This was the finally the year for the SanLos AngelesDiego Chargers. Philip Rivers and company rolled into Foxboro fresh off a convincing 23-17 win over Baltimore in front of 30,000 Ravens fans in LA’s famed Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly the StubHub Center). Despite being a Wild Card team, the Chargers had finished the regular season with more wins (12) than the Patriots (11) and boasted an NFL high seven pro bowlers. Rivers was a legitimate MVP candidate. Melvin Gordon was a threat on the ground and in the air. The rookie, Derwin James, was a difference maker at safety. Top 10 offense. Top 10 defense. Undefeated outside of LA county. And to top it all off, the Chargers were catching the Patriots who had uncharacteristically stumbled down the stretch….and had looked old doing it. This was finally the Charger’s year.
Then the game kicked off. The Patriots won the toss, elected to received, saddled up the beefcakes and rolled the opening drive to the tune of 83 yards on 14 plays in 7+ mins, capped by a Sony Michel 1 yard TD run. A Rivers to Keenan Allen TD briefly gave LA hope, but the remainder of the half was a complete dismantling by the Patriots players and coaching staff. The Patriots scored touchdowns on 5 of their 7 first-half drives and dominated every conceivable statistic to lead 35-7 halftime.
Brady and the offense finished the FIRST HALF with 347 yards (LA: 128), 24 first downs (LA: 6), and 20:11 time of possession (LA: 9:49). Sony Michel finished the FIRST HALF with 105 rushing yards and 3 TDs. Brady was 23/29 for 233. Edelman had 7 for 107. The Patriots had accumulated a game’s worth of stats before Tony Romo even had a chance to get his football erection to half-mast.
As it turns out this was not the Chargers year. 21 second half points from LA made the final score slightly more respectable but a lack of running game (Melvin Gordon: 9 carries for 15 yards) and a complete absence of defensive scheme spelled the end of the season for the Chargers. Philip Rivers handled the frustrating loss with his trademark composure and aplomb, while verbally harassing any teammate/referee/coach/cheerleader within whining distance. Fortunately for LA, all seven of their pro bowl selections would have the opportunity to play in this year’s exhibition game.
Belichick, Brady and the Patriots, on the other hand, were heading to their 13th conference championship game of the Brady-Belichick era. This would be their 8th consecutive AFCCG breaking the previous record of 7, held by the Patriots.