NFL playoffs 2019: Three takeaways from the Patriots' win over the Chargers

NFL playoffs 2019: Three takeaways from the Patriots' win over the Chargers

The Patriots destroyed the Chargers, 41-28, Sunday in an AFC divisional round playoff game that was not nearly as close as the score indicates.

If this had been a boxing match, the referee might have stopped it in the first half. Sony Michel rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone, and Tom Brady mixed a collection of short passes with midrange strikes to keep the chains moving.

The Patriots found the end zone on their first four drives and took a 35-7 lead into halftime. 

The Patriots will now travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs next Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET in the AFC championship game. It’s New England’s eighth consecutive appearance in that game.

Here are three takeaways from the Patriots’ blowout victory.

Patriots rumored demise looks like ridiculous speculation now

Remember all those whispers earlier this season? The Patriots dynasty is nearing the end. Tom Brady looks old. The Pats can’t match the firepower of the (pick one) Chiefs or Chargers or Saints or Rams or …

After watching the Patriots offense dissect a good Chargers D, all that speculation sounds ridiculous. Brady looked like vintage Brady, completing 34-of-44 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown. The offensive line opened up big holes for Michel (24 carries for 129 yards and those three touchdowns).

Wide receiver Julian Edelman did what he always does — get open and catch everything thrown his way. He had nine catches for 151 yards.

In short, this is nothing we haven’t seen from the Patriots many times through the years. What makes it so impressive and somewhat surprising is all that speculation that the Patriots couldn’t do this anymore.

Chargers looked unprepared on both sides of ball

The Chargers were a darkhorse pick by many to win the Super Bowl. With playmakers on both sides of the ball and quarterback Philip Rivers playing better than ever at age 37, this looked like it could be their year.

No one expected them to have an easy time in New England, as the Patriots closed as 3.5-point favorites. Yet no one expected this train wreck of a performance.

What went wrong? Everything. On offense, the Chargers could not stop linebacker Dont’a Hightower and frequent blitzes from the pass rush, which kept Rivers off balance all game. Running back Melvin Gordon wasn’t a factor even before the Chargers fell too far behind to run the ball.

The Chargers didn’t get any pressure on Brady. They didn’t tackle well. Edelman and running back James White (15 catches for 97 yards) seemed to be open every time Brady looked their way. On special teams, Desmond King fumbled away a punt return in the third quarter.

Coming off a tough win in Baltimore last week, it was asking a lot for the Chargers to go to Foxborough and win. But this poor performance was unexpected and baffling.

Patriots vs. Chiefs: Who ya got?

The Chiefs are the exotic sports car of the NFL this season, fast and fun, with second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes leading the highest scoring offense (35.3 points per game) in the league.

The Patriots are the old, reliable Toyota with 200,000 miles on the odometer, although lovingly maintained by a single owner, Bill Belichick, who only drives it on weekends.

Seriously, the AFC championship game could herald a changing of the guard, with the Chiefs looking to unseat the Patriots as the dominant power in the conference.

After seeing the Patriots dismantle the Chargers, the Chiefs know they will have their hands full.

The Patriots defeated the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough in Week 6, but that means little headed into the title game. Playing in Kansas City, things will be much tougher for Brady and the offense. Michel, who rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns in that game, will be a key, as the Chiefs defense ranked 31st in the NFL this season in yards per carry by opponents (5.0). One of New England’s keys against the Chargers was stringing together long drives in the first half to keep the Chargers’ offense off the field. The Pats would love to turn Mahomes into a spectator next weekend.

Mahomes passed for 352 yards and four touchdowns in that earlier game, three of those to Tyreek Hill. There’s no reason to expect the Chiefs’ offense will not be able to put up big numbers at Arrowhead. That will put a heavy burden on Brady and the offense to keep pace, in a hostile environment. Don’t bet against Brady. He definitely silenced the critics with his performance Sunday.

“Everyone thinks we suck and can’t win any games,” Brady told CBS after the game. “We’ll see.”

The Chiefs open as 3-point favorites in the game.