MANCHESTER — New England fans were breathing a little easier Sunday while watching the Patriots secure a spot in the AFC Championship game with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Any pregame angst fans may have felt went away quickly as the Patriots built up a big lead early and held on for a 41-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
“We thought it was going to be a really tough, exciting game. But by the end of the first quarter, it was a blowout, so it’s been more of a fun get-together,” Alex Lambroulis said while watching from a table at Billy’s Sports Bar and Grill in Manchester with a group of friends. “I enjoy a nice blowout every once in a while, too. My heart can’t take it sometimes.”
New England’s collective heart rate can settle down again before the Patriots play Sunday at Kansas City with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line.
This is the eighth straight year the Patriots advanced to the AFC title game, but after what happened in the Super Bowl last February, nobody was taking anything for granted.
“I was excited to watch it. I don’t want to say I knew they would win, but I was confident,” said Danielle Couturier of Manchester.
Couturier and Caroline Spiro were the last ones remaining from a group of about 10 that gathered early at Billy’s hoping for a prime seat before the 1 p.m. kickoff.
“I was like alright. ‘I’m sitting here and I’m not moving,’” Spiro said.
Manager Chad Castonguay said it was a full house at Billy’s. Another round of the playoffs is always good for business and Castonguay expects Billy’s to be packed again Sunday when the Patriots play at Kansas City, starting at 6:40 p.m.
“Everyone was a little worried before the game, but about two minutes in everybody felt comfortable again that we’re going further into the playoffs,” Castonguay said. “I think it’s going to get more intense every week now. We’re expecting them to go to the Super Bowl so we’ll see how all that pans out, too.”
Spiro said she was a little concerned that the Patriots will have to hit the road to face the Chiefs, who clinched the top seed in the AFC with a 12-4 regular season record. Kansas City advanced Saturday with a 31-13 win over Indianapolis on Saturday.
The game will be a rematch of the Patriots’ 43-40 victory at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 14, when Tom Brady passed for 340 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m more worried about Tom getting older,” Spiro said. “He’s amazing. He’s the best, but he is getting old. I just want him to get one more.”