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Patriots vs. Chiefs: Fan Notes from the AFC Divisional Playoffs

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 27-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

I'm a huge Tom Hanks fan. Yes, I realize that everyone is a huge Tom Hanks fan and there is absolutely zero reason for anyone to even bother making that statement, but at the moment I can't think of any creative ways to open up this article and segue into a scene from Forrest Gump I want to talk about. So sorry. You're all just going to have to deal with it.

As for that scene: Forrest is on the US PIng-Pong team, which gets invited by President Nixon to visit The White House. Meeting the President is one of the single greatest honors an American citizen can achieve. But what was Forrest's response?

So I went...again. And I met the President of the United States...again.

Good old Forrest has already been so many times by this point, something that millions of people dream about has simply become old hat for him and doesn't seem like that big a deal.

I think about that scene every time the New England Patriots find themselves playing in an AFC Championship. They got a first round bye...again...and they get to play in the Conference Championship Game...again, and we as Patriots fans have more or less come to expect it. With a 27-20 victory over the Kansas Chiefs, the Pats have now been to five straight AFC Championship Games and are getting ready to travel to Denver for a huge showdown against the Broncos. It was a great win, complemented by solid outings from all three units, and much of what seemed to be ailing the Patriots in December looks to be on the mend. There is still some work to do, but it couldn't be more obvious that this is a different team than what it was just a few short weeks ago.

And nobody is happier about that than me.

