Get ready to be all Charged up, Patriot fans
Welcome to Gillette Stadium, Los Angeles Chargers.
Now the New England Patriots finally know who they will play this Sunday in the AFC Divisional Round.
A lot of you are probably breathing a sigh of relief that those scary big bad Baltimore Ravens aren’t coming to Gillette.
We say be careful what you wish for.
These Chargers, we’ve said most of the season, are the most complete team in the AFC. They were pretty quiet in getting themselves a 12-4 record, which you might expect from a team that plays in relative anonimity in L.A.
But they’ve got a really good coach in Anthony Lynn, who is now 22-7 since starting his head coaching career 0-4 early in 2017. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.
Many think this is the best Charger team veteran quarterback Philip Rivers has played on. Yeah, better than ones Nashua North alum Kendall Reyes played on. We’re still shaking our heads that Reyes never got a chance to play against the Patriots at Gillette, just missing a playoff opportunity a few years ago.
Meanwhile, Rivers can still sling it; while the QB he was traded for in the 2004 draft, Eli Manning, is looking like the end is near, the vocal Rivers keeps throwing passes that helps his team win.
This team’s better than the 14-2 in team the Patriots beat in January of 2007 out in San Diego in the Divsional Round and the next year in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette. In that game, many fans will remember Hall of Famer Ladainian Tomlinson was hurt and couldn’t tough it out after a couple of series, standing on the sidelines with a warm poncho while Rivers gimped around on a bad knee.
You can tell they’re well coached because the second time around they had an answer for Ravens rookie/gimmick QB Lamar Jackson, making Baltimore’s offense look putrid while building a 23-3 lead. It probably shouldn’t have been as close as it was until the end. As Lynn told his team afterward in a clip posted on Twitter, “We’ve got to stay focused for four quarters. Let’s stay focused for four quarters and see what happens.”
Yes, let’s see what happens. While everyone was thinking the Ravens wouldn’t be in awe of the Patriots, these Chargers may not be, either.
“Yeah, gosh we know the run they’ve had,” Rivers told CBS reporter Tracy Wilson after Sunday’s win. “Seems like forever. They’re always in these games and games beyond.
“It’s like I told you (Saturday), we find so many different ways to win. The defense was unbelievable today and we couldn’t get in the end zone, we finally did.”
Rivers will need to have a better game Sunday than he did in Baltimore, when he threw for 160 yards with no TDs but impressively no INTs. Like the Chargers will play anytime anywhere, Rivers will throw it anytime and to anyone, sometimes to the other team. Despite Baltimore’s defensive reputation, he’ll face a much better secondary than the one he saw Sunday, with Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore having a superb season (showing why they went out and signed him) and rookie J.C. Jackson becoming a solid player. And, of course, there’s the McCourty twins.
The Patriots pass rush may not match the Ravens, but the guess is it can be effective. Everyone’s got an opionion, especially former Patriots in the broadcast busines. ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi tweeted out during Sunday’s game that the “Patriots coaches will see and exploit th weaknesses of LAC RB’s in pass protection.” NBC’s Rodney Harrison said the Chargers “cannot go to New England and make the same mistakes they made (Sunday). The Patriots will be ready.”
Let’s see if Lynn and his staff is. Defensively, the Chargers certainly look like they can both stop the run and get after Tom Brady with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, son of former Keene High standout John Bosa.
This Charger team has a chip on its shoulder. A foolish ownership decision to go from being San Diego’s darlings to being an L.A. afterthought and play for a couple of years in a 28,000-seat soccer stadium has made them rally around their team unity. Lynn no doubt makes sure of that.
They made no plans to hang around in east coast cold for a week, either.
“This team, this team, we’re going to fly back home and we’re going to fly back here for another 10 a.m. West coast kick. We really don’t care. … It’s how we’ve gone all year long and we’ll be there Sunday.”
Yes they will. Whether that’s a good thing for the Patriots or not, well, that’s why they play the games. And this one is no sure thing.
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251,firstname.lastname@example.org, or@Telegraph _TomK.