Chargers give Pats fighting chance in KC
FOXBORO — Philip Rivers would prefer to be playing in Arrowhead Stadium next Sunday, but the Chargers’ quarterback admits next week’s AFC Championship contest between the Patriots and Chiefs could be one for the ages.
“I mean the first game was 43-40 or something like that. I would expect a lot of points to be scored,” Rivers said yesterday following his team’s 41-28 loss to the Patriots. “I hope they go out there and play for three days and then they call it a draw.”
The Patriots and Chiefs met in Foxboro back on Oct. 14. The hosts built up an early 24-9 lead before the Chiefs rallied to deadlock the score at 40, setting the stage for Stephen Gostkowski’s gamewinning 28-yard field goal on the final play.
This time, however, the venue will be Arrowhead where the Patriots have struggled. The last time they met in Kansas City back in 2014, the Chiefs pounded the Patriots, 41-14, a result so one-sided that Trent Dilfer went on national television afterwards and proclaimed the Patriots just weren’t any good. Of course, the Patriots went on to win a Super Bowl that season.
The Chargers can talk with pride about playing in Arrowhead because they happened to be the only team who won there this season. They rallied from a 28-14 fourth-quarter deficit to win 29-28 when Rivers connected with Michael Williams on a 1-yard TD pass with four seconds left, then followed it up with a two-point conversion toss to a wide open Williams.
While no one in the locker room would choose sides, many give the Patriots a fighting chance on the road due in large part to Tom Brady. He hardly looked like a 41-year-old quarterback as he completed 34-of-44 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a passer rating of 106.5.
“I was expecting to see his best,” Chargers’ coach Anthony Lynn said. “It’s playoff time and he’s one of the best to ever play on the football field. He did a heck of a job taking advantage of personnel matchups, he’s really good at finding weaknesses in the defense.”
As he did in the regular season meeting against the Chiefs, Brady was able to move the ball up and down the field at will against a solid Chargers’ defense, one which limited the Chiefs to 294 yards of total offense in the late season win. By contrast, the Patriots amassed 498 yards, most of that coming in the first three quarters.
“They execute much more tightly,” said defensive end Joey Bosa, who was limited to one tackle. “(Brady) is sitting back there for 1-2 seconds and dumping the ball wherever he wants, so it’s tough.”
One player who won’t be watching the game is veteran offensive lineman Russell Okung. While he admits the game has the potential to be a classic, he won’t be among those viewing.
“I am going to sulk for the next few months,” Okung said with a laugh. “I do think it is going to be a battle, two very efficient, consistent teams. It should be an incredible game and my hat’s off to them.”