Foxboro - Yogi Berra once said predictions are wrong especially about the future. The consensus heading into Sunday was the game would be close. Some predicted the Chargers and some predicted the Patriots, but everyone seemed to agree the game would be within seven points. Well, a game broke out and the Chargers wanted to head back to Los Angeles. Philip Rivers now has never beaten Tom Brady in eight tries and has only beaten Bill Belichick one time. Given that Rivers is 37, he might never beat Brady.
Bill Belichick likes to find flaws with his team's performance. It will be difficult to do so on Sunday. The Pats dominated this game with a 41-28 victory. It might have been the most a Boston team dominated Los Angeles since the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
New England spent a week hearing about the Chargers defense and the wonders of how they beat the Baltimore Ravens last week with seven defensive backs. The Pats had a simple response: run the ball and throw short passes. Sony Michel had three touchdown runs and was unstoppable. He finished with 24 carries for 129 yards. Early in the year, some on local talk radio called Michel a bust. Hopefully, for his sake he didn't own a radio.
James White - what more can be said about him. He had 10 catches (15 catches overall) for 71 yards in the first half. If there is a smarter running back in the league, Pats Maven has not found evidence. He finds the creases in a team's zone defense. Julian Edelman was masterful again with nine catches for 151 yards. He has climbed into the top 10 for all-time postseason receiving yards.
“We got plays from everybody,“ Belichick said.
After the Pats lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in December, many were worried about the offense. Those worriers have disappeared into the back woods of Maine. The Pats scored more than 40 points on what is supposedly an elite defense. For some reason, Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley continues to play Cover 3 against Brady. Not sure why, Brady picks apart zones like a child destroys a new toy. Man to man defense would have been preferable and so would a pass rush. It was also nice to see Phillip Dorsett have a touchdown catch.
Defensively, the Pats looked sharp. An early blown coverage led to a long touchdown pass from Rivers to Keenan Allen. Allen disappeared the rest of the way. The linebacker play was impressive. Dont'a Hightower showed vintage speed with his blitzes. Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts continue to get better. Roberts is attacking in the right lanes on running plays and Van Noy has become good in coverage. Trey Flowers had two sacks and the Chargers had a lot of trouble blocking him in the second half.
J.C. Jackson played well Sunday. He is excellent at covering the deep route. The safety play was strong as well. To make Bill Belichick even happier the Pats caused a fumble on special teams (recovered by Albert McClellan) that led to a touchdown. The Baltimore Ravens released McClellan earlier this year. McClellan will be playing in the AFC Championship Game and the Ravens will be watching.
The Pats now turn their attention to the Kansas City Chiefs who have never hosted an AFC Championship Game and have not been to a Super Bowl since 1970. It will be the biggest home game in Chiefs history. The Pats finished 3-5 on the road this year. If not for the Miami Miracle, this game would be in Foxboro. The Chiefs run defense is terrible and if the Pats run the ball like they did Sunday the Chiefs will have trouble. The Pats must start fast on the road - something they have struggled to do this year.
All that is worry for later in the week. The Pats have now made their 8th straight AFC Championship Game - an NFL record. The last time the Pats didn't make the conference championship was 2009. Former President Barack Obama was in his early days as president and Twitter was just becoming a force. All-star NESN.com Pats reporter Doug Kyed and Pats Maven's BFF was touring the country on a music tour.
Appreciate it New England - life has never been better for your sports teams.