LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles Chargers allowed touchdowns on each of the New England Patriots' first four possessions in a 41-28 loss in an AFC divisional playoff game in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Tom Brady completed 34 of 44 passes for 343 yards and one touchdown and rookie running back Sony Michel ran for 129 yards, 105 in the first half, and three first-half touchdowns as the Patriots advanced to the AFC championship game for the eighth consecutive season, extending their record.
New England will play at Kansas City next Sunday for a berth in Super Bowl LIII. The Patriots defeated the Chiefs, 43-40, Oct. 14 in Foxborough.
The Chargers were outgained 498-335, trailed 30-22 in first downs, including 12-3 disadvantages in both the first and second quarters, and 38:20- 21:40 in time of possession.
The Chargers scored a touchdown on their first possession on Philip Rivers' 43-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen and didn't score again until Melvin Gordon ran 1 yard for a touchdown with one minute, 16 seconds left in the third quarter and the Chargers trailing 38-7.
“It seems like we got to midfield every possession that first half, just about, and then we just stalled,” said Rivers, who completed 25 of 51 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns with one pass intercepted.
“Lack of some third-down conversions, not as efficient on first and second down. When it comes to an end, we can analyze it all we want. They scored more points than we did and they were the better team today.”
New England led 35-7 at halftime, tying its team record for points in a half in a postseason game.
The Chargers were seeking to reach the AFC championship game for the first time since the 2007 season.
The Chargers have lost their last eight regular-season and postseason games against the Patriots when Brady has played.
The victory extended the Patriots' playoff winning streak at Gillette Stadium to nine games, equaling the third-longest in NFL history with the Buffalo Bills' streak from 1988-95. They have won 16 consecutive regular-season and postseason games at Gillette Stadium dating back to last season
New England won the coin toss and elected to receive. The Patriots drove 83 yards on 14 plays, consuming 7:11, with Michel running 1 yard for the touchdown. Brady completed seven of eight passes for 65 yards on the drive.
The drive was extended when Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. was called for pass interference on a third-down pass that was incomplete, giving New England a first down at the Chargers' 1-yard line.
Michel ran 14 yards for a touchdown on the Patriots' second possession. Brady threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett on the third possession.
Rex Burkhead ran 6 yards for a touchdown on the fourth possession, three plays after Chargers cornerback Desmond King II was called for holding on third down, giving New England an automatic first down, when a Brady pass fell incomplete.
The Patriots were the first team with a touchdown on each of their first four drives of a postseason game since the Indianapolis Colts in a 2003 wild-card game against the Denver Broncos, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Chargers forced New England to punt on its fifth possession, but King muffed the punt, Albert McClellan recovered the ball for the Patriots at the Chargers' 35-yard line. Michel ran 5 yards for a touchdown four plays later.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked 28- and 30-yard field goals on the Patriots' first two second-half possessions.
Rivers threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Virgil Green and a two-point conversion pass to Allen with 7:38 to play. Rivers threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates with 59 seconds remaining. Rivers' pass on the two-point conversion attempt was incomplete.
“We felt this game was going to be about execution on both sides of the ball and I think collectively, as a team, we got out-executed,” Rivers said. “When you do that and you're already going against a heck of an opponent as you always are in the postseason, you usually fall short.”
The loss comes after Chargers were undefeated outside of Los Angeles County in the regular season. They were a league-best-equaling 7-1 on the road, with the only loss coming at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to the Rams. The Chargers defeated the Tennessee Titans, 20-19, in London (that was considered a home game) and were victorious at Baltimore to open the playoffs.
Sarah Thomas was the down judge, the first woman to serve as an official in an NFL playoff game.
The down judge stands at one end of the line of scrimmage with the chain crew, looking for possible offsides, encroachment and other fouls before the snap. He or she also marks the progress of the ball and is in charge of the chain crew.
The NFL changed the name of the position from head linesman in 2017 when it moved Thomas to the position after she was a line judge for two seasons.
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