Pa­tri­ots, Saints win, earn their ti­tle shots

The Bradenton Herald - - Front Page - BY KYLE HIGH­TOWER

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.

Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and had three touch­downs and the Pa­tri­ots beat the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers 41-28 in the di­vi­sional play­offs on Sun­day to earn their eighth straight trip to the AFC cham­pi­onship game.

New Eng­land (12-5) will play at Kansas City in next week’s AFC ti­tle game. The Pa­tri­ots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough in Week 6. The Pa­tri­ots fin­ished 9-0 at home this sea­son.

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, 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.

New Eng­land scored on its 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.

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 43-yard score on Los An­ge­les’ 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 through 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 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.


L.A. New Charg­ers Eng­land 14 7 21 0 7 3 14 3 — — 28 41 First 7:49. NE—Michel Quar­ter 1 run (Gostkowski kick), (Bad­g­ley LAC—K.Allen kick), 4:56. 43 pass from P.Rivers 1:35. NE—Michel 14 run (Gostkowski kick), Sec­ond NE—Dorsett Quar­ter 15 pass from Brady (Gostkowski NE—Burk­head kick), 6 12:17. run (Gostkowski kick), 6:04. NE—Michel 5 run (Gostkowski kick), 1:43. Third Quar­ter NE—FG Gostkowski 28, 6:31. LAC—Gor­don 1 run (Bad­g­ley kick), 1:16. Fourth Quar­ter NE—FG Gostkowski 30, 12:23. LAC—Green 1 pass from P.Rivers (K.Allen pass from P.Rivers), 7:38. LAC—Gates 8 pass from P.Rivers (pass failed), :59. A—65,878. LAC NE First downs 22 30 To­tal Net Yards 335 498 Rushes-yards 10-19 34-155 Pass­ing 316 343 Punt Re­turns 1-0 5-37 Kick­off Re­turns 6-124 2-23 In­ter­cep­tions Ret. 0-0 1-0 Comp-Att-Int 25-51-1 34-44-0 Sacked-Yards Lost 2-15 0-0 Punts 6-39.5 4-43.3 Fum­bles-Lost 1-1 0-0 Penal­ties-Yards 5-33 9-75 Time of Pos­ses­sion 21:40 38:20 IN­DI­VID­UAL STA­TIS­TICS RUSH­ING—Los An­ge­les, Gor­don 9-15, Ju.Jack­son 1-4. New Eng­land, Michel 24-129, Burk­head 4-12, Edel­man 1-7, Develin 2-5, Pat­ter­son 1-3, Brady 2(mi­nus 1). PASS­ING—Los An­ge­les, P.Rivers 25-51-1-331. New Eng­land, Brady 34-44-0-343. RE­CEIV­ING—Los An­ge­les, T.Wil­liams 5-94, M.Wil­liams 5-68, Gates 5-41, Ju.Jack­son 3-22, Ekeler 3-19, K.Allen 2-75, Gor­don 1-11, Green 1-1. New Eng­land, White 15-97, Edel­man 9-151, Dorsett 4-41, Ho­gan 3-13, Gronkowski 1-25, Michel 1-9, Burk­head 1-7. MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.


Pa­tri­ots run­ning back Sony Michel heads for the goal line and his sec­ond touch­down dur­ing the first half Sun­day.


Los An­ge­les Charg­ers corner­back Michael Davis breaks up a pass in­tended for Pa­tri­ots re­ceiver Chris Ho­gan dur­ing the first half Sun­day.

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