
- Rushing: Sony Michel – 24 carries for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns
- Receiving: Julian Edelman – 9 catches for 151 yards
- Defensive: Devin McCourty – 7 tackles
- Passing: Philip Rivers – 25/51 for 331 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception
- Rushing: Melvin Gordon – 9 carries for 15 yards and 1 touchdown
- Receiving: Tyrell Williams – 5 catches for 94 yards
- Defensive: Jahleel Addae – 12 tackles
What’s next?: The Pats head to Kansas City to take on the red hot Chiefs (13-4) for the AFC Championship Game. This is a rematch of the wild Week 6 contest that ended with a 43-40 victory for that Pats at Gillette Stadium. It will be interesting to see how the game differs during a cold night at Arrowhead Stadium.