Locked and loaded for KC
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.
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.