Far from fin­ished

Pa­tri­ots push back against pre­dic­tions of their ex­pi­ra­tion

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - NFL PLAYOFFS - By Kyle Hightower

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.”

AL BELLO/GETTY

Pa­tri­ots run­ning back James White, who had a play­off record-ty­ing 15 catches, finds some room to run Sun­day.

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