Patriots 37, Chiefs 31: New England beats Kansas City in instant classic to advance to 3rd straight Super Bowl

Ryan Hannable
January 20, 2019 - 10:15 pm
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KANSAS CITY — What a game.

After the Patriots jumped out to a 14-0 lead at the half, the Chiefs came roaring back to take a 21-17 lead with just over eight minutes to go following a Tom Brady interception. On the ensuing drive, the Patriots went 60 yards in 10 plays and capped it off with a Sony Michel touchdown on fourth-and-inches from the 10-yard line with 2:03 remaining. Kansas City then went right down and scored a touchdown -- a Damien Williams rush up the middle -- in only 1:03, leaving the Patriots just over two minutes and trailing 28-24.

New England grinded out a six-play, 65-yard drive that was finished off by a four-yard touchdown run by Rex Burkhead with 39 seconds left, but that left enough time for Harrison Butker to kick a 39-yard field goal wth eight seconds left to force overtime.

The Patriots converted three third-and-10s on the opening drive of overtime before Burkhead ran it in from two yards out to give the Patriots a thrilling 37-31 win to advance to their third straight Super Bowl.

Here are 10 quick thoughts on the game.

1. It was pretty clear the Patriots were going to try to establish the run and that is exactly what they did. They ran for 176 yards as a team, and were led by Sony Michel. The rookie ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns. New England is now 8-0 when he rushes for more than 60 yards. This wasn’t a surprise given how bad the Chiefs run defense is, but the Patriots offensive line dominated up front for most of the game.

2. Third down plays were also very important for the offense. It went 13-for-19 and that included several clutch catches by James White and Julian Edelman. Also, the Patriots ran more running plays on third down than usual, but that was because of the defense they went up against.

3. Brady wasn't his best, but he made the plays down the stretch when he needed to. The 41-year-old was 30-for-46 with 348 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was especially good on the final drive, which was obviously the most important.

4. Defensively, the Patriots went a little off course with their coverages. Stephon Gilmore got Sammy Watkins, J.C. Jackson got Travis Kelce and then Jonathan Jones (with a little Keion Crossen) got Tyreek Hill. The coaching staff must have liked putting speed on Hill with help, as Jones and Crossen are two of the Patriots’ faster players. 

5. A potentially huge play occurred with just over eight minutes left when the Chiefs punted, and instead of letting the ball roll, Julian Edelman got in the way as it bounced right in front of him. The referees ruled it hit him and the Chiefs took over at the spot of the recovery, but after a long review it was overturned as it was ruled it did not hit him. It proved not to matter as two plays later a Brady pass intended for Edelman was tipped and intercepted.

6. New England led 14-0 at the half, but the scary thing was it should have been more as Brady threw an interception in the end zone. It was the first time the Chiefs offense went scoreless in the first half since Week 4 of 2016, and marked the first time all year it didn’t score on its first two possessions of the game.

7. Rob Gronkowski was much more involved in the passing game than last week against the Chargers. The tight end finished with a season-high 11 targets and had six catches for 79 yards, including a big one on the Patriots' touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Gronkowski also appeared to get held on several plays, but no flags were thrown. 

8. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy had a heck of a game. The linebacker had nine tackles and two sacks. As good as he was, the Patriots linebackers had a huge issue covering Damien Williams out of the backfield and the Chiefs made them pay big time in the second half after some halftime adjustments.

9. Like in the NFC game, the officials were heavily involved at the end in terms of reviews and calling penalties. Both teams didn't commit many penalties in the first half, but that changed in the second half and especially down the stretch. You hate to see officials impact things so much in championship games, and would rather have the players decide it themselves.

10. The Patriots will now move on to the Super Bowl where they will face the Rams, who came away with a controversial win in the NFC championship in New Orleans. One of the bigger storylines will be the two coaches — Sean McVay and Bill Belichick. McVay being the new up-and-coming great and Belichick the best of all time.

The Chiefs didn't score any points in their first two possessions for the first time all season.

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