Patriots Will Go to 8th Straight Conference Championship
All season long the doubters have circled the 2018 Patriots team like vultures over carrion, searching for any cracks in the armor, off-field drama, whether real or imagined, and any vulnerability. Indeed, many of these national pundits, perhaps more out of wishful thinking than actual forethought, proclaimed that today, the Chargers would end the Patriots dynasty.
Well, don’t throw dirt on the corpse of the Patriots just yet. And perhaps Tom Brady isn’t quite at the edge of the precipice as many thought (or in the case of a few national dimwits, outwardly call for). The Patriots dominated the Chargers in every phase of the game and walked away with a 41-28 win that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate.
With a bye week to heal up the assorted injuries and prepare for the Chargers, the Patriots wanted to start quickly. They showed that by winning the toss and opting to receive the kickoff when they normally defer to the second half.
The Patriots came out loaded for bear, and the offense looked more dominant than they have in quite some time. Easily better than they’ve looked at any time this year. The Chargers zone defense was eviscerated by Brady and the running game in the first half. It was total domination for the first 30 minutes. Sony Michel ran 16 times for 105 yards, as the Pats offense rolled up 35 points, 347 yards, and 24 first downs, numbers that usually add up to a good game by halftime.
The Patriots in the first half were 5-6 on third down and 5-5 in the red zone. Remember this LA defense was Top 10 in both rushing (9th) and passing (9th), they boasted a pair of edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and an athletic group who totally shut down the Ravens a week ago. They were not “tomato cans” or terrible posers. This team was undefeated outside of LA all year. But they were shredded like wilted lettuce.
So focused was Brady, even as the half wore down, he was screaming at the officials for ruling that WR Phillip Dorsett got out of bounds and that the team should have been allowed to go for a last-second field goal.
This game was over by halftime, the Patriots had a commanding 35-7 lead, and at home in Foxboro, they aren’t going to blow that. The Chargers answered the Patriots opening touchdown when Stephon Gilmore who has been so good all season, got totally fooled by Rivers looking inside that he allowed Keenan Allen to zip past him and Rivers hit him for a too-easy 43-yard touchdown pass. The Chargers wouldn’t score again until the game was way out of reach.
The QB pressure on Rivers was immense all day. Trey Flowers, Dont’a Hightower, and Adrian Clayborn were outstanding all day and they harassed, hit and flustered Rivers from start to finish. He finished 25-51 for 331 yards with 3 TDs and an interception. But much of his yardage was 4th quarter garbage time. He padded his stats a bit, but don’t look at the score sheet. This was a butt kicking. The Chargers run game netted 19 yards total. Melvin Gordon was never a factor because the Patriots offense was scoring at will.
Sony Michel ended up with 129 yards rushing on 24 carries (5.1 average) and three touchdowns. Julian Edelman was unstoppable out of the slot making nine catches for 151 yards. James White caught 15 passes for 97 yards. Dorsett had four catches for 41 and a touchdown.
Gilmore settled down after that one gaffe and was excellent the rest of the game and got an interception off Rivers later in the game. Rookie J.C. Jackson was put on the dangerous Mike Williams, who was targeted 11 times. Williams made five catches for 68 yards.
And Brady, the guy who is done, going over the cliff, and getting ready to be pushed into retirement by the Chargers pass rush? He finished 34-44 for 343 yards with a TD and 0 INTs. The play calling of Josh McDaniels on Sunday was outstanding, he kept the Chargers off-balanced all game long and their pass rush was rendered to a milk carton by a dominating performance by the Patriots offensive line who dominated the point of attack.
Brady summed it up best by stating what everyone from the Patriots was thinking when he told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson after the game, “everyone thinks we suck and can’t win games.” Indeed, ESPN’s Power Poll lists New England as just having a 15 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, the lowest of the four teams remaining.
Well, as they showed Sunday, you can doubt them all you want, but they’ve been counted out countless times before and if they play like they did today, they are capable of beating anyone.
And now they’re on their way to play in their 8th consecutive AFC Championship Game. Think about that for a second. How will that turn out? Nobody knows, but…
We’re on to Kansas City.
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