Scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions Sunday, the New England Patriots established a 35-7 halftime lead and cruised to a 41-28 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC divisional round game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
The result sends New England (12-5) to Kansas City next Sunday to play for the conference title and a trip to the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. The game is scheduled to kick off at 6:40 p.m. ET. The win also gives the Patriots a perfect 9-0 home record this season and puts them in the conference championship game for eighth consecutive season, an NFL record.
Los Angeles finished its season with a 13-5 record and its first playoff win since January 2014.
But on this day, the Chargers couldn’t come close to replicating last week’s wild-card round victory in Baltimore. The Patriots carved up Los Angeles’ defense for drives of 83, 67, 58 and 87 yards to start their day, then cashed in a fumbled punt return for a fifth touchdown just before halftime.
Every aspect of New England’s offense did its job. Tom Brady completed 34 of 44 passes for 343 yards and a 15-yard scoring strike to Phillip Dorsett with 12:17 left in the second quarter. Rookie running back Sony Michel pounded out 129 yards on 24 carries, reaching the end zone on runs of 1, 14 and 5 yards.
Brady made liberal use of running back James White and wide receiver Julian Edelman — White caught 15 passes for 97 yards and Edelman added nine catches for 151 yards, a franchise-record fifth 100-yard game in the playoffs.
Defensively, the Patriots made the Chargers one-dimensional with their first half explosion. Running back Melvin Gordon managed only nine carries for 15 yards and a third-quarter touchdown, forcing Philip Rivers to carry the load.
Operating under duress all day, Rivers completed only 25 of 51 passes for 331 yards and three scores with an interception. New England recorded only two sacks, but hurried and harassed the quarterback all day.
The AFC title game will be a rematch of a wild Week 6 game in Foxboro that the Patriots won 43-40 on a 28-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski as time expired.