The Patriots play the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, with a trip to the AFC Championship Game on the line. WGBH Radio’s Esteban Bustillos spent time earlier this week at the Patriots' practice. He spoke with WGBH News' All Things Considered anchor Barbara Howard about Sunday's game. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Barbara Howard: This is not the first time the two teams have met, right?
Bustillos: Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers has gone head-to-head with Tom Brady seven times over their careers, and Brady's won every single time. But the Patriots aren't looking to the past.
Howard: Are the Patriots taking anything for granted?
Bustillos: They're definitely not. And players really respect what the Chargers, who actually have more wins than the Pats this year, have been able to do.
Howard: So what should we expect out of Sunday's game?
Bustillos: So both Brady and Rivers are in the top ten in the NFL for quarterback rating this season, which is just a fancy way of saying they're both really, really good. The odds makers have the Pats winning the game, but it's looking to be a close one. For the Pats, they've had a quietly successful season that's been overshadowed by high-scoring teams like the Chiefs, Rams and Saints. This may be their chance to put the league on notice that New England's machine is still running strong.
Howard: Is there anything else we need to know about Sunday?
Bustillos: There's going to be a bit of history made on the field, but it won't have anything to do with the players. Sarah Thomas, who became the first female official in league history four years ago, will be the first woman to get an on-field officiating role during a playoff game this weekend, when the Patriots play the Chargers. That's according to the website Football Zebras. Thomas will be working as the down judge, which means she'll be responsible for policing the line of scrimmage, making sure nobody jumps offsides, and directing the chain crew, among other jobs. It's a crucial part of the officiating crew, and it's something to keep an eye out for.
Howard: What has it been like for women in those kinds of roles, who step into a traditionally male role?
Bustillos: It's something that we're seeing a bit more of now. A few years ago, Becky Hammon, of the San Antonio Spurs, became the first woman to be a coach in the NBA. This past fall, I went up to Dartmouth and did a story on Callie Brownson, who became the first woman at a Division I school to be a coach on the football staff.
Howard: Did these women give you any kind of sense of any common obstacles they have to surmount in order to be accepted into these roles?
Bustillos: Well in terms of the story I did on Brownson, there was sort of the overall culture that she faced of, "this isn't for you, you're not supposed to be doing football." But now she feels like she has been accepted.
Howard: Are women held to a different standard?
Bustillos: I think so. In general, they're seen as, you have to be perfect or you're terrible, which isn't always the standard that's given to some men in those positions.
Howard: OK. Thanks for joining us, Esteban.
Bustillos: Thanks, Barbara.
Howard: That's WGBH Radio’s Esteban Bustillos, with a breakdown of what to expect for the Patriots' playoff game Sunday afternoon, when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers in Foxborough. This is WGBH’s All Things Considered.