Saints end Eagles’ title reign
Thrashing of Chargers lands New England in 8th straight AFC final
Marshon Lattimore intercepted a Nick Foles pass with 1:52 remaining as
KEITH KIRKWOOD and the Saints fended off a late challenge from Philadelphia for a 20-14 victory to advance to the NFC Championship Game. 4C
■ Tom Brady again looked ageless (343 yards), and Sony Michel ran for three TDS in the Patriots’ 41-28 trashing of the Chargers.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady recognizes that there are some who believe the New England 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 4128 in the divisional playoffs Sunday to earn their eighth straight trip to the AFC Championship Game.
New England (12-5) will play at Kansas City (13-4) next week. 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 for the Patriots in 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. 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 improved to 8-0 as a starter against Rivers, who dropped 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.
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 (82) and first time outside Los Angeles this season. In their last four trips to the playoffs, the Chargers have lost in the divisional round.
“We got our butts kicked,” Los Angeles coach Anthony
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 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 48-yard 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 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.
New England 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.
The Patriots’ Sony Michel lands on his head in the end zone on a second-quarter carry for one of his three touchdowns. Michel rushed for 129 yards for New England, which built a 35-7 halftime lead and coasted to victory.