FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots tried something different Sunday.

They won the coin toss at the beginning of their 41-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC divisional playoff game and opted to receive the ball.

Normally, they defer when winning the coin toss that determines who will get the ball first. In six games this season when they won the coin toss, they deferred their choice five times. So when Bill Belichick elected to receive the ball Sunday, it made an impression on his players.

“It’s always nice (to receive),” said center Dave Andrews. “It’s Coach’s way of saying, ‘Here you go. Go do something.’ He put that confidence in us. It was awesome.”

Yes it was. The Patriots put up 35 points in the first half against a defense that hadn’t given up that many points in an entire game since Sept. 23.

“We were able to come out and start fast,” said Andrews. “We’ve got some things that we can clean up on. But we played the game the way we wanted to for the most part.”

It was breathtaking to watch.

Those first 30 minutes may have been the most impressive for the Patriots offense since 2007 – the year the Patriots ran roughshod over the NFL in a 16-0 regular season, piling up points like no team had ever done before.

Sunday, they were at their best. They rolled up 498 yards and 30 first downs overall, and had 347 yards and 24 first downs in the first half, scoring touchdowns on five of their first six possessions. Tom Brady found open receivers, Julian Edelman and James White caught almost everything thrown their way, and Sony Michel ran through gaping holes.

“We got plays from everybody,” said Belichick. “Everybody did a good job. We threw the ball, we ran it, we played well in the kicking game, played well on defense. We could list all of the guys that played. We got contributions from all of them.”

Brady completed 34 of 44 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown – a 15-yarder to Phillip Dorsett that made it 21-7 early in the second quarter. He was not sacked, a tribute to the job tackles Marcus Cannon and Trent Brown did on disruptive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram of the Chargers, who combined for three tackles.

“I guess I did my job, Trent did his job, the whole offensive line,” said Cannon, the right tackle. “We’re all connected.”

Michel rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns. White caught an NFL playoff record-tying 15 passes for 97 yards. Edelman caught nine passes for 151 yards.

The Patriots also held the Chargers to 19 rushing yards. Keenan Allen had only two catches, though one was a 43-yard touchdown pass that tied the game 7-7 in the first quarter. And while Rivers threw for 331 yards, most came after the game was well in hand. The Chargers scored twice in the final eight minutes.

“When you see your offense out there putting up points, it’s our job to stop them and keep them off the board,” said defensive end Trey Flowers. “It was energizing to see them put up points.”

This was supposed to be the day the Patriots dynasty ended, wasn’t it? The Patriots were maddeningly inconsistent in the regular season and showed signs of mortality. But they’re not quite ready to roll over. And they’re off to the AFC championship game for a ridiculous eighth consecutive year – an NFL record that will likely never be broken.

Now they head to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Kansas City Chiefs at 6:40 p.m. Sunday

Tight end Rob Gronkowski was asked if there was any satisfaction in proving the doubters wrong – again.

“We’ve been hearing things like that forever now, for a few years,” he said. “So, we just laugh at it, whatever they say, and we just keep moving forward.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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