Ryan L. Fox
It all comes down to this. No more talking, no more gimmicks. It’s either put up or shut up. For the first time since 2015, the Patriots had to go on the road for the AFC Championship as they had to travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs.
With a trip to the Super Bowl LIII to face the Los Angeles Rams on the line, both teams gave it all they got. What fans and viewers saw was a game for the ages that need overtime to see the end. But when the final gun was sound, only one team emerged to represent the AFC. That team…was a team that was all too familiar with playing on football’s biggest stage.
The Kansas City Chiefs ended up winning the opening coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. Patriots KR Cordarrelle Patterson ended up taking the opening kickoff back to the New England 20.
The Patriots offense then took to the field as they looked to not only score first but to do everything they could to milk the clock and keep the high octane Chiefs offense off the field. Both QB Tom Brady and RB Sony Michel each carved up the Chiefs defense. They were able to get all the way down to the Kansas City 1 as on 2nd and goal, Michel bowled his way over for the touchdown to cap off a drive that lasted over 8 minutes. Stephen Gostkowski booted the PAT through as the Patriots got the early 7-0 lead.
After forcing the Chiefs to punt, the Patriots got the ball back as they began their second drive of the game at the Kansas City 44. Like the last drive, the Patriots continued to gash the Chiefs with the run game and eat up as much clock as possible. They got all the way down to the Kansas City 5 before the 1st quarter ran out.
When the 2nd quarter began, the Patriots continued to drive down the field as they got all the way down to the Kansas City 1. Then on 3rd and goal from the 1, Brady faked the handoff and was about to find TE Robert James Gronkowski in the end zone. However Chiefs LB Reggie Ragland intercepted the ball in the end zone, killing the Patriots drive.
But the Chiefs could not do anything to capitalize on the turnover and were forced to punt. Patriots WR/PR Julian Edelman received the punt at his own 12 and brought it back to the 26. They were able to get all the way up to the Kansas City 42 but Michel was stopped on 3rd and 1, bringing up 4th down. A delay of game penalty backed the Patriots to the 47 where P Ryan booted the ball to the Kansas City 15 as Chiefs WR/PR Tyreek Hill fair caught the ball.
Unlike their last few possessions, Chiefs were able to successfully move the ball. A 12 yard pass to WR Sammy Watkins and then a 42 yard bomb to Hill put the ball on the New England 23. But then on 1st down, QB Patrick Mahomes overthrew RB Damien Williams on what would be a touchdown. Two plays later, Patriots DE Trey Flowers sacked Mahomes for a 14 yard loss, putting the Chiefs out of field goal range. They were forced to punt as Edelman fair caught it at the New England 10.
Looking to go up a couple of scores before halftime, the Patriots started off by handing the ball off to Michel. Then facing a 3rd and 4, Brady found RB James White for a 5 yard gain to keep the drive alive. Brady then found White for a 30 yard screen pass down to the Kansas City 38. After a time out, Brady looked deep for WR Phillip Dorsett for the touchdown. A Gostkowski PAT then made it 14-0 with 27 seconds left in the half and all but silenced the Arrowhead crowd.
The Chiefs has some life as the 1st half came to a close as backup TE D Harris brought the squib kick back to the Kansas City 42. However on the first play, Mahomes was sacked by Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy back at the Kansas City 28 as the ball came out. Luckily Mahomes recovered the ball but that’s all they could do as the half ended on that note.
Kansas City began the 2nd half with the ball with their first drive of the half on their own 26. The Chiefs were able to move the ball up to their 34 and were faced with a 3rd and 2. But instead of a quick 3 and out, Mahomes found WR Sammy Watkins for a 54 yard bomb down to the New England 12. On the next ensuing play, Mahomes found TE Travis Kelce for the quick touchdown. Chiefs K Harrison Butker booted the PAT through as the score was 14-7 with a little under 13 minutes left in the quarter.
The two teams then exchanged punts with one another as the Patriots got the ball back on the Kansas City 37. They were able to get down to the Kansas City 23 but an offensive pass interference penalty on Dorsett backed the ball up to the Kansas City 33. The Patriots ended up settling for a 47 yard field goal by Gostkowski to make it 17-7 with 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
Seeing the game starting to slip away from, Mahomes and the Chiefs offense took to the field. Living up to his hype, Mahomes got a first down with his legs as well as a highlight side-arm pass to Watkins to make it 1st down on the New England 47. Then on the next play, Mahomes found Williams for a 33 yard catch-and-run pass down to the New England 14. Mahomes tried to find Williams again for the last play of the 3rd quarter but it fell incomplete.
