2018 AFC Playoffs

Even with few surprises, Philip Rivers, Chargers offense left scratching their heads against Patriots defense

(Adam Richins/Boston Sports Journal)

FOXBOROUGH -- Saturday’s AFC divisional matchup between the Patriots and Chargers was never going to be the second coming of the “Greatest Show on Turf” vs. the ‘13 Broncos, by any means.

But Keenan Allen started to brace for such a heavyweight bout following the first 13 minutes of play — with the fifth and 11th-ranked offenses piling on for a combined 21 points and 217 total yards through the first three drives of the day.

“At that point, once we scored again and then they scored to make it 14-7, we thought it was going to be a shootout,” Allen said. “First defense to get a stop is probably going to win.

"And then, they got three of them.”

By halftime, the Patriots' offense continued to hum at an effective rate — with New England finding the end zone on each of its first four drives to drop 28 early points against a Chargers club that entered Saturday with the ninth-ranked in the league in total defense.

Even during New England’s lone failed drive of the first half, the Patriots managed to counter, with Albert McClellan recovering a fumble from Desmond King. Just 1:45 later, the Patriots carved another seven points onto the scoreboard, with Sony Michel capping off a four-play, 35-yard drive with his third rushing touchdown of the half.

And while the Patriots raced into halftime buoyed by 35 points fist-half points, a skilled Chargers offense orchestrated by Philip Rivers floundered — with L.A.’s opening score serving as the lone bright spot on an otherwise miserable afternoon at a chilly Gillette Stadium.

Things quickly went downhill for Los Angeles after Allen hauled in a 43-yard touchdown with 5:03 remaining in the opening stanza. In their following four drives, the Chargers never managed to get the ball out of their own side of the field, notching just three first downs while only gaining 61 total yards to close out the half.

It was arguably one of the most dominant halves put forward by the Patriots in the Belichick-Brady era — a shellacking as frustrating as it was surprising for the Chargers, who had few answers for a Patriots defense that has continued to roll.