Ryan L. Fox
It’s been nearly a month since the New England Patriots last played a meaningful football game. However since then, they took time to rest up and regroup for another trademark postseason that many have become accustomed to around these parts at this time of the year.
Making the journey over from the West coast was none other than the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers, looking to show the world they could do the impossible this season and give the Patriots their first loss at home. However when the final gun was sound, it seemed that the Chargers were better off staying back home in San Diego Los Angeles.
The game did not get off to what would have been the ideal start as Patriots FB James Develin actually muffed the opening kickoff. Luckily the ball bounced out of bounds at the New England 17.
While the running game had on and off moments throughout the drive, the consistent factor was the play of Patriots QB Tom Brady. Standing clean in the pocket, he was able pick apart the Chargers defense and led the team down the field. But once the drive got deep in the red zone, the Chargers were able to buckle down a little. On 3rd and 6 on the Los Angeles 9, Brady tried to find TE Robert James Gronkowski for what would have been a touchdown but the pass fell incomplete. However Chargers CB Casey Hayward was flagged for a pass interference penalty, giving the Patriots a 1st down on the Los Angeles 1. On the ensuing play, Patriots RB Sony Michel then bulled his way over the goal line for the score. Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski booted the PAT through to give the home team an early 7-0 lead.
Looking to stay in the game, the Chargers took the kickoff up to their own 33. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers then drove the offense down the field, converting a key 3rd and 15 to keep the drive alive. They then got all the way up to the New England 43. There, Rivers threw a long bomb deep to WR Keenan Allen as Allen outran the coverage and into the end zone for the touchdown. Chargers K Michael Badgley then booted the PAT through to tie the game at 7-7.
It didn’t take long for the Patriots to answer the Chargers touchdown with one of their own. Brady drove the offense down the field as the team managed to avoid getting into a 3rd down situation for the entire drive. After a 28 yard pass from Brady to WR Julian Edelman to set up a 1st and 10 at the Los Angeles 14, Michel took the handoff off right tackle and ran all the way to the endzone, diving onto the pylon for the score. Gostkowski booted the PAT through as the Patriots regained the lead 14-7 with a little under 2 minutes left in the 1st quarter.
After forcing a Chargers punt, the Patriots got the ball back at their own 42. They closed out the quarter by getting the ball up to the Los Angeles 47.
When the 2nd quarter began, Brady continued to show why he was one of the game’s most dominating postseason quarterbacks. He lead the team all the way down to the Los Angeles 15. There, he found WR Phillip Dorsett for a 15 yard touchdown pass. The PAT afterwards then pushed the New England lead up to 21-7.
Another punt by the Chargers then placed the ball at the New England deep in their own territory at their own 13. However that meant nothing as on the first play of the drive, Brady found RB James White for a 25 yard catch-and-run to the New England 38. From there, the offense seemed to keep on humming as they were able to move the ball freely against the stout Chargers defense. They got up to the Los Angeles 49 where on 1st down, Michel took the handoff and saw open green grass. He carried the ball all the way down to the Los Angeles 9. Two plays later, RB Rex Burkhead took the handoff over left tackle and bowled his way over the goal line for the score. Another successful PAT then made it 28-7 with a little over 6 minutes left in the quarter.
After forcing the Chargers to punt, the Patriots got the ball back at their own 21. They could only move the ball up to their own 24 and were forced to punt. However Chargers PR Desmond King II ended up muffing the punt as Patriots LB Albert McClellan recovered the ball at the Los Angeles 35. Four plays later, Michel recorded his 3rd rushing touchdown of the game to push the lead up to 35-7.
However that was final score of the 1st half as each team went into halftime, one ready to end the game and the other looking for an answer to try to get back in it.
The Chargers opened up the 2nd half by getting the ball on their own 31. However they were forced to punt as the Patriots got the ball on their own 33 for their first possession of the 2nd half.
Brady and the offense then embarked on the longest drive on the game between both teams, a 14 play drive that consumed 7 minutes and 22 seconds. Outside of a 25 yard pass to Gronkowski, there were no plays that went for 8 yards or more for the entire drive. The Patriots got all the way down to the Los Angeles 10 but couldn’t go any further. Gostkowski came in to boot a 28 yard field goal to give his team a 38-7 advantage with a little over 6 and a half minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
Seeing the game slipping away, the Chargers offense started to come to life. They got the ball back on their own 28 following the kickoff as Rivers lead the desperate drive down the field. Along the way, they were assisted by bonehead penalties on the Patriots defense that kept resulting in first downs. They got all the way down to the New England 1 where it took RB Melvin Gordon 2 attempts to bowl his way over the goal line and into the end zone. Badgley’s PAT afterwards helped the Chargers cut into the lead, 38-14 with a little over a minute left in the quarter.
But then a 30 yard Gostkowski field goal in the 4th quarter pushed the Patriots lead up to a staggering 41-14 with a little under 12 and a half minutes left in the game as things started to look bleak for the visiting Chargers.