The Chiefs then opened up the 4th quarter as Mahomes tried to find Kelce in the end zone. However Patriots CB J.C. Jackson interfered with him, giving the Chiefs a 1st and goal at the 1. Mahomes then looked to Williams in the flat in the end zone. This time, the two connected for the touchdown. Butker’s PAT was booted through as the score was 17-14 after just 9 seconds of play in the 4th quarter.
As the Chiefs were getting close and the crowd was getting into the game, the Patriots sucked the life out of everybody.
Starting on their own 24, Brady opened things up with a 19 yard pass to Edelman to the New England 43. Two plays later, Michel bowled up the middle for a 10 yard gain to the Kansas 46. Another two plays later, FB James Develin hauled in a 9 yard pass from Brady for another Patriots first down. They got all the way down to the Kansas City 25 as they were faced with a 4th and inches. Electing to go for it, Brady handed the ball off the RB Rex Burkhead. But Chiefs S Drew Sorensen tackled Burkhead for no gain, giving the ball to the Chiefs.
The Patriots were able to smother the Chiefs offense as they were forced to punt. However on the punt, the ball seemingly touched Edelman’s finger tips and was recovered by the Chiefs special teams at the New England. But upon further review, it showed that the ball barely missed Edelman as the Patriots were awarded back the ball on their own 28.
A 2 yard run by Michel set up 2nd and 8 at the New England 30. Brady looked to Edelman’s way and threw the ball. However in an ironic twist of fate, the ball bounced off of Edelman’s fingers and into the waiting hands of Sorensen at the New England 47. Sorensen returned the ball to the New England 23, which was actually 4 yards closer to the end zone compared to where they would have gotten it if they got the muffed punt.
Two plays later, Mahomes was faced with an all-out blitz and dumped it off into the flat to Williams. Williams took the pass all the way down for the score. Butker kicked the PAT through as the Chiefs got their first lead of the game, 21-17, with a little under 8 minutes left in the game.
The Patriots got the ball back on their own 25 as the offense tried to retake the lead. Along the way, they were gifted a questionable ‘roughing the passer penalty’, the same kind that happened to Mahomes earlier in the game but it was a no-call. That, and winning a challenge later (a 11 yard catch by WR Chris Hogan) on in the drive, took the wind out from under the Chiefs defense. They got all the way down to the Kansas City 10 and were faced with another 4th and inches. This time, the Patriots were successful as Michel took the handoff up the middle for the touchdown. Gostkowski booted the PAT through as the Patriots regained the lead, 24-21 with a little over 3 and a half minutes left in the game.
The Chiefs got the ball back as they began their next possession on their own 32. Thanks to 2 costly penalties on J.C. Jackson, the Chiefs were able to keep the drive alive. Then on 2nd and 10 from the New England, Mahomes found WR Sammy Watkins for a 38 yard bomb down the left side to the New England 2. On the next play, Williams took the handoff up the middle for the score. Butker’s PAT then made it 28-24 with a little over 2 minutes left in the game.
After a big return by Patterson to the New England 35, it set up a Brady comeback special. Brady hit Edelman for a 20 yard pass and then two plays later, found Hogan for an 11 yard pass to the Kansas City 34. After an incompletion to Dorsett, Brady seemingly found Hogan for what would have been a 13 yard pass to the Kansas City 21. But upon further review, Hogan didn’t have control of the ball as it bobbled and hit the ground. The catch was overturned and made it 3rd and 10 back at the Kansas City 34.
Brady then seemingly threw what would have been a costly interception. But Chiefs LB Dee Ford was called for neutral zone infraction, wiping the play out and making it 3rd and 5. Brady then found Gronkowski deep on the left side down to the Kansas City 4 with 42 seconds left in the game. Then on 1st and goal, Burkhead bowled his way over the goal line for the touchdown. Gostkowski booted the PAT through to give the Patriots a 31-28 lead with 39 seconds left in the game.
With the odds against them, Mahomes and the Chiefs offense took to the field to get within field goal range to tie the game and send it into OT. They began on their own 31 as Mahomes hooked up with RB Spencer Ware for a 21 yard pass to the New England 48. Mahomes then found WR Demarcus Robinson for a 37 yard pass to the New England 21 as the clock was stopped thanks to a neutral zone infraction penalty on Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower. After an incompletion on 1st down, the Chiefs looked to kick the game tying field goal. Butker lined up for the 39 yard attempt and booted it through, tying the game at 31-31 with 8 seconds left in the game.
The Patriots got the ball back as Brady took the knee, sending the game in overtime.
After winning the toss, the Patriots elected to receive the ball to start overtime. They got the ball on their own 25. Brady found Hogan for a 10 yard pass to the 35 to start the drive and then found Edelman two plays later down to the Kansas City 45 for 20 yards. Another two plays later, Brady found Edelman for a 15 yard pass down to the Kansas City 30. Then another two plays later, Brady found Gronkowski for a 15 yard pass play down to the Kansas City 15. After that, it became the Rex Burkhead show.
