1. Bucs

Patriots overwhelm Chargers for 8th straight trip to AFC title game

As for facing the top-seeded Chiefs for a spot in the Super Bowl? "I know everybody thinks we suck ... so we'll see," New England QB Tom Brady says.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown run by running back Sony Michel during the first half of their AFC division playoff game against the Chargers on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. [Associated Press]
Published Jan. 14

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady recognizes that some people 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 Chargers 41-28 in the division playoffs Sunday to earn their eighth straight trip to the AFC Championship Game.

New England (12-5) plays at Kansas City in Sunday's title game. The Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough in Week 6. The Patriots finished 9-0 at home this season.

This is the 13th conference championship game appearance by the Patriots during the Brady-Bill Belichick era.

"It's going to be a good game," Brady said. "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 (Sunday)? I think we can all agree on that."

The Patriots' 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.

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 the first time outside Los Angeles this season. In their past four trips to the playoffs, the Chargers have lost in the division round.

We got our butts kicked," 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 throughout the opening 30 minutes, going 5-for-5 in the red zone and 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 series of the day, when it punted with 3:32 left in the second quarter.

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."