Far from finished
Patriots push back against predictions of their expiration
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady recognizes that there are some who believe the Patriots are nearing the end of their run of unprecedented playoff success.
The Patriots took another step toward possibly silencing those voices for a little longer.
Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and had three touchdowns, and the Patriots beat the Chargers 41-28 in the divisional playoff round Sunday to earn their eighth straight trip to the AFC championship game.
The Patriots (12-5) will travel to play the Chiefs in next week’s AFC title game. The Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough in Week 6.
It is the 13th conference championship game for 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, three touchdowns and an interception. 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 improves to 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.”
James White tied Darren Sproles’ NFL postseason record with 15 catches, totaling 97 yards.
The Patriots scored on their first four possessions of the game 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. And ‘Sweet Feet’ (James White) being ‘Sweet 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.
“We got our butts kicked,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.
Rivers seemed poised to keep his team in the game, connecting with Keenan Allen for a 43-yard 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.
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.”
Patriots running back James White, who had a playoff record-tying 15 catches, finds some room to run Sunday.