Patriots pummel Chargers, reach eighth straight AFC title game

Jan. 13 (UPI) — The AFC Championship will feature the New England Patriots for the eighth straight year after a domination of the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in Foxborough.

New England and Los Angeles exchanged scoring drives to start the game, before Tom Brady and Sony Michel ignited for a 41-28 victory at Gillette Stadium. After the game, Brady made it known that he had been listening to the doubters walking into the contest. He’s obviously using that as fuel for run at a sixth Lombardi Trophy.

“Everyone thinks we suck and we cant win games,” the future Hall of Famer told CBS. “We’ll see.”

Michel capped off a 14-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run for first blood in the opening quarter. Chargers gunslinger Philip Rivers responded by conducting a six-play, 72-yard scoring drive, finished off with a 43-yard touchdown toss to Keenan Allen.

Michel reached the end zone for the second time with a 14-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ next drive. New England added scores on its next to possessions, completing a stretch of four consecutive scoring drives to start the contest.

The efficient Patriots led 35-7 at the break.

New England added three points to its lead on its first drive of the third quarter. Melvin Gordon made the score 38-14 with a one-yard touchdown run for the Chargers on the next drive. Stephen Gostkowski hit a 30-yard field goal on the resulting drive for New England.

Both teams exchanged punts before the Chargers reached pay-dirt once more. Rivers found Virgil Green with a one-yard scoring toss on the play, capping off a six-play, 68-yard drive.

Rivers found veteran tight end Antonio Gates for the Chargers’ final points, hooking up for an eight-yard touchdown toss with 1:04 remaining.

“We played a good game today against a good football team,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “The Chargers are really impressive in everything they do. Our team played well and made plays in every area. We played with a lot of energy and a lot of effort. It’s good to be playing this time of year and good to move on.”

Brady completed 34-of-44 passes for 343 yards and one score in the win. Michel rushed for 129 yards and three scores on 24 carries for New England. Julian Edelman had nine catches for 151 yards in the win, while Rob Gronkowski was targeted just once.

Rivers completed 25-of-51 passes for 331 yards, three scores and one interception in the loss.

“We didn’t play our best game of the year today for whatever reason,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “But like I said, I take my hat off to New England. They’ve been here before. They’ve done it. They showed up today.”

The Patriots look to reach the Super Bowl for a third consecutive season when they face the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship at 6:40 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

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