A refreshed Patriots team came prepared to dominate their divisional playoff game against the L.A. Chargers. Showing no mercy, New England’s offense scored touchdowns on their first four drives (all in the first quarter), followed by another touchdown and two field goals throughout the game. No team could stand between the Patriots and this victory, and the Chargers drew the unfortunate short end of the stick.
Sony Michel, Julian Edelman, and James White
New England’s scoring offense consisted largely of the skill that these three players brought to the game. Combined, these three players converted for over 15 first downs, most of which were concentrated in the first quarter. Sony Michel finished the game with 24 carries for 129 yards and a tremendous 3 touchdowns, Julian Edelman and James White were Brady’s go-to receivers with 30 combined targets for 248 yards. These three players combined to create a dangerously unstoppable New England offense.
David Hightower, Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, and Albert McClellan
Los Angelos had a hard time answering each of New England’s touchdowns due to the insane amount of pressure placed on their quarterback, Philip Rivers. Hightower, Flowers, and Clayborn combined to sack Rivers twice for 15 yards, 2 tackles for a loss of 5 yards, and 5 combined tackles. McClellan, on the other hand, showed incredible effort as he recovered a fumble on one of L.A.’s punt returns. The ball was headed for the sideline as the linebacker cradled the ball, gaining possession, before moving out of bounds. The Patriots were able to score their fifth touchdown of the game shortly after. The ferocity driving these four defensive players is something they will need next week as well.
Prior to this game, Brady held the record for most postseason wins at 27. The quarterback can now add another success to the list. While his receivers and running backs did the bulk of the work, Brady was able to complete 34 of 44 passes for 343 yards and 1 touchdown. While his performance has been wildly inconsistent this season, this game gave us a glimpse back to his glory days. Brady knows the Chiefs pose a large obstacle on their way to another Super Bowl, but if he can bring the team together as shown today, Kansas City won’t know what hit them.
By halftime, New England was beating Los Angeles 35-7. There is no reason why the coaches shouldn’t have replaced their starters and put in their second and third stringers. By this point in the game, Rivers and his offense had given up hope at coming back to beat New England— not to mention they were behind by 4 touchdowns (just to tie the game). If Belichick really did pride himself on class, none of the starters would have shown up in the second half. Injuries are another aspect to consider. Why would Belichick risk any of his prime starters injuring themselves to deepen their gap in a game that they already had won? A lot of uncertainty and disappointment surrounds the coaches decision to keep their starters as they entered the second half.
Gilmore had an incredible game by many standards. Some of his pass breaks put an end to potential scoring drives for Los Angeles. However, seeing as there are two more spots to fill, he had to have messed up in one way or another. It only took four plays for L.A. to answer in response to New England’s first score. Rivers caught the Patriots’ secondary off guard when he threw two Hail Mary passes to kick off the game. Stephon Gilmore was unable to defend one of these passes and is therefore responsible for the Charges’ first touchdown of the game.
Jason McCourty had a similar game to that of Stephon Gilmore. The cornerback played a great game but simply got lazy at the end. He stood by and watched as a Los Angeles receiver caught a 32 yard reception (that was placed on the one yard line and taken in for a touchdown shortly after) then couldn’t stop the two point conversion on that same drive. As specific as this instance was, McCourty should never have let his guard down.
New England played the best game of their season against the Chargers. As they move on to the AFC championship game, the best advice to give this team is to keep doing what they did today. Kansas City has beaten the Patriots before and they will show no mercy again. Belichick has to make sure his team goes in with a chip on their shoulder.
Caitlyn Allen is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @caitlyyyn_allen