Two teams from opposite coasts that have developed a fierce postseason rivalry meet on Sunday in Los Angeles when the Chargers host the New England Patriots. The two teams have met three times in the playoffs and those three previous matchups included a healthy quarterback rivalry between Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.
The first time these two quarterbacks squared off in postseason play, Rivers and his Chargers were favored over Brady’s Patriots after San Diego compiled the best record in the league, 14-2, in 2006. With just over six minutes remaining in the contest and the Chargers leading 21-13, Marlon McCree intercepted Brady and in one of the most obvious examples of take what you got and get down the Chargers defender did not.
The intended receiver on the play was Troy Brown, and instead of getting down in the crowd with the interception that could have clinched a Chargers win over the Patriots, McCree tried to advance the ball. Brown knocked it from his grasp and it was recovered by Reche Caldwell which provided Brady another chance.
As many teams have learned, give Brady an extra chance and you can pretty much pack up your gear and go home. Brady took advantage of the opportunity of the recovered fumble, drove the Patriots to a touchdown that tied the score with a two point conversion and another score in overtime that erased one of Rivers’ best chances to get to where he never got, a Super Bowl.
The following season, the Patriots and Chargers squared off in the AFC Championship Game and Brady extended the Patriots undefeated run with a hardfought 21-12 triumph to advance to Super Bowl XLII, where the New York Giants ended the Patriots bid for a perfect season.
The Super Bowl quest by Rivers had one more shot in 2018, but again it was Brady and the Patriots that ended his hopes with a 41-28 victory in an AFC Divisional contest. Since 2006, the Chargers and Patriots have met six times during the regular season and the Patriots won five of those games … the only Chargers win coming in 2008, the season Brady missed after suffering an opening day injury against the Kansas City Chiefs.
With this history, you can understand at least two things; why the Chargers are glad Brady no longer plays for New England and why they are favored this week over a Patriots team that scored 54 points last Sunday in a trouncing of the New York Jets.
With Brady in Tampa, the Patriots compiled a losing campaign last year, their first since before he took over at quarterback for Bill Belichick. This year, despite a pair of wins over the hapless Jets, New England visits SoFi Stadium with a 3 and 4 won/loss record.
As for the Chargers, they are confident they have found their franchise quarterback to replace Rivers, who will go down in history as one of the best quarterbacks ever that didn’t advance to a Super Bowl. With their first pick in the draft last year, and the sixth overall selection, the Chargers took Justin Herbert. He was the third quarterback selected in the 2020 draft with the Cincinnati Bengals taking Joe Burrow with the first pick and the Miami Dolphins selecting Tua Tagovailoa one spot in front of the Chargers.
After guiding Los Angeles to wins in four of their first five games this year, Herbert and the Chargers got pasted on the road two weeks ago by the Baltimore Ravens, 34-6. That followed a narrow home win over the Cleveland Browns, 47-42. In other words, for those of you with math skills, you can see that the Los Angeles defense has allowed 76 points in their two most recent games and now face a New England squad that last week put up 54 against the Jets.
Think that points to a Patriots win here?
What it does do is offer a Chargers team that has had two weeks to prepare for this game, they had their bye last Sunday, all the motivation they need to lower the boom on their longtime nemesis who are no longer led by the greatest quarterback ever.
It spells defeat for rookie Mac Jones and his overmatched Patriots.
Qoxhi Picks: Los Angeles Chargers (-4½) over New England Patriots