Best and worst: Patriots 27, Chiefs 20
BEST SIGHT TO SEE
The Patriots listed Julian Edelman as questionable heading into Saturday's game, but there's never been a more automatic "50-percent chance" in all of our lives. Edelman was ruled active before the game, and wasted no time doing Edelman things during the Patriots' first drive of the game. It's no secret that the Pats have struggled on third down without Edelman, but luckily he was available for their first third down -- 3rd-and-10 -- from their own 20-yard line. Brady hit Edelman through some traffic on the left side for 11 yards, and suddenly all was right in the world. The two doubled-down on the next play, as Brady again hit Edelman for 13 yards. He's baaaaaaaack.
BEST SUNDAY TRADITION ... on Saturday
Yes, the winter months can be harsh in New England, but Patriots football at least gets us through January and into February. It's cold, and on Saturday morning we all woke up to that wintry mix -- you know the one. Mostly rain, but some areas saw a few flurries as well. But it was raining at Gillette Stadium. Raining touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski, that is. What, you thought Tom Brady wasn't going to hit Gronkowski in the end zone? You played yourself. Brady wasted no time continuing the tradition around these parts, and connected with Gronk on an eight-yard, back-shoulder throw to put the Patriots up 7-0 in less than five minutes. Sore knee? Weak back? It don't matter. Not today. You don't mess with tradition.
WORST way to be two-dimensional
We gave the Patriots a lot of crap when they decided to basically only run the ball against the Miami Dolphins in the first half. So we're going to give them a lot of crap for basically only throwing the ball in the second half. Just kidding, we aren't. Listen -- if the Patriots are going to be one dimensional it better be through the air. And at one point the Patriots passes out-numbers their rushes, 19-1. By the end of the second quarter, it was 25-7, but three of those were from Tom Brady. So as you can see, the world is back on its axis.
BEST defensive stop
The Patriots offense hadn't done a whole lot over a couple of drives, and that eventually set the Chiefs offense up with exceptional field position to begin their drive, on the Patriots 36-yard line. The Pats were up 7-3 at the time, and in need of a big defensive stand. They got it. Smith's first pass to tight end Travis Kelce went for a two-yard loss. That was followed by an incomplete pass and a one-yard completion. Chiefs were forced to punt, and that's when Danny Amendola knocked Jamell Fleming into next week with a shoulder to the head. He was flagged for it -- and will probably be fined for it -- but it may have sent a little message that only cost the team two yards (half the distance to the goal).
BEST show of emotion
There was some confusion between Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels as the Patriots found themselves one yard away from a touchdown. An angry Brady was forced to call a timeout as the clock wound down. He and McDaniels had a little shouting match during the timeout that slowly transformed into laughing, high-fiving, and then hugging. It was bizarre, but I wouldn't have it any other way. And then on the next play . . .
Everybody freaking out because the Patriots don't seem to have much of a rushing game going into the playoffs. Oh, they don't?! Guess you never heard of Tom Brady. Yeah, you know, the guy with six rushing postseason touchdowns over his career. He earned his sixth one in the second quarter, a one-yard QB sneak into the end zone. But it was the 10-yard run he made one-play before that that had everybody fired up. Brady dove for the pylon but was ruled a yard short. Then Brady pounded it in for the TD. 14-3 Patriots. And by the way, Brady's six postseason rushing touchdowns puts him tied for second place among quarterbacks, trailing Steve Young's eight.
WORST way to make use of deferring
Hey Kansas City, the point of deferring to the second half is so you can hope to score at the end of the first half and then score again to begin the second half. The Chiefs did kick a field goal in the final seconds of the first half -- well done. But after receiving to begin the second half, Chandler Jones (not shirtless or shoeless today) got his hands in there on Knile Davis and knocked the football loose. Dont'a Hightower pounced on it and the Patriots offense was back in business/ Even when Belichick doesn't defer, he does. Belichick 101, really.
The Patriots were 69 yards away from the end zone, when they began their drive following the fumble recovery. And don't think that was lost on Rob Gronkowski, who put the finishing touches on the drive with a 16-yard touchdown in which he faked safety Eric Berry into next season and was wide open for the catch just before the end zone. That gave Gronkowski eight postseason touchdowns, which is a Patriots franchise record, and also an NFL record for tight ends. Is that good?
WORST third down defense
The Patriots look better on third down, but you know who else does? The Chiefs. And that was never more apparent than in their touchdown-answering drive in the third quarter, when they converted two important ones, and then after stopping the Chiefs on their third third-down attempt, allowed a four-yard catch that was wiped out by a hands-to-the-face penalty on Akiem Hicks, which only tacked on another yard to giver the Chiefs first-and-goal from the 10-yard line. Alex Smith then it Albert Wilson for the touchdown with some spotty coverage by Logan Ryan.
WORST sight to see
We've obviously had a few injuries in this one, because it wouldn't be a Patriots games without injuries. Nothing too, too serious - we hope. Bryan Stork left the game for a bit and had to get his ankle wrapped in the first half, but returned to action. Jamie Collins hurt his back and had it wrapped while he sat on the bench in the second half. Jerod Mayo hurt his shoulder and along with Collins was listed as questionable to return. Tough day for the linebackers. Collins' importance goes without saying, and Mayo has become a bigger part of the defense as the season has progressed. So yeah, let's hope those injuries aren't super serious.
BEST kicker in the game
Stephen Gostkowski, the best damn kicker in the game, came up with a couple of really huge field goals in the fourth quarter after the Chiefs cut it to a one-possession game. A couple chip shots - one one 40 yards out and the other from 32 yards out - put the Patriots back up 14 points. The second field goal gave him 126 career postseason points, which ties him with Thurman Thomas and Emmitt Smith for fifth most all-time. And I can guarantee you neither of those two dudes would have hit those kicks.
WORST clock management
First of all, give the Chiefs credit for marching 80 yards and scoring a touchdown to bring the score to 27-20. The problem? It took them 5:16 to do so. Hey Andy Reid, you understand how this works, right? You have to score two touchdowns in order to force overtime. Maybe have the guys hurry to the line a bit faster? Work the sidelines? Just a couple thoughts for next season, because this one is over. The Chiefs tried an onside kick after scoring, but the ball landed in the gigantic hands of Rob Gronkowski. After Brady's passed was tipped into the hands of Julian Edelman for a first down, the Patriots sealed the victory and their fifth straight trip to the AFC Championship Game.