NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady calls a play against the Los Angeles Chargers during the third quarter of Sunday's playoff game at Gillette Stadium. The Pats visit Kansas City this coming Sunday in the AFC championship game.

Kansas City here they come: Sounds like Brady and company don’t mind being the underdogs.

SOME MUSICAL TRIBUTES at the start of the AFC title week:

For the Patriots, Sunday was about “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and the Pats are “Going to Kansas City.”

For the Chargers, it was a matter of being another Great Pretender coming to Foxborough, Mass.

With “experts” all over the place predicting doom for Tom Brady and the dynasty, the Pats destroyed L.A./S.D., a 35-point first half letting the world know it still goes through New England.

After the game, Brady, in a TV interview, said, “I know everyone thinks we (stink) and, you know, can’t win any games. So we’ll see. It’ll be fun.”

Monday, in his regular Monday WEEI appearance, Brady said, “I just know a lot of people didn’t think we could win yesterday and I’m sure a lot of people don’t think we can win in Kansas City.”

Count ESPN’s Max Kellerman among the many who felt that way.

Talking about the four remaining AFC quarterbacks, Kellerman blabbed that Brady was the worst of the four. How did that work out?

Looking at the quarterback rating for the weekend, Andrew Luck posted a 78.2, Philip Rivers an 81.4 and Patrick Mahomes 85.2. Brady? 106.5.

Extending it to the NFC, Brady won that, too, with Drew Brees coming close with as 103.1. Nick Foles had a 61.4, Jared Goff 74.4 and Dak Prescott 99.2.

Kellerman didn’t really back off Monday, saying on ESPN, “(Brady) was excellent, of course. He didn’t do anything wrong. But a lot of guys could’ve thrown to receivers — every receiver was open by like 10 yards. He threw it to zero tight windows. He faced zero pressure.

“Tom Brady was dead last against the blitz this year. In the NFL among starting quarterbacks, he was last against the blitz. So what did Anthony Lynn scheme up on the other side? No blitzing, no pressure at all. (Brady) just picked apart the zone, and they never made an adjustment.”

By the way, valid points.

Now, the Patriots head to K.C., the 39th playoff game of the Brady/Bill Belichick era but only the seventh where the Pats are underdogs.

You ready to count them out?

I’m not.

Respect? ESPN stats ran the Final Four numbers Monday, their chances to win the Super Bowl, based on FPI — Football Power Index:

Chance to win Super Bowl, per FPI:

— Chiefs: 34 percent

— Saints: 33 percent

— Rams: 18 percent

— Patriots: 15 percent


Spending a second on the Chargers: Yes, Brady is 8-0 all-time against Rivers, a totally irrelevant stat. Obviously, they don’t play against each other. Also in the nonsense category is calling the Chargers “chokers,” a word too often tossed around in the sports world (mostly by fans). L.A./S.D. was beaten — badly — by a better team. The Chargers had made two coast-to-coast coast trips in as many weeks and had to play in very cold conditions. I’m not saying this game would have automatically turned around if it were played in L.A. — where the Coliseum would have been filled with Patriots fans, anyway — but the Chargers were certainly up against it; and picked the wrong time to lay an egg.

Other leftovers

So many things from a glorious day for the home team:

From the NFL Network’s Mike Giardi: “The #Patriots have won 16 straight home games, including playoffs. Their last home loss came in week 4 of the 2017-18 season to Carolina.”

From WBZ’s Dan Roche, during the first half: “Since 2000, #Patriots are 51-1 during the regular season when a Patriot eclipses 100 yards rushing, including 4-0 this season. Patriots are 9-0 in postseason when a player eclipses 100 yards rushing. Sony Michel, 16 attempts, 105 yards, 3 the 1st half.”

From The Athletic’s Jeff Howe: “Tom Brady has more playoff wins (28) than Peyton Manning has playoff starts (27).”

Brady, on WEEI, on Julian Edelman: “Nothing surprises me with Jules. He’s as mentally and physically tough as anyone who has played for the Patriots.”

