A closer look at the Patriots’ first playoff opponent: The Chargers
With Sunday’s 23-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens, the Los Angeles Chargers punched their ticket to the divisional round to face the Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium at 1 p.m.
Head to head: Did not play each other.
Common opponents: The Patriots and Chargers played the Chiefs, the Steelers, and the Bills. The Patriots defeated the Chiefs, 43-40, handing Kansas City its first loss of the season. They swept the Bills and lost to the Steelers in Week 15 at Pittsburgh.
The Chargers split with Kansas City and defeated the Bills and Steelers.
Playoff history: The Patriots and Chargers have faced each other three times, dating to Jan. 5, 1964, when the San Diego Chargers defeated the Boston Patriots in the AFL Championship, 51-10.
Tom Brady’s Patriots bested Philip Rivers and the Chargers in consecutive postseasons. New England won in San Diego, 24-21, on Jan. 14, 2007, in the divisional round. The teams met again the next year at Gillette Stadium in the conference championship, with the Patriots advancing to the Super Bowl with a 21-12 win.
Key players: Rivers threw for 4,308 yards and 32 touchdowns as the Chargers narrowly missed winning the AFC West and capturing the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Running back Melvin Gordon averaged 5.1 yards per carry but missed four games with injuries. He finished with 885 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns, but left the Week 17 win over the Broncos with an ankle injury.
Gordon returned to action in the win at Baltimore. Tight end Antonio Gates is still getting it done at 38. He managed 28 receptions and a pair of touchdowns. Wide receiver Keenan Allen had 97 receptions for 1,196 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The Chargers have a stout defense that got even stronger when lineman Joey Bosa returned from injury. Playing in the final seven games of the season, Bosa registered 5.5 sacks. Rookie safety Derwin James led the team in tackles (105) and interceptions (3). Defensive end Melvin Ingram played all 16 games and led the team with seven sacks.
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