Patriots, Chiefs dominate en route to rematch of regular season shootout
Some football analysts thought the No. 6 Indianapolis Colts were a sexy pick to pull off another upset. Some thought the No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers would remain invincible on the road against their aging opponents.
But in the end, the AFC’s top seeds owned the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs, and they arranged a rematch of their high-scoring regular season meeting.
The No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs and the No. 2 New England Patriots outclassed their first opponents of the postseason and will meet next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium to decide who will represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII.
Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Patriots beat the Chargers 41-28 on Sunday to earn their eighth straight trip to the AFC Championship Game.It is the 13th conference championship game appearance by the Patriots during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
Brady finished 34 of 44 for 343 yards and a touchdown. He improved to 8-0 as a starter against Philip Rivers, who dropped to 1-8 against New England all-time.
James White tied Darren Sproles’ NFL postseason record with 15 catches, totaling 97 yards.
New England scored on its first four possessions of the game to build a 35-7 halftime lead. The Chargers added three touchdowns in the second half , but it was much too late.
On Saturday, the Chiefs toppled the Colts 31-13 to advance to the conference title game. It will be their first AFC Championship Game appearance since January 1994, a stark contrast to the regularity the Patriots have appeared in that position in the last two decades.
Kansas City raced out to a 17-0 lead and was up 24-7 at halftime. Quarterback Pat Mahomes threw for 278 yards and ran for a touchdown in his postseason debut, a much better first game than his counterparts Lamar Jackson, Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson had a week ago.
The Chiefs cut starting running back Kareem Hunt after a video of him kicking a woman came out in late November, which led some to wonder if the team’s high-octane offense would slow down without him.
But Damien Williams debunked that concern by rushing for 129 yards and a touchdown Saturday. Receiver Tyreek Hill added a 36-yard rushing touchdown on an end-around.
The Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in the regular season, an October primetime game in New England that foreshadowed how the conference champion would be decided three months later.
In the NFC, the No. 2 Los Angeles Rams stuck to the trend of higher seeds dominating and advancing. On Saturday, the beat the fourth-seeded Dallas Cowboys 30-22, advancing to their first conference title game since January 2002.
The game wasn’t as close as the eight-point margin indicates. Down 7-3 after a quarter, the Rams jumped out to a 23-7 lead thanks to their run game and didn’t look back.
C.J. Anderson ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns to outgain star Todd Gurley, who finished with 115 yards and one score.
The Rams’ defense held Ezekiel Elliott to 47 yards on 20 carries.
Content from the Associated Press was used in this report.