By: Denny Hackett
I was wrong about the Patriots this year.
I had this team dead to rights after their early season losses against the Lions and the Jaguars and then again after their late season losses to the Titans and the Steelers, but they proved me wrong. Brady came out on Sunday against the Chiefs and proved again to the world that he is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, even at 41 years old. And now after all the ups and downs this season, the Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five years after taking down the Kansas City Chiefs on the road.
For the second time this season, the Patriots came out and held the Chiefs to zero touchdowns in the first half and dominated the first two periods of play. With Sony Michel to lead the way, the Pats rushed their way to the end zone on a first quarter drive that lasted eight minutes before holding Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to just one first down on their opening drive. On that drive linebacker Kyle Van Noy sacked Mahomes on third down, forcing Kansas City to punt.
On the ensuing Patriots’ drive, Brady and the offense had the opportunity to punch it into the end zone. Before they could do so Chiefs’ linebacker Reggie Ragland intercepted a Brady pass intended for Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. Over the next two drives, the teams traded punts before Kansas City was able to finally get deep into Patriots’ territory. However, a timely Trey Flowers sack pushed the Chiefs out of field goal range, forcing another punt.
Then, after it looked like the Pats were going to run out the clock for the final three minutes of the first half, James White took a screen pass for 30 yards to set the Pats up in field goal range. Several plays later Brady threw a dime to receiver Phillip Dorsett in the end zone for a 29 yard score to put the Pats up 14-0.
For the first time in what seems like forever, Gronk was involved in the passing game in the first half. In the half Gronk caught three passes for 28 yards and was targeted by Brady several time, including the interception in the end zone. As always, Gronk was a force in the blocking game, helping to pave the way for Michel’s 79 first half rushing yards and his touchdown.
After halftime, the Chiefs came out with a vengeance in the third quarter by moving the ball right down the field on a four play, 74 yard drive, including a 54 yard pass to Sammy Watkins to set the Chiefs up at the New England 12 yard line. On the next play Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce in the end zone to cut the deficit to 14-7.
Over the next two drives, the teams traded punts again before the Patriots got the ball back again in good field position. The drive only lasted six plays but a 47 yard Gostkowski field goal added to the Pats’ lead, putting them up 17-7.
When the Chiefs got the ball back, Mahomes began to show some of the skills he is best known for. On one play with defensive end Adrian Clayborn bearing down on him, Mahomes threw a sidearm pass to find Sammy Watkins for a first down. Mahomes then found a wide open Damien Williams who took the pass for 33 yards. Then a pass interference on cornerback JC Jackson set the Chiefs up at the one yard line. On the next play, Mahomes threw a pass to Damien Williams in tight coverage for the touchdown to cut into the Pats’ lead, making it 17-14 early in the fourth quarter.
The Pats opened their next drive with a play action pass to Julian Edelman for 14 yards and a first down. Over the next six plays, including a ten yard catch by fullback James Devlin on a wheel route, the Patriots made it to the Chiefs’ 25 yard line before going for it on fourth down and failing to pick up just inches on a Rex Burkhead carry, giving the Chiefs the ball back. However, the Pats defense forced a three and out on the Chiefs’ next drive before it appeared that Edelman muffed a punt leading to a Chiefs’ recovery at the 31 yard line. However, on further review it was determined the ball never touched Edelman.
On the second play of the next Pats’ drive, a Brady pass off of Edelman’s fingertips was ironically intercepted just moments after the lengthy review of the muffed punt. Then two plays later the Chiefs took a 21-17 lead after Mahomes threw a 23 yard pass to Damien Williams.
Down four with over seven minutes to play, the Patriots got the ball back and took it to the end zone in ten plays, including Michel’s second touchdown of the game. The drive took four minutes of clock time along the way but also included the game’s most controversial call. The referees called a roughing the passer penalty on Kansas City lineman Chris Jones who did not touch Brady on the play in question.
One of the biggest detractors for the Patriots in the fourth quarter was rookie cornerback JC Jackson’s play. In the quarter alone he was called for two defensive pass interference penalties and a holding call.
On the next Chiefs’ drive, they took the ball right down the field in five plays and scored a touchdown on a Damien Williams rush to retake the lead 28-24 with just over two minutes to play. The Chiefs gained 23 yards on a pass interference call before a 38 yard Sammy Watkins catch set the Chiefs and Williams up at the two yard line.
The Chiefs gave the Patriots and Brady too much time with two minutes left in the game. It was like clockwork as we have seen time after time with him at quarterback for the Patriots. IN six plays over a minute and a half Brady led the Patriots down to the Chiefs’ end zone, including a 25 yard pass to Gronk. Then at the four yard line, Burkhead took the ball in four the touchdown, giving the Pats a 31-28 lead with 39 seconds left in the game. In that 39 seconds, the Chiefs marched right down the field to tie the game at 31 with a Harrison Butker field goal with eight seconds left to send the game to overtime.
The Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball going into overtime and the Chiefs’ fates were sealed. Brady and the Pats marched right down the field in 13 plays and Burkhead capped the drive off with a two yard touchdown to win the game 37-31.
Now the Patriots set their sights on a matchup with the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53 in two weeks in Atlanta. This Super Bowl will be the Patriots third straight appearance and fourth in the past five years. Obviously the major storyline going into this game is the fact that the Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl all the way back in 2002 to launch Brady and Belichick into NFL legend. Now they will be putting their legendary careers against the up and coming coach and quarterback combo of Jared Goff and Sean McVay.