Locked and loaded for KC

Boston Herald - - NFL PLAYOFFS - Tom KEE­GAN Twit­ter: @TomKee­ganBos­ton

FOXBORO — Even as the Pa­tri­ots me­thod­i­cally worked their way to the No. 2 seed in the AFC, a trou­bling ques­tion bub­bled be­neath the sur­face: If they need to win in a shootout, does the of­fense have enough re­main­ing able and el­i­gi­ble parts to hang with the mod­ern, bombs-away score­board spin­ners await­ing them in the play­offs?

Em­phatic an­swer driven home by yes­ter­day’s 41-28 hum­bling of the Charg­ers: Af­fir­ma­tive.

Even by Tom Brady stan­dards, the re­verse-ag­ing process pulled off by the quar­ter­back and his fa­vorite tar­get, Ju­lian Edel­man, the past month bor­ders on the ridicu­lous. It’s enough to make me think about em­brac­ing a plant-based diet. … OK, there, I thought about it.

Play­ing in his first play­off game in two years, Edel­man made it worth the wait, and after­ward, he let ev­ery­one who won­ders what it must be like to be on the re­ceiv­ing end of Brady’s passes know that they are not alone in en­ter­tain­ing that fan­tasy.

“It’s un­be­liev­able,” Edel­man said. “It’s, hon­estly, it’s a dream. It’s a dream. I grew up in the same area as him. I re­mem­ber be­ing at school, eighth grade (in Red­wood City, Calif.), lit­er­ally chant­ing out, ‘I’m Brady.’ Then to get to go out and play a bunch of games with him, it’s been very, very awe­some. It’s been a bless­ing. It’s been cool. … Be­ing around the best quar­ter­back of all-time, the best com­peti­tor of all­time, he just con­tin­u­ally shows it, for a re­ceiver, it’s been a dream.”

Op­er­at­ing on a time mended knee and fu­eled by play­off juices, Brady played catch with Edel­man and James White on his way to 343 pass­ing yards. The of­fen- sive line blasted open big rush­ing lanes, Sony Michel used them to run for three touch­downs, and the foot­ball world will be treated to Brady and Patrick Ma­homes com­pet­ing Sun­day at Ar­row­head Sta­dium. It doesn’t get any bet­ter than a matchup pit­ting last year’s MVP, Brady, 41, vs. this sea­son’s sure bet to win the honor, Ma­homes, 23.

The fi­nal score doesn’t hint at the Pa­tri­ots’ of­fen­sive dom­i­nance at Gil­lette Sta­dium, where the home team went un­de­feated. The half­time score of 35-7 told the story.

Brady (34-for-44, one touch­down), Edel­man (nine re­cep­tions, 151 yards) and White (15 catches, 97 yards) did as they pleased dur­ing the first two quar­ters. By half­time, Brady had thrown for 233 yards and Michel had amassed 105 of his 129 rush­ing yards, Edel­man had seven catches for 107 yards, James White 10 for 71 yards in the first half.

Those num­bers don’t hap­pen with­out the big bod­ies up front do­ing great bouncer work. Melvin In­gram and Joey Bosa, the Charg­ers’ quar­ter­back head-hunters, sel­dom drew close enough to Brady for him to see their breaths dur­ing the cold­est game ei­ther team has played this sea­son. Brady wasn’t sacked once and was hit just twice.

Brady’s ac­tive streak of 228 con­sec­u­tive passes with­out an in­ter­cep­tion is an NFL record and Edel­man’s 98 post­sea­son catches ranks sec­ond only to Jerry Rice (151).

“I grew up in the Bay Area and I grew up close to that (Rice) fam­ily,” said Edel­man, a sev­enth-round draft choice who played quar­ter­back at Kent State. “He’s the GOAT, and any time you are in the same sen­tence with him you pinch your­self. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.”

We’ll see if the Pa­tri­ots will outscore the Chiefs and Ma­homes in Kansas City, but the ques­tion of whether they’re still ca­pa­ble of sur­viv­ing Ma­homes the way they did in a 43-40 thriller at Gil­lette on Oct. 14 van­ished quickly one month to the day after the Charg­ers won in KC.

The Chiefs won’t be the only ones seek­ing to even a score, as Brady showed when asked about a 41-14 loss on a Mon­day night in Kansas City early in the 2014 sea­son.

“That was a pretty crappy loss that night,” Brady said. “We’ve had some other ones. … We’ve had some tough losses this year, too, but you just keep fight­ing.”

The later the round, the tougher the Pa­tri­ots fight when they smell blood, which vs. the Charg­ers was from the re­lent­less open­ing drive.

NANCY LANE / BOS­TON HER­ALD MATT STONE / BOS­TON HER­ALD

COUNT IT: Tom Brady cel­e­brates a touch­down yes­ter­day in Foxboro. AIR TIME: Ju­lian Edel­man dives for ex­tra yards with the Charg­ers’ Rayshawn Jenk­ins try­ing to pull him down.

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