Best and Worst: New England Patriots, 41, Los Angeles Chargers 28
FOXBORO -- So who predicted this?
The calendar has turned to January, but it looked more like late December . . . you know, when the Patriots close out most regular seasons with a little target practice against some poor AFC East opponent with its bags packed for the winter. The Chargers, looking nothing like the championship contender they've been touted as most of the year, resembled a sad-sack group of Jets or Bills as the Pats rolled their way to Kansas City with a not-nearly-as-close-as-the-score-looks 41-28 victory in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
And here's a little of the day's best and worst . . .
The Chargers brought in a kickoff specialist, Nick Rose to perform kickoff duties. His opening salvo? Strange. He smashed it off the body of James Develin (pictured), who was the short man on the Patriots sideline.
CHURN AND BURN
The Patriots clearly made outstanding use of their week off by unleashing on the Chargers a picture-perfect offensive game plan right out of the chutes. On their first drive, they converted four third downs, ran it six times, threw it eight and – in a 14-play sojourn, covered 83 yards in 7:11.
On the Chargers' first possession, a third-and-15 conversion extended the drive to put the Chargers in Patriots territory. Three plays later, Stephon Gilmore bit on an inside shimmy by Keenan Allen and was beaten for a 43-yard touchdown.
Julian Edelman walked out of a tackle along the sideline to turn a second-and-13 play into a 14-yard gain then, two plays later, leaked free to pull in a 28-yard pass to put the Patriots at the Chargers 14. L.A. signaled its first WTF signs then when Sony Michel walked in from 14 yards out.
NOT READY FOR THIS
The Chargers had a chance to force a field goal early in the second quarter on a third-and-6 but a blown coverage on which two Chargers DBs bit up on an out-breaking Julian Edelman route left Phillip Dorsett available for a 15-yard touchdown reception.
Philip Rivers isn’t a player that’s long on patience and once things started to go against him, he started to melt. In the second quarter, he got dumped by Donta Hightower on a play that didn’t count because of a delay of game. The whistles came so late Rivers went ahead with the play and there was no flag for the hit. Two plays later, when he was chased out of bounds by Trey Flowers, he flailed at the hand Flowers was using to keep himself from running Rivers over. At the end of the series, he started bellowing at the New England sideline.
FINALLY . . . NO!!!!
The Chargers finally forced a Patriots punt with 3:32 left in the first half. And Desmond King (pictured) muffed it. After a challenge the Patriots were awarded the recovery. Four plays later, Rex Burkhead walked in for a touchdown.
LOOK WHO’S HERE!
After being shut out in the first half in the passing game (he did damage in the running game), Rob Gronkowski had a 25-yard catch-and-run which whipped out all of his strengths.