FOXBORO, Mass. — Apparently, the New England Patriots wanted to save their most impressive win of the campaign for the postseason. Smart move. Lay low on the way to an 11-5 finish and catch teams off guard when the games really count.
The Patriots walloped the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 to advance to the AFC Championship Game. Really, every Patriots player shined in Sunday’s dominant win over a very, very good team that wasn’t intimidated to play on the road all season.
Here’s who played best:
QB TOM BRADY
Brady hasn’t quite fallen off that cliff yet. Sorry, Max Kellerman. If you keep predicting it, it’s bound to happen at some point.
Brady was 34-of-44 for 343 yards with a touchdown. It was pretty clearly one of his best performances of the season.
RB SONY MICHEL
Do you think Michel had a big game:
He carried the ball 24 times for 129 yards with three touchdowns. When Michel is on, the Patriots have a dangerously balanced offense.
Running back James White was insanely productive, catching 15 passes on 17 targets for 97 yards.
WR JULIAN EDELMAN
Edelman is now second in all-time postseason receptions behind Jerry Rice with 98. He passed Reggie Wayne on Sunday with nine catches. He’s seventh in postseason receiving yards with 1,175 after picking up 151 against the Chargers.
Edelman began the game 13th all-time in postseason receiving yards.
Pretty good for a former quarterback.
He needs 140 more postseason receiving yards to tie Michael Irvin for second all time. He only needs 1,070 more to tie Rice.
Wide receiver Philip Dorsett caught four passes for 41 yards with a touchdown.
S DEVIN MCCOURTY
The Patriots defensive leader didn’t allow a catch on three targets. He had two pass breakups.
Fellow safety Patrick Chung let up just four catches on six targets for 29 yards.
LB DONT’A HIGHTOWER
Hightower brought pressure all game, including on incompletions to wide receiver Mike Williams and running back Melvin Gordon. He also didn’t allow a catch in coverage.
Linebacker Elandon Roberts also had a strong game with two run stuffs. Kyle Van Noy allowed three catches on seven targets for 22 yards with a pass breakup. He also had a run stuff.
DE TREY FLOWERS
Flowers racked up a sack, quarterback hit and numerous pressures. He should have had a second sack, but he was wrongly flagged for roughing the passer. He brought Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers down with a hit to the quarterback’s thighs. The officials thought he hit Rivers below the knees.
Flowers also drew a fourth-down offensive holding penalty.
Fellow defensive end John Simon also shined with multiple pressures and two run stuffs.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images