Hannable: Patriots’ win over Chiefs summed up entire season — ups and downs, but ultimately proving many wrong

Ryan Hannable
January 21, 2019 - 8:08 am
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KANSAS CITY — You couldn’t really have scripted it any better than that.

The Patriots’ 37-31 overtime win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday in the AFC championship was indicative of how the entire 2018 season went — lots of bumps along the way, but in the end proving a lot of people wrong for doubting them.

New England was not supposed to win. It was three-point underdogs and playing on the road where it hadn’t won a road playoff game since 2005. Also, all five of the Patriots’ losses this season came away from home where they simply were not the same team.

But, just like how the rest of the season had gone, they were able to find a way.

The Patriots could not have scripted a better start to the game, jumping out to a 7-0 lead after the first quarter and only having the Chiefs’ powerful offense have the ball for just over two minutes. They were able to score a touchdown just before the half to go into the locker room up 14-0. It was the first time since Week 4 in 2016 where the Chiefs were shutout in the first half of a game.

The second half didn’t go as planned, though.

Kansas City scored a touchdown just over two minutes into the third quarter to cut the deficit in half and then following early fourth quarter touchdowns from Damien Williams, the Chiefs suddenly had a four-point lead with 7:45 to go.

Over the final 3:32 of regulation, there were 24 points scored and three lead changes before the Patriots scored on the first possession of overtime to clinch their third Super Bowl appearance in three years.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” wide receiver Chris Hogan said. “All I can say is this locker room, and the guys in here, I am so unbelievably proud of everyone with how hard we’ve worked this season. There’s been a lot of ups and downs. A lot of people counted us out in the beginning and didn’t think we could come and win on the road. We just stayed with each other, believed in each other, believed in our abilities and ourselves as a team. We knew if we came out and prepared we could get to where we wanted to be.”

This was eerily similar to how the regular season went. 

After starting the year 1-2, they went on to win six straight games before getting blown out, 34-10, right before the bye against the Titans. New England responded with two straight wins following the bye, but then dropped back-to-back games in Weeks 15 and 16 when they lost to the Dolphins and Steelers on the road in back-to-back weeks.

But, the Patriots grinded things out in a huge way to close the year with two wins that earned them a first-round bye.

“This team has battled all year,” center David Andrews said. “They have done a great job. We have done a great job of just battling, keep fighting.”

Matthew Slater pointed to multiple times over the course of the year where things could have gone the other way — after Week 3’s loss in Detroit, and especially after the Pittsburgh loss in Week 15.

“We talked about it in the locker room after that game,” he said. “We talked about continuing to have belief. We had a choice. We could have stayed down, wallowed and felt sorry for ourselves. ‘Why are we doing this? Why is this happening? This guy needs to be doing that. There could have been a lot of that,’ and I think on a lot of teams there would have been that. 

“Not on this team. We just came back and said, ‘Hey, let’s go back to what we do. Let’s work hard at practice. Let’s hold one another accountable and see where it gets us.’”

The same thing could be said for Sunday’s game. 

The Patriots blew a double-digit lead when they led 17-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, but lost it with 7:45 and then again with 2:06 left in regulation. Instead of accepting they would be the first team in the Super Bowl era to blow a double-digit lead when entering the fourth quarter, it fought back and scored touchdowns the last three times it touched the ball, including converting three third-and-10’s in overtime.

For yet another time this season, the Patriots were able to prove people wrong.

“We did, and we have a little bit of more work to do now,” said Hogan.

Related: Rob Gronkowski on win over Chiefs in AFC title game: It was one of my sweeter victories

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