Best and Worst: Patriots vs. Chiefs
KANSAS CITY -- You know, it has to end some time. Right?
Just not now is all.
The Patriots authored yet another classic, coming from behind twice in the final quarter and then beating the Chiefs, 37-31, for their third straight AFC championship and third straight trip to the Super Bowl.
Here's the best and worst from one we won't soon forget . . .
RIGHT INTO THEIR HANDS
The Chiefs won the toss and deferred to the second half so the Patriots took the ball to start. Given New England’s keen interest in getting off to a fast start in general and especially in an effort to keep the Arrowhead crowd from going bananas, if was something the Patriots would have loved.
WORST THIRD-DOWN STRATEGY
Facing a third-and-9, the Patriots lined Julian Edelman up in the left slot. The Chiefs didn’t have a defender over him and – after the snap – a linebacker just gave token effort at walling him off. It was an easy pitch-and-catch for the first down.
GOT IT COVERED
The Patriots shook things up with their defensive backs, putting Jonathan Jones and then Keion Crossen on Tyreek Hill with Devin McCourty over the top. Jones got whistled for a defensive hold extending KC’s first drive. Crossen got beaten deep for a 42-yard catch. But neither play resulted in points. J.C. Jackson (pictured), meanwhile, checked Travis Kelce and held him to two catches for 11 yards in the first half.
The Patriots got after Patrick Mahomes real good with three first-half sacks for 43 yards in losses. The second sack he took backed the Chiefs out of field goal range. The last one was a strip-sack that ended the half.
STAY OF EXECUTION
Tom Brady was intercepted in the end zone by Reggie Ragland on a third-and-goal from the 1. It was the 11th play of the drive and there were two third-down conversions prior to that point. A touchdown would have made it 14-0.
Tight end Travis Kelce had a chance to plow through Jonathan Jones after a short pass but instead tried to jump over him which cost the Chiefs a first down.
The Patriots picked up a first down on a third-and-9 when an under pressure Tom Brady threw to a covered James White but put it in the only spot where White could stick out his hand and cradle it to his body.
The Patriots got a much-needed touchdown after their dominant first half almost ended with just a 7-0 lead and it came from Philip Dorsett who ran a double-move to get open and held onto the ball despite being interfered with.
THE KC NIGHTMARE
Right out of halftime, the Chiefs gave a sense of how dangerous they can be with a 54-yard bomb to Sammy Watkins over Stephon Gilmore and a 15-yard TD to Travis Kelce over J.C. Jackson.
Trey Flowers got away with a whack to the head of Patrick Mahomes on the second drive of the half for the Chiefs, forcing a Kansas City punt that Julian Edelman returned to the Chiefs 37.
Patrick Mahomes got the Chiefs within three points early in the fourth with a drive punctuated by outstanding singular plays, especially a sidearm wraparound throw for a first down to Sammy Watkins with Adrian Clayborn coming unblocked.
The Patriots answered the Chiefs' TD by marching from their 24 to the Kansas City 25 and seemed poised to add at least three more points to their lead . . . until Rex Burkhead was stuffed on fourth-and-one.
The Pats' defense forced the Chiefs to go three-and-out after stopping Burkhead, but Julian Edelman then appeared to muff the subsequent punt. The Chiefs recovered and ran it in for a touchdown -- which didn't count anyway, because they couldn't advance a fumbled punt -- but Edelman never turned to chase the ball, indicating that at least he thought he never touched the ball. After a torturous, endless replay and a national debate on Twitter, the replay officials agreed and the Patriots kept possession.
BALL DON'T LIE
How often did you hear that when, minutes later, a pass slipped through Edelman's hands and was intercepted? Especially since it led to a Kansas City touchdown and the Chiefs taking a 21-17 lead.
MAKING THE CALLS
On the Patriots next possession, three calls went the Patriots' way -- including this one, where Chris Hogan was ruled to have caught this pass from Brady -- and it eventually led to Sony Michel's touchdown run, putting New England ahead 24-21.
AND THEN . . .
It became a track meet. First the Chiefs went 68 yards in five plays and went ahead, 27-24, when Damien Williams scored his third TD of the game with 2:03 to play.
AND THEN . . .
The Patriots went 65 yards in six plays and seemed to have it won when -- after a perfect 25-yard pass from Brady to Gronk got the ball into the red zone -- Rex Burkhead ran it in from the 4 with 39 seconds left.
AND THEN . . .
It took the Chiefs all of two plays to move from their 31 to the Pats 21. That's where Harrison Butker sent it into overtime with a 37-yard field goal.
AND FINALLY . . .
The Patriots won the toss . . . and, after the way the last quarter played out, you had the feeling that the team that got the ball first would be going to Atlanta. And so it went. The Pats converted not one, not two, but three third-and-10s -- they were an unbelieveable 13 of 19 on third downs in the game -- and punched their ticket to Georgia when Burkhead scored again, just under five minutes into overtime.