Jason McCourty, who played for the 0-16 Browns last season, on advancing: “Man, we get to come in tomorrow and dissect the film and get yelled at for whatever you did wrong. Beautiful thing at this time of year.”

Sunday marked the first time in Patriots playoff history they had a 100-yard rusher (Michel) and a 100-yard receiver (Edelman) in the same game.

Brady Monday on Rob Gronkowski’s potential retirement: “I don’t know. Gronk and I have never talked about it. But he knows how I feel about him...I love playing with him.”

The Patriots recorded their 35th postseason win Sunday, tied with Dallas and one shy of the Steelers all-time. Do the math on what two more wins would do.

Not sure

From K.C., word from coach Andy Reid on star safety Eric Berry for Sunday’s game remains the same. It’s been that way all season and Berry has played in just two games. He hasn’t played in the last two, with a week of rest in between. “I’m not disappointed,’’ Reid said. “(It’s) most important that when he and if he can play that he can protect himself and play at the level he wants to play at. He didn’t feel like he was at that level . . . It’s one of those deals. If he can go, he can go. If he can’t, he can’t.’’


What’s going on with the Celtics? They were 25-17 heading into Brooklyn — without Kyrie Irving — Monday night. Not a bad record but fifth in the East. Remember, they were the favorites to get to the finals. Now, you have Irving calling a shoot-around AFTER a loss in Miami and screaming at Gordon Hayward after the final play of the loss in Orlando.

Irving is frustrated. But a New York Post writer picked up on it and says it leaves the door open for Irving to indeed leave after the season and go home to the Knicks (or Nets?).

Wrote Marc Berman: “In the first sign of his winter of discontent, Irving lashed out at the state of the Celtics, questioning whether they are built to win the NBA title.”

Berman points to an Irving comment made after the guard announced he will be returning to the Celtics. Irving said during a visit to MSG in October: “Obviously, New York held a special place for me, being from Jersey and obviously envisioning myself as a free agent and ultimately taking a meeting, playing for Fiz (David Fizdale) and the great young core they have, thinking about playing here. Playing with KP (Kristaps Porzingis), that was a big thing before I made my decision to plan on re-signing back with Boston. But yeah, of course, New York was a strong consideration.”

Is that enough to make you think it could happen?

By the way, correcting a note from Sunday, courtesy of column pal Larry Rosoff: The Celtics actually have the chance at FOUR first rounders this year, not three. They also might get the Clippers’ pick, but only if that pick falls outside the top 14. The Clippers were 24-18 and in a playoff spot through the weekend.

Sox money

Our pal Chris Smith gave us some Red Sox salary numbers over the weekend.

Tweeted Smith: “We take you away from your regularly scheduled programming (Patriots game) to bring you Red Sox guaranteed contracts/arbitration money: Starters ($87.925m); Relievers ($7.1875m); Catchers ($7.125m); Infielders ($66.075m); Outfielders ($50.55m) = $218.8625m”

And: “The 12 Red Sox arbitration-eligible players earned a combined $23.0625 million in raises. The 12 are Betts, Bogaerts, JBJ, Barnes, ERod, Holt, Wright, Thornburg, Workman, Hembree, Swihart, Leon.

And: “The 2018 Red Sox exceeded the Competitive Balance Tax’s third threshold of $237 million, resulting in a tax penalty and their 2019 top draft pick to be moved back 10 slots. The third threshold increases to $246 million for the 2019 season. Will the Red Sox exceed it and face both monetary and draft-pick penalties for a second straight season?

Smith points out the Sox are already approaching $239 million and also need bullpen help. Check out the piece on MassLive.

Finally, we’re saddened by the Monday news that Mel Stottlemyre had finally lost his 20-year battle with cancer. Tweeted Yankees TV voice Michael Kay: “Mel Stottlemyre was class personified. What a battle he waged with multiple myeloma. 20 years ago he was given about 5 years. He never stopped fighting. RIP.” Adds Ken Singleton: “So sad to hear of the passing of Mel Stottlemyre, a very decent and kind man to say the least. Tremendous pitching coach & pitcher in his day. #RIPMel”


Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.