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Adrian Phillips on his performance against the Chargers: ‘Everybody wants to stick it to their former team’

Related: 5 winners and 2 losers from the Patriots’ victory over the Chargers

NFL: OCT 31 Patriots at Chargers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Playing a combined 66 regular season and playoff games for the San Diego and Los Angeles Chargers between 2014 and 2019, Adrian Phillips proved himself a valuable member of the team’s defense and special teams operation. When he headed into unrestricted free agency in March 2020, however, the Chargers opted not to retain him.

Instead, Phillips received an opportunity to play for the team farthest away from his old stomping grounds. The former undrafted free agent joined the New England Patriots on a two-year contract, and he never looked back.

Now a key defender for New England who has not missed a game the last two seasons, Phillips has been a consistent playmaker for his new team. The Chargers found out first-hand on Sunday: playing 55 of a possible 60 defensive snaps, Phillips was arguably the standout performer in the Patriots’ 27-24 victory.

Phillips, after all, registered a pair of interceptions that were turned into a combined 11 points.

After the game, he spoke about the experience he had going up against the Chargers.

“I love it out here, and every time that we get to play them, you kind of... Everybody always wants to kind of stick it to their former team,” he said. “This is a great organization that we played against today, and just to be able to go out there and play against them and end up having the game that I had, it was sweet. I loved it. Yeah, it was sweet.”

Phillips started off his day by getting his hands on a deflected pass in the late second quarter. L.A. quarterback Justin Herbert placed the ball well for his intended target, running back Austin Ekeler, but it went through his hands and found its way to the veteran safety. Five plays later, Nick Folk kicked a field goal to bring the Patriots within one point heading into the locker room at the half.

In the fourth quarter, Phillips picked off another Justin Herbert throw. His second interception on the day came on an apparent miscommunication between the quarterback and tight end Jared Cook; Phillips took advantage to not just intercept the ball but return it untouched 26 yards for a touchdown — his first score in eight NFL seasons, and a pivotal play for New England.

The pick-six helped the Patriots turn a 17-16 deficit into a 24-17 lead with 10 minutes left to play.

“I think, as a player, to come back to a team that, however it ends up working out, they didn’t feel the value was there for you to remain there, I think that’s special,” said fellow safety Devin McCourty after the game. “AP works his butt off, and to have the kind of game that he had today was huge. He’s a key part of our defense. I think everyone here saw that last year, the impact that he had, and he’s continuing to do that.”

Linebacker Matthew Judon also spoke highly of his teammate, and the importance of him making big plays against the Chargers.

“AP! Man, I’m telling y’all, I’m so happy for that guy,” Judon said. “He works his butt off. He works his butt off and every opportunity that he gets, he excels — at whatever role we need him. Like, the dude plays linebacker, safety, dime, he’ll rush the edge for us. Anything we ask him to do, he excels at it. And I was just so happy for him to come back, playing his old team. For him do that and to put us up like that, that was big for him.”

Phillips is now 2-0 in his career versus the Chargers. He was part of New England’s 45-0 blowout win last December, contributing a team-high 12 tackles, before his prominent performance on Sunday.

The game itself was more than “just” a second win over the organization for the 29-year-old, though. It also was a chance to catch up with some of his former colleagues.

“It was great seeing my boys,” Phillips said after the game.

“Of course, the DBs and then the training staff, and my guy Arthur, the player personnel guy. Just seeing everybody that I pretty much grew up with, it was great to see all those buys and just be able to talk about the old times and them being genuinely happy for me. It sucks that they lost the game, but it shows how genuine it was because they were happy for me and happy that I was able to come somewhere else and still produce.”

Produce, Phillips has indeed done — not just on Sunday but ever since arriving in New England.