The Los Angeles Chargers were eliminated from the postseason by a dominant New England Patriots team.
The Chargers knew what they were up against. They knew they were up against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They knew that if they were to beat them, they were going to have to do it at Gillette Stadium.
They also knew that if they did, they could be killing off the Patriots’ dynasty once and for all. They knew that the word “vulnerable” was being applied to the Patriots by media outlets around the country.
None of that happened.
The Patriots controlled the game from the outset, winning the opening coin toss, electing to receive the kick and then going on a 14-play, 83-yard drive to go up 7-0 while taking nearly half of the first quarter to do so.
The Chargers answered back when Philip Rivers connected with a wide-open Keenan Allen on a 43-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. That was pretty much the only bright spot, however.
It was all Patriots after that, as they ran the ball right at the Chargers and played a much more physical style on offense. Tom Brady was terrific, making several great throws to extend drives while completing 34 of 44 passes for 343 yards.
James White tied an NFL postseason record by catching 15 passes.
The Chargers could do nothing to stop the Patriots on defense in the first half, allowing the Patriots to rack up 35 points as the game was basically over at halftime.
Rivers faced pressure all day as the Patriots lined up with a defensive look similar to what the Baltimore Ravens had found success with this season. He was sacked twice but hit several times and forced into several tough throws. It seemed like the Chargers’ offense was in third-and-long situations pretty much all day.
The Bolts finished with just 19 yards rushing.
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On defense, the Chargers simply had no answer for the Patriots, who piled up 498 yards of total offense.
The Chargers made the score somewhat respectable by the team it was all said and done, but the game was never really that close.
Including the playoffs, the Chargers’ season comes to an end with a 13-5 record. They should be able to return a solid team in 2019 ready to compete for a Super Bowl again, but there is no doubt that the window is getting close to being closed for Rivers.
It’s a disappointing finish for the Chargers, but there is still plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future.