Michel scores 3 TDs, Patriots roll past Chargers

Tom Brady recognizes that there are some who believe the Patriots are nearing the end of their run of unprecedented playoff success.

New England took its first step toward possibly silencing those voices for a little longer.

Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and had three touchdowns and the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 in the divisional playoffs on Sunday to earn their eighth straight trip to the AFC championship game.

New England (12-5) will play at Kansas City in next week’s AFC title game. The Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough in Week 6. The Patriots finished 9-0 at home this season.

It is the 13th conference championship game appearance by the Patriots during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

“It’s going to be a good game,” Brady said of the rematch with the Chiefs. “They’re a good team. We played them earlier this year. I know everybody thinks we suck and, you know, we can’t win any games, so we’ll see. It’ll be fun.”

The Chargers (13-5) haven’t reached the AFC title game since the 2007 season.

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Philip Rivers finished 25 of 51 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He is 0-5 in games played in Foxborough, including 0-3 in the postseason.

Brady finished 34 of 44 for 343 yards and a touchdown. He improves to 8-0 as a starter against Rivers, who drops to 1-8 against New England all-time.

Los Angeles lost for just the second time on the road (8-2) and first time outside Los Angeles this season. In their past four trips to the playoffs, the Chargers have lost in the divisional round.

“We got our butts kicked,” Los Angeles coach Anthony Lynn said.

Rivers seemed poised to keep Los Angeles in the game, connecting with Keenan Allen for a 43-yard score on Los Angeles’ first offensive possession. It was the longest touchdown of Allen’s career, including the postseason.

It turned out to be just a blip. The Chargers punted the four other times they had the ball in the first half.

The Patriots were efficient throughout the opening 30 minutes, going 5 for 5 in the red zone, 5 of 6 on third down and committing only one penalty.

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Brady extended his postseason record with his 15th career 300-yard passing game. Next is Peyton Manning with nine.

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