FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts – Rookie Sony Michel logged 129 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns to lead the New England Patriots to a 41-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in the American Conference divisional playoffs on Sunday, a win earning them their eighth straight ticket to the AFC championship.
With the win, the Patriots are now the favorites when they go up in the final against the Kansas City Chiefs, who on Saturday defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-13.
The Patriots, who are 12-5, and the Chiefs – 12-4 – will face off next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
The matchup will be especially fraught since the Patriots downed the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough in the sixth week of the regular season.
This will be the 13th time that the Patriots have played in a conference championship during the era of field-marshal Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.
It was the New England team’s 35th postseason victory, tying the Dallas Cowboys in that category.
Those two teams trail only the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have notched 36 postseason wins but who this season did not make it to the playoffs.
Michel, 23, set the game’s offensive rhythm on the ground for the Patriots by scoring TDs from 1 and 14 yards out in the first quarter.
The running back, who was the 31st first-round pick in the university draft last summer, made 24 carries for 129 yards, the longest of which was 40 yards, completely breaking up the Chargers’ own rhythm.
Meanwhile, the air offensive was handled to perfection once more by Brady, who showed his mettle yet again by completing 34 of his 44 passes for 343 yards.
Brady was not touched at any time by the Chargers defense when he left the protected zone and he threw no interceptions.
After the game, the 41-year-old Brady said that the whole team had a great outing, showing consistency and excellent concentration.
The Chargers have not gotten to the AFC final since 2007.
Their QB, veteran Philip Rivers, completed 25 of his 51 passes for 331 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, but was unable to keep his team’s championship hopes alive.
The Patriots scored 35 of their 41 points in the first half, while the Chargers got one TD in both the first and third quarters and two in the fourth quarter.