How Patriots shut down Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce in AFC championship

Ryan Hannable
January 21, 2019 - 10:10 am
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KANSAS CITY -- Heading into the AFC championship game, it was known the Patriots needed to contain Chiefs playmakers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but no one could have predicted what happened Sunday night.

Not only did the Patriots contain both Hill and Kelce, but the entire Kansas City offense.

The Chiefs finished with 290 total yards of offense, their lowest output of the entire season and fewest since Week 12 of last year. Hill and Kelce combined for four catches and 65 yards.

Hill only had one catch, a 42-yard reception in the first half.

“We played it as good as we could," safety Duron Harmon said. "That was the game plan going into the week. We practiced hard at it and it showed today.”

The Patriots used Jonathan Jones and sometimes Keion Crossen with help over the top with a safety against the speedy receiver. It was clear they thought the best way to control Hill was with speed, as Jones and Crossen are the fastest members of the secondary.

Jones rarely played on defense down the stretch, as his 41 snaps were the most since Week 5.

“I think we had a good game plan all across the board,” he said, via NESN. “… [Hill is] a big part of their offense, so that was kind of our game plan. We knew we had to stop him. We couldn’t allow him to run around and make consecutive big plays like that like he’d done all year. I think we were able to come out, execute the game plan, and it definitely helped us.” 

Harmon added: “Jon Jones, Devin [McCourty], they did a good job of doubling him and limiting him. We knew a lot of their offense is built around big plays and he has the most big plays in the NFL. We knew if we could limit that and make them just drive the ball consistently up and down the field, we knew it was going to be tough on them. Those two guys did a tremendous job. Hats off to those boys.”

Kelce had three catches for 23 yards and a touchdown. In the first half, J.C. Jackson was on him, but after his third quarter touchdown, Stephon Gilmore moved over from Sammy Watkins and shut him down the remainder of the game.

“Not tough,” Gilmore said of the switch.

“I was just able to adjust,” he added. “It’s easier because I’m used to covering fast guys. He’s not really fast, so it’s easier for me."

This was another tremendous game plan by Bill Belichick and Co. and it's a major reason why the Patriots are heading to their third straight Super Bowl.

Related: Rex Burkhead explains extra motivation for late 2 touchdowns

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