Still don't think Chargers were toughest opponent Patriots could have drawn? Listen to Josh McDaniels


For the first time in quite a few years, things didn't really work out perfectly for the Patriots.

Often times in the playoffs, the Patriots have caught breaks with teams getting upset before playing them and not really been challenged all that much in the divisional round. That changed this year with the four-loss Chargers being the team to come to Gillette Stadium.

On a conference call Tuesday, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called the Chargers the best team they've faced all year.

"We’re excited to get an opportunity to compete in this game and like I said, this is the best team we’ve played all year," he said.

McDaniels added: "We’ll have our hands full. Excited to get started on them but this is a great challenge for us."

The Chargers are the only team remaining in the playoffs that ranks in the top 10 for pass offense, rush offense, pass defense and rush defense by DVOA. Defensively, in the regular season it finished ninth overall and eighth in points allowed.

"They’re a deep group in terms of their overall depth on the defense," McDaniels said. "I think that they’ve done a great job of adapting, which you know, credit their coaching staff, Coach Bradley and their coaching staff for being able to adjust. They were a little bit more of a nickel group earlier in the year, now they’ve really become much more of a dime group with at least six defensive backs in the game quite a bit. [Adrian] Phillips’ playing down there near the line of scrimmage when they go to that grouping, [Derwin] James is down there near the line of scrimmage. Both those guys are 210, 215 pound guys that can run and hit and they’re physical players.

"So they play similar styles to a linebacker and then they have a very good nickel back in [Desmond] King that plays physical. He’ll tackle. He’s disruptive in both the run and the passing game. He can blitz. They have depth in the secondary that they have now spilled over into that second level of the defense and the linebacking group by becoming more of a dime grouping. It’s just obviously very smart in terms of trying to use your best players as much as you can and that’s what they’ve decided to do.

"As I said, the front’s disruptive but you’ve got – this is as deep a group and as talented a group as we’ve played all year. All of them have made plays whether that’s near the line of scrimmage or in the secondary in coverage."

The Patriots' will certainly have their hands full, but early indications are they are up for the challenge.