EYES ON AN­OTHER AFC TI­TLE

Michel, White pave way to 8th straight ti­tle game as Chiefs await

Hartford Courant - - Front Page - By Kyle High­tower As­so­ci­ated Press

Tom Brady of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots cel­e­brates with David An­drews af­ter a touch­down dur­ing the first quar­ter Sun­day against the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers at Gil­lette Sta­dium. The Pa­tri­ots beat the Charg­ers 41-28 Sun­day to earn their eighth straight trip to the AFC cham­pi­onship game. New Eng­land will play at Kansas City next week.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady rec­og­nizes that there are some who be­lieve the Pa­tri­ots are near­ing the end of their run of un­prece­dented play­off suc­cess.

New Eng­land took its first step to­ward pos­si­bly si­lenc­ing those voices for a lit­tle longer.

Rookie Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and had three touch­downs as the Pa­tri­ots beat the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers 41-28 in the di­vi­sional play­offs Sun­day for their eighth straight trip to the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game.

New Eng­land (12-5) will play at Kansas City next Sun­day for the con­fer­ence ti­tle. The Pa­tri­ots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough in Week 6. The Pa­tri­ots fin­ished 9-0 at home this sea­son but were just 3-5 on the road.

It is the 13th con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game ap­pear­ance by the Pa­tri­ots dur­ing the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

“It’s go­ing to be a good game,” Brady said of the re­match with the Chiefs. “They’re a good team. We played them ear­lier this year. I know every­body thinks we suck and, you know, we can’t win any games, so we’ll see. It’ll be fun.”

The Charg­ers (13-5) haven’t reached the AFC ti­tle game since the 2007 sea­son.

Philip Rivers fin­ished 25 of 51 for

331 yards and three touch­downs with one in­ter­cep­tion Sun­day. He is 0-5 in games played in Foxborough, in­clud­ing 0-3 in the post­sea­son. Brady fin­ished 34 of 44 for 343 yards and a touch­down. He is 8-0 as a starter against Rivers, who drops to 1-8 against New Eng­land all time. For Rivers, see­ing Brady again pick apart the Charg­ers de­fense was an­other re­minder that he was com­pet­ing against one of the best quar­ter­backs in NFL his­tory. “He’s up there if not the all-time great, then one of,” Rivers said. “That ar­gu­ment can go on for­ever. Was he rolling at the high­est level to­day? I think we can all agree on that.” The Pa­tri­ots’ James White tied Dar­ren Spro­les’ NFL post­sea­son record with 15 catches, to­tal­ing 97 yards. New Eng­land scored on its first four pos­ses­sions to build a 35-7 half­time lead. Ju­lian Edel­man had nine catches for 151 yards. He said the run game opened up the field for the rest of the of­fense. “It was awe­some to get Sony out there truck­ing,” said Edel­man. “Rex [Burk­head] was out there, he scored. AndSw` eet Feet’ [James White] be­ing Sw` eet Feet’. Sony’s over there be­ing a lit­tle horse. It was awe­some.” The Charg­ers added three touch­downs in the sec­ond half, but it was much too late. Los An­ge­les lost for just the sec­ond time on the road (8-2) and first time out­side Los An­ge­les this sea­son. In their past four trips to the play­offs, the Charg­ers have lost in the di­vi­sional round. “We got our butts kicked,” Los An­ge­les coach An­thony Lynn said. Rivers seemed poised to keep Los An­ge­les in the game, con­nect­ing with Keenan Allen for a 43yard score on the Charg­ers’

first of­fen­sive pos­ses­sion. It was the long­est touch­down of Allen’s ca­reer, in­clud­ing the post­sea­son. It turned out to be just a blip. The Charg­ers punted the four other times they had the ball in the first half. The Pa­tri­ots were ef­fi­cient through­out the open­ing 30 min­utes, go­ing 5-for-5 in the red zone, 5 of 6 on third down and com­mit­ting only one penalty. New Eng­land didn’t go three-and-out for the first time un­til its fifth of­fen­sive touch of the day, when it punted with 3:32 left in the sec­ond quar­ter. But Ryan Allen’s 48yard punt was fum­bled by Des­mond King, send­ing the ball rolling to­ward the side­line. The ref­er­ees ruled the ball went out of bounds be­fore New Eng­land’s Al­bert McClel­lan ap­peared to re­cover it. But the play was re­versed af­ter a chal­lenge by Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick. The turnover proved costly, with the Pa­tri­ots scor­ing just four plays later when Michel crossed the goal line from 5 yards for his third touch­down of the half. Asked if this vic­tory proved at least some of the Pa­tri­ots’ doubters wrong, Brady paused and smiled. “I just like win­ning,” he said. “I just like win­ning.” The Pa­tri­ots es­tab­lished the run early, cre­at­ing big holes in a Charg­ers de­fense that ended the reg­u­lar sea­son ranked ninth in the NFL, al­low­ing just 106 rush­ing yards per game. Michel car­ried 16 times

for 105 yards in the first half. He scored from 1 yard on the open­ing pos­ses­sion of the game. It capped a 14-play, 83-yard drive in which he rushed five times for 15 yards and had a 9-yard re­cep­tion. The Pa­tri­ots added scor­ing drives of 67, 58, 87 and 35 yards. Michel be­came just the sec­ond Pa­tri­ots rookie in franchise his­tory to have a rush­ing touch­down in the post­sea­son. He joined fel­low Ge­or­gia alum, Robert Ed­wards, who ran for a touch­down as a rookie in New Eng­land’s 1998 wild card loss to Jack­sonville. Michel also be­came the first New Eng­land player with two rush­ing TDs in the first quar­ter of a play­off game since LeGar­rette Blount ac­com­plished it in the 2013 di­vi­sional-round win against In­di­anapo­lis. Brady ex­tended his post­sea­son record with his 15th ca­reer 300-yard pass­ing game. Next is Pey­ton Man­ning with nine. Brady has a touch­down pass in 13 straight post­sea­son games, tied for the third-long­est streak since 1950. Only Brett Favre (20) and Brady him­self (18 from 2001-11) have longer streaks.

MAD­DIE MEYER/GETTY

AL BELLO/GETTY

Pa­tri­ots rookie Sony Michel dives across the goal line in the sec­ond quar­ter for one of his three first-half TDs as the Pa­tri­ots beat the Charg­ers to ad­vance to the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game.

MAD­DIE MEYER/GETTY

The Pa­tri­ots’ James White tries to slip a tackle dur­ing Sun­day’s di­vi­sional play­off game against the Charg­ers. White tied an NFL post­sea­son record with 15 re­cep­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.