The two teams then proceeded to exchange punts with each other until the Chargers got the ball back on their own 20 with less than 10 minutes left in the game. The Chargers offense went into no huddle mode as they drove down the field, taking up a little over 2 minutes for the drive. The drive was capped off with a 1 yard touchdown pass from Rivers to TE Virgil Green as they were able to convert the following 2-point conversion to make it 41-22 with less than 8 minutes left in the game. The Chargers then tried to do an onside kick but Patriots ST Nate Ebner successfully recovered the ball at the Los Angeles 44.
After a Patriots punt, the Chargers forced the Patriots to punt as the Ryan Allen punt was downed at the Los Angeles 2 by Patriots ST Matthew Slater. Resorting to just a passing attack, Rivers was able to move the Chargers offense up to their own 14. Two plays later and facing a 3rd and 10, Rivers tried to find Allen deep along the right side line. However Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore was able to cut in front of Allen to pick off the ball at the Los Angeles 33 to kill the drive.
Fortunately for Rivers, the defense forced the Patriots to punt the ball.
After getting the ball back at their own 20 and with less than 3 minutes left in the game, Rivers led the team down the field for one last attempt. Going into their 2-minute offense, the Chargers drove all the way down the field to the New England 8. From there, Rivers found TE Antonio Gates in the end zone for an 8 yard touchdown pass. However following 2-point conversion failed as the score was 41-28 with less than 1 minute left in the game.
The Chargers again went for the onside kick and again Nate Ebner successfully recovered the ball. Brady then took two knees in the victory formation to run the clock down to zeroes.
When the clock read 00:00 and the final gun was sound, the Patriots began to celebrate their first postseason victory of the 2018/2019 campaign. It was a sweet victory to cap off a perfect home stand for the season at 9-0 (8-0 regular, 1-0 postseason). However with the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Indianapolis Colts the day before, it meant that the Patriots would have to travel on the road to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri for a chance to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII.
Notable Patriot Statistical Standouts
QB Tom Brady: 34-for-44 for 343 yards and 1TD for a QB Rating of 106.5
RB Sony Michel: 24 carries for 129 yards and 3 TDs, 1 catch (on 1 target) for 9 yards
RB James White: 4 carries for 30 yards, 15 catches (on 17 targets) for 97 yards
WR Julian Edelman: 1 carry for 7 yards, 9 catches (on 13 targets) for 151 yards, 5 punt returns for 37 yards
K Stephen Gostkowski: 2 for 2 on field goals, 5 for 5 on extra points for a total of 11 points
CB J.C. Jackson: 4 tackles (3 solo, 1 assist), 2 pass defended
FS Devin McCourty: 7 tackles (5 solo, 2 assist), 2 passes defended
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
40 – The number of postseason games coach Bill Belichick has been a part of, extending his own (as well as NFL) current record
38 – The number of postseason games Patriots QB Tom Brady has started in, extending his own (as well as NFL) current record
95 – The number of career postseason catches WR Julian Edelman has, making him 2nd on the all-time list behind WR Jerry Rice (151)
1,175 – The number of career postseason receiving yards Edelman has, putting him 6th on the all-time list
15 – The number of receptions that RB James White had for the game, tying RB Darren Sproles for most all-time in a single game.
.867 – The winning percentage of the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round during the Brady-Belichick Era (13-2)
26 – Number of career postseason games K Stephen Gostkowski has scored a point in, putting him 2nd all-time behind K Adam Vinatieri
13 – Number of consecutive playoff games Brady has thrown a TD pass in, putting him 3rd all-time
70.6 – The percentage of drop backs Chargers QB Phillip Rivers was under pressure during the 1st half
34 – The number of postseason victories the Patriots have had as a franchise, putting them 3rd all-time
3 - The number of rushing touchdowns rookie RB Sony Michel had for the game, a Patriots franchise record for a rookie RB
4.6 – The average yards per carry by the Patriots running backs for the entire game (34 carries for 155 yards)
1.9 – The average yards per carry allowed by the Patriots defense for the entire game (10 carries for 19 yards)
Fox Fist Bump
The whole team gets a fist bump.
The offensive line helped keep the likes of Ingram and Bosa away from Brady, which allowed him to find guys like Dorsett, Edelman, and White to just overwhelm that Chargers defense. Not to mention that the line allowed Sony Michel to run all over the Chargers defense, setting franchise rookie records along the way.
You had a defense that overwhelmed the Chargers for the entire 1st half and that Gilmore interception late in the game cost the Chargers precious time they needed.
You had great special teams play from Ebner (recovering onside kicks is no joke), McClellan with a crucial muff punt recovery that lead to a Patriots touchdown, and punts by P Ryan Allen to pin the Chargers deep in their own territory.
Solid A+ effort…at home.
Road…well…we’ll let them enjoy this one first.
The Meatball of the Week
There was no meatballs to give this week. Good performance all around on offense, defense, and special teams. The Chargers were an elite road team this season, getting big wins this year at Seattle, at Pittsburgh, at Kansas City, and at Baltimore the week before and the Patriots beat them at home this year.
Play of the Game
Thank You Ma’am
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