At a certain point, teams are going to realize that playing zone defense against the best modern quarterbacks is a losing proposition. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and especially Tom Brady are all more than capable of picking even great zones apart. Without a pass rush to make them uncomfortable, you’re left hoping for a mistake from players who almost never make them, or that your offense can outscore them.
All that is to say that the Chargers didn’t really have a chance today in Foxboro, with a zone-heavy defensive scheme and a flustered (even by his standards) Philip Rivers, and the score bore that out. New England opened up a 38-7 lead late in the third quarter, and while the Chargers would put a few more scores on the board after that, it was never in doubt.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 13, 2019
The Patriots 41-28 win sets up what could be a shootout at Arrowhead next weekend, as the Chiefs defense (while not being a pure zone) has underwhelmed of late. Their offense, though, might just be able to outscore New England; they played a thriller earlier this year in Foxboro, with the Patriots winning 43-40.
It’ll be the eighth straight AFC title game to feature New England (the NFL: a sport of parity!) and remarkably, during the Brady era of 2001-2018, they’ve made at least this round of the postseason 13 out of 18 tries. It is, however, the third road game of the eight, and New England lost their two AFC title games in Denver. They actually lost their prior road AFC Championship appearance in Indianapolis, as well.
So, if you don’t want the Patriots in the Super Bowl, at least there’s that hope.