Sunday night’s battle against the Chiefs was one for the ages, with the Patriots fortunately ending up on the right side of an improbable 37-31 victory over Kansas City to send them to Atlanta for their third-straight Super Bowl appearance.
Here’s a rundown of what we learned from this incredible win.
1) Terrific – and a little lucky – performance by Edelman – Julian Edelman put together a terrific outing against Kansas City and once again ended up being the difference-maker in a game where New England had to fight for every inch in a hostile environment.
He finished Sunday’s game with 7 receptions for 96-yards, with 4 of those seven receptions coming on third down at critical moments, two of which were during the Patriots’ game-winning drive in overtime.
Edelman did catch a break in what could have been a game-changer after making a mental error that he got a little lucky on in the fourth quarter where he initially waved off a punt, but then seemingly decided to try and field it at his own 31-yard line. Fortunately, the ball bounced just over his hands and past his arm, which at first glance the officials thought it touched him and Kansas City recovered. Replay confirmed he didn’t touch it and luckily, New England maintained possession.
The bad news was, two plays later, Edelman saw a pass thrown his way bounce off his hands and into the arms of safety Daniel Sorensen for the interception. The Chiefs turned that into a go-ahead touchdown, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes finding Damien Williams for a 23-yard scoring strike, which put them up 21-17 with just under eight minutes left to play.
That sequence aside, Edelman was a huge key to their win on Sunday as the Patriots managed to just enough to beat a Chiefs team that certainly didn’t make it easy.
Brady was terrific Sunday night against the Chiefs.
2) A Near Flawless Showing by Brady – Like Edelman, Brady had his one miscue of the night but overall was terrific and as usual, came up big when it mattered most.
He finished Sunday’s game 30-of-46 (65.2%) for 348 yards and a touchdown, but also had two interceptions, one of which was brutal. After opening the game by engineering a terrific 15-play, 80-yard drive which ate up over 8-minutes and ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel, he had a rare mental error on the ensuing possession.
Following their opening touchdown drive, New England’s defense got the Chiefs off the field, with Brady and the offense ending up with terrific field position at the Chiefs’ 44-yard line. From there, Brady marched them down the field on 10-plays down to the Kansas City 1-yard line. However, the veteran quarterback then made an ill-advised throw after Rob Gronkowski got behind the Chiefs secondary but Brady fired it at him instead of lofting it up to him and linebacker Reggie Ragland picked it off in the end zone and killed the drive.
Fortunately, that was the only real mistake he made on the night and the biggest number that stands out was the fact the Patriots converted an unbelievable 13-of-19 (68%) on third down, and Brady was part of all but four of those conversions. He completed 9-of-11 (82%) on third down, all of which moved the chains, including a perfect 3-of-3 in overtime.
From the moment Matthew Slater called heads and the Patriots took the field, there was little doubt of what was about to unfold. 13 plays later, Rex Burkhead was in the end zone after Brady calmly took them down and put the dagger in the heart of every Kansas City fan in that stadium. They screamed all night and made things tough, but thanks to another incredible finish by the veteran quarterback, they quietly filed out when it was over and went home disappointed.
Great players come up big in key moments and Brady finished the evening with another one for the ages as he advances to an incredible ninth Super Bowl appearance.
New England’s defense was solid Sunday night.
3) Terrific showing by the defense – On a night where the offense played well, they still needed a little help on the other side of the football and the Patriots defense put together an incredible performance against a tough football team.
While this group will likely be criticized for the 24 fourth-quarter points they allowed, you have to give them credit for the fact they held down an explosive Chiefs team that struggled to sustain drives against them.
They shut them out in the first half and did a great job of getting pressure on Patrick Mahomes, harassing him for most of the night and made two big third-down sacks in the first half, one of which took away points. After a 42-yard play to Tyreek Hill got the Chiefs down to the Patriots 23-yard line, Trey Flowers made a huge sack on Mahomes as he tried to scramble away, which saw him lose 14-yards on the play. It was a key play by Flowers as it knocked the Chiefs out of field goal range and forced them to have to punt away the football. The Patriots then ended up putting together a touchdown drive on their ensuing possession that put them up 14-0.
Plays like that are the equivalent of a turnover and you have to give them credit for holding the Chiefs in check the way they did in front of their home crowd. Granted, Kansas City obviously had their moments, but luckily the Patriots ended up with more of them after knocking off the AFC’s top seed.
Gronkowski played well during the Patriots win.
4) Great to see Gronk doing Gronk-Like things – Like Edelman, Rob Gronkowski’s night wasn’t perfect but he was absolutely huge both in the passing game and in the running game.
The veteran tight end was quietly one of the big contributors to Sony Michel’s night running the football, making several key blocks in this game while also managing to make some key contributions catching the ball when it mattered most.
Gronkowski finished the evening with 6 receptions for 79-yards, his last of which came in overtime on a key 3rd-and-10 that went for 15-yards. That reception put them down to the Chiefs 15-yard line and helped set up Burkhead’s game-winning 2-yard touchdown run.
He was solid in this game, albeit a little lucky. He had a third down sequence that could have ended up significantly differently, which came with a minute left to play in the game.
Trailing 28-24, Brady threw a pass to Gronkowski to the right flat that went through the tight end’s hands and was picked off by Chiefs defensive back Charvarius Ward for what appeared to be a game-ending interception. However, Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford negated the play after he jumped offsides prior to the snap, taking away the the turnover. Gronkowski would catch a 25-yard pass on the next play, setting up New England’s go-ahead score thanks to a 4-yard touchdown run by Burkhead, putting them up 31-28 with 0:39 left to play in regulation.
Gronkowski appeared happy and relieved when this one was over and it was good to see him have such a terrific showing after what’s clearly been a difficult year for him. While he certainly doesn’t appear to be 100%, he’s been solid enough where the Patriots should like their chances if he can pull together one last big effort against the Rams.
Michel was outstanding Sunday night.
5) Michel was huge, again – For those people out there still resentful of the fact the Patriots spent a first-round pick on Michel, it’s hard not to appreciate the fact that the team wouldn’t be in this position without him.
Michel came up with another 100-yard rushing performance, totaling 113-yards on 29 carries along with two touchdowns, including a huge one on 4th down in the fourth-quarter. On the play, Michel broke away on a 4th-and-1 from the Chiefs’ 10-yard line, scampering into the end zone after he slipped past the defense.
That touchdown play was a critical moment, as it not only allowed the Patriots to re-take the lead, but they also took back the momentum after the Chiefs had scored the go-ahead touchdown on their previous possession following Brady’s interception.
On a night where the weather and the elements certainly played a factor, Michel’s performance wore down the Chiefs defense and allowed the Patriots to dominate the time-of-possession battle after New England held the ball for over 40 minutes, keeping the ball out of Mahomes hands and limiting what damage Kansas City was able to do offensively.
Without Michel, it’s hard to believe that the Patriots would have been able to have been as effective as they were and at this point, he’s more than held up his end of the deal as a first-round pick. Given that not everyone drafted in the first round is a guarantee in terms of their contributions, Michel has definitely given them a championship-caliber effort with the way he’s run the football.
For a team that seemed to be in tough shape earlier in the year offensively, thanks to Michel, this group appears to have finally figured out how to put it all together at just the right time. With the Rams up next, Michel could, again, be the difference in a game that will likely be another tough battle when they take the field again in two weeks.
Posted Under: 2018 Patriots playoffs