Burkhead carried the ball on 2 consecutive plays, getting the ball down to the Kansas City 2. Then on 2nd and goal from the 2, Burkhead bowled over the goal line for the game winning touchdown to make the final score 37-31.
With that Burkhead touchdown, the Patriots began to celebrate heavily at Arrowhead stadium. The usual suspect tool bags (Edelman, Van Noy, Brady) that proclaimed a week earlier about how nobody believed them or gave them a chance now celebrate and mock all their naysayers (all 2 of them). Now they will head down to Atlanta, Georgia, for their Super Bowl LIII match up against the New Orleans Saints Los Angeles Rams. However nobody will picking them to be the underdogs in that match up. Rather, they will be the heavy favorites and will definitely be holding up their 6th Lombardi trophy.
Notable Patriot Statistical Standouts
QB Tom Brady: 30-for-46 for 348 yards, 1TD, 2 INT for a QB Rating of 77.1
RB Sony Michel: 29 carries for 113 yards and 2 TDs, 1 catch (on 1 target) for 9 yards
RB Rex Burkhead: 12 carries for 41 yards and 2 TDs, 4 catches (on 4 targets) for 23 yards
RB James White: 4 carries for 30 yards, 4 catches (on 6 targets) for 49 yards
WR Julian Edelman: 7 catches (on 10 targets) for 96 yards, 3 punt returns for 38 yards
TE Robert J. Gronkowski: 6 catches (on 11 targets) for 79 yards
LB Kyle Van Noy: 10 tackles (8 solo, 1 assist), 2.0 sacks
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
237 – The number of consecutive pass attempts in the postseason by Brady made before his interception in the beginning of the 2nd quarter
78 – The number of consecutive pass attempts in the postseason in the red zone Brady made before his interception in the beginning of the 2nd quarter
.833 – The career postseason winning percentage of Brady when he throws a pick in the red zone (5-1)
13 – The number of AFC Championship games that coach Bill Belichick has appeared him, placing him first all-time
38 – The number of points scored in the 4th quarter by both (24 by Chiefs, 14 by Patriots), a new AFC Championship game record
36 – The number of first downs the Patriots had for the entire game, doubling the Chiefs (36-18)
68.4% – The 3rd down completion percentage (13-for-19) of the New England Patriots for the game
5 – Number of postseason rushing touchdowns by RB Sony Michel, the most by a rookie RB in NFL history
8:05 – The amount of time taken off the clock during the first Patriots drive of the game, the longest postseason drive in terms of time during the Brady-Belichick era
43:59 – The time of possession the Patriots had for the entire game (OT included), doubling the Chiefs (20:53)
290 – The total amount of yards allowed by the Patriots defense to the Chiefs offense (compared to 446 yards allowed in Week 6)
Fox Fist Bump
I would first give the first fist bump to the de facto Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores. His game plan of keeping Mahomes off balanced with timed rushes and stunt blitzes helped keep the Chiefs off balanced for the majority of the game as well as kill drives and force the Chiefs to punt.
The next fist bump goes to Tom Brady. No matter what the scenario is, how many points you are down, how much time is left on the clock, as long as #12 is under center then failure is not an option. He looked calm in the pocket, especially during the game winning drive, and was almost money every time he threw the ball (that pick was Edelman’s fault and Patterson can’t catch crap). And even when he threw those two costly picks, it didn’t deter #12 at all. Instead it made him even angrier and hungrier to go out and make up for his mistakes.
Brady showed why he’s nicknamed ‘Tommy Terrific’ and he’ll be hoisting his 6th Lombardi in two weeks.
The Meatball of the Week
Even in victory, there were some meatballs. First I’m giving one J.C. Jackson. He had a pass interference penalty that lead to a KC touchdown, plus two more penalties on another drive that gave the Chiefs 2 key first downs that lead to a touchdown. Love the kid’s physical play but you gotta play smart.
The next meatball…well, let’s make it half a meatball. I’m giving that half to WR Julian Edelman. Yes, he had some big catches when it counted during crunch time and all but he also had 2 bonehead plays that nearly costed the Patriots the game.
On that punt play that he seemingly muffed but didn’t….HE SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN IN THAT POSITION IN THE FIRST PLACE. Edelman should have just let the ball bounce and roll. Then two plays later, Edelman couldn’t hold onto a Brady pass as it bounced off his fingers and into the hands of Chiefs S Drew Sorensen. Edelman should be lucky that Tom Brady is his QB. Otherwise, he and the entire Patriots team would be sitting back at home while the Chiefs went to Atlanta.
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