That's Tom Brady's career record against Philip Rivers, including that AFC Championship Game. This year's Patriots team is your standard Super Bowl favorite, Tom Brady is again in the discussion for the MVP Award, and there's nothing saying that this matchup will go differently on Sunday than Brady's previous matchups against the San Diego Chargers.
It's also worth noting that Tom Brady's record in the final four games of the season is 40-8, and that he has a higher career QB Rating for night games (98.4) than day games (95.4), so he'll be bringing his A game to Qualcomm Stadium. I'm not sure if anyone besides the Green Bay Packers could stop him.
"Gronk" was still recovering from a number of different injuries when the season started. There was talk that the dominating TE that the Patriots once had might never show his face again, his body too bruised and broken to play at that level anymore.
Here's what he was doing, per game:
First 4 Games of the 2014 Season: 3.25 rec, 36.75 rec yds, 0.75 rec TDs
After those games, the Patriots were 2-2 and their offense seemed to finally be falling apart after all these years. Then, Gronkowski either worked himself into game shape, started feeling healthy, or both...because this is what has happened since:
Next 8 Games: 6.5 rec, 95.375 rec yds, 0.75 rec TDs
So, he's every bit the incredible red zone target that he was early in the season, but he has doubled his receptions and nearly tripled the amount of receiving yards he's picking up per-game. Despite the fact that he's regularly double-teamed, he is Tom Brady's #1 target and never seems to have a problem getting open (or catching the ball when he's not open). That's why he now leads New England in receiving yards and TDs.
Oh, and the Patriots have gone 7-1 in their last eight games as a result of Gronk's improved performance.
The Chargers have been one of the best teams in the league at defending tight ends this year, but they haven't seen anyone like Gronk yet. Expect big plays and missed tackles.
The Chargers have a very thin margin for error because they don't have as much talent as most other NFL teams. To win, they need to follow Bill Belichick's approach and avoid mental mistakes. Unfortunately, they have been terrible at that this season.
Here's a list of the penalties in which the Chargers have been called for more than the league average:
- Defensive Holding
- Roughing the Passer
- Offensive Holding
- Defensive Pass Interference
- Face Mask
- Illegal Use of Hands
- Offside on Free Kick
- Illegal Block
- 12 Men in the Huddle
- False Start
Particularly bad at avoiding penalties have been D.J. Fluker, Chris Watt, and Shareece Wright. In fact...
D.J. Fluker's 6 false starts in 12 games this year is more than Jeromey Clary ever had in an entire season.— Bolts From The Blue (@BFTB_Chargers) December 6, 2014
Despite doing a decent job of not turning the ball over earlier in the season, the Chargers have been horrendous at it as of late, and the defense hasn't bailed them out at all. Their once-stellar turnover margin has sunk to -4 (meaning they've turned the ball over 4 more times than they have gotten turnovers), good for 20th best in the league.
The Chargers will need to do everything right on Sunday to stand a chance of winning, and that starts with winning the turnover and penalty game. Can they do it? There's no proof that they can.
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