  • I think if I could remember how nervous I get for Patriots playoff games, I'd spend the offseason speaking counseling. This isn't healthy. All I had to eat before kickoff on Saturday was a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles and three slices of pizza.
  • And the Chiefs deferred, too, which did nothing to calm my nerves. On the plus side, at least a Chiefs kickoff means that Knile Davis can't put the game away before the fans even get back from the beer line.
  • I actually had no idea what a good return man Davis is. He has great vision and a strong second gear.
  • I wonder where that Brady to Edelman connection on 3rd and 10 on new England's opening drive will rank on the most important plays of 2015 when all is said and done. If the Patriots had gone three and out on their opening drive and then the Chiefs responded with a 17 play drive to score, this might have been a much grumpier article this morning.
  • Seeing Edelman out there for the first time had me knowing exactly how this kid feels.
  • I've only been in one fight in my life. I was maybe eight or so and my opponent was 10. I'll spare you the buildup, but I lost that fight. Embarrassing enough as it is, but the worst thing about it was I hit Shawn Alexanderson with everything I had, right in the face, and it's like I wasn't even there. Shawn pushed me to the ground and sat on my head until I was screaming for mercy. I'm reminded of that moment because of what Kansas City did on New England's opening drive. Came at them with everything, and the Patriots just marched into the end zone like it was nothing. This offense has potential to be so deadly.
  • I will say, though - absolutely fantastic answering drive from KC. Long, methodical, diverse, hit a lot of different targets, QB took off when the play broke down. Vintage Alex Smith.
  • I can't believe I just wrote "vintage Alex Smith."
  • Not only did Chandler Jones get the start but he also had a shirt on, which was nice to see.
  • Dan Fouts really is living the dream and may now be my favorite commentator in all of sports. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during his interview for his announcer job: "OK Dan, do you think you can watch a football game and then simply state exactly what just happened as if you're actually analyzing something? Maybe make an absolutely absurd and completely incorrect statement every now and then? Can you do that for us?"
  • KC limited the Patriots to just two possessions in the first quarter. That's the best recipe you'll ever see for beating this team. Good for them.
  • I wonder if Julian Edelman's custom cleat will be made illegal next season, be considered an equipment violation, and cost the Patriots six draft picks in 2017.
  • Speaking of equipment: Scott Zolak is saying that the referees flat out forgot the kicking balls & pressure gauges at their hotel and needed an escort to retrieve them before the game started. If that's true...I don't even know where to start there.
  • Tommy B was accurate for the most part to start the game, but he also threw a few into the dirt and made a few bad decisions overall. There were more than a few drops as well, but Brady had a few throws that had me shaking my head.
  • Soooo...does Dan Fouts think that every pass that falls incomplete should have been a pick six?
  • I'm going to say it and I don't care who disagrees: Superman v. Batman looks stupid. There is only one Superman out there and his name is Christopher Reeve. And while there are several Batmen out there, none of them are named Ben Afflek.
  • I really want the Patriots to have an awesome running back. They haven't really had a powerhouse in the backfield since Corey Dillon.
  • New England took a lot of bad angles defensively on the short KC passes that allowed Chiefs receivers to pick up five yards when they should have only gained two. Knile Davis had a great day making guys miss as well.
  • Whoever had "12 minutes left in the 2nd quarter" as the first mention of KC vs. NE in 2014, step forward and claim your prize.
  • Me on Kansas City's first punt of the game: "Oh lord...KC is punting. Come on, Danny, nomuffnomuffnomuff..."
  • How telling is it that the Patriots lost their starting center in the third quarter and I didn't even bat an eye?
  • What was concerning about the first half of this game, beyond that first drive, was that the Patriots were doing what they needed to do to move the ball; the execution just wasn't there - mainly in the form of drops. It goes back to everyone's big fear about this offense: RUST.
  • When was the last time Mike Carey was right about anything?
  • How many times have I asked that question this season?
  • I don't know about that Roughing the Passer call that set up New England's second score of the game. I feel like you need to have ninja reflexes to pull back on the QB if your barreling all 300+ pounds of yourself at the absolute last second.
  • Also, let's call a spade a spade here: Brady gets preferential treatment on calls like that. So does Manning. So does LeBron. Great players get calls because they have earned them through being great. It's a universal sports truth. You love it when it's your guy, you hate it and call it unfair when it's their guy. You'll be hard pressed to find bigger hypocrites than sports fans.
  • Too bad there wasn't a goal line camera on that Tommy B non-TD. Somebody should say something to the league about that. I actually can't believe somebody hasn't said something earlier.
  • What better way to cap off a 98 yard touchdown drive than a Brady sneak for a touchdown that gets him, the entire team, and the entire stadium all jacked up?
  • If Rhianna and Peyton Manning ever have a kid, it's just going to be a forehead with legs, a great voice, acting chops, and an uncanny knack for disappearing in big moments.
  • Initially, I was going to comment on the overall lack of pressure from new England early on. But after going back and watching a bit of film, I feel like at least part of it was to guard against Smith taking off. Mixed results at the end of the day.
  • I don't remember Dan Fouts wanting to see so many penalties before. Seriously; the guy was calling for a flag about seven times per drive. Maybe he just likes watching yellow flags fly around.
  • Just after the Chiefs kicked a field goal before the end of the half, my phone went off. I get NFL alerts and push notifications, so it wasn't overly unexpected. However, the push notification said "Breaking: Tom Brady Ruled Out" and I almost had a heart attack before I read "at the 1-Yd Line After Taking Shot. See video." Not cool, Bleacher Report.
  • The stretch run continues to eat this defense. That's going to pose a huge problem this weekend if the Patriots don't do something to address it.
  • Chandler Jones is one of the guys to point the finger at for that outside run defense for sure. He stunted inside a few times when he should have just held his position.
  • That said, a sack and a forced fumble is a pretty good day. It was also great to see the level of support from his teammates. I love these guys.
  • You figure when the Chiefs watched the Steelers' "Don't Cover Gronk" defensive package when reviewing game tape, they saw that it wasn't the most effective way to keep him out of the end zone.
  • That last note actually doesn't give Tommy B the credit he deserves on that TD, as he completely spun Eric Berry around. It wasn't an overly complicated offensive look; overloaded shotgun formation with Gronk in the move spot long the left side, James White in the backfield. Brady motioned Gronk out wide, and at the snap Gronk faked a quick button right as Brady executed a pump fake. Berry bit, Gronk stretched up the sideline, simple pitch and catch for six. That play was also set up by the James White flat route earlier in the drive. That's the kind of offensive play this team has been missing for months now.
  • How about Chandler Jones in the end zone to celebrate with Gronk after that score too? If this were an after school special, they would both be saying, "this is the only kind of high I need from now on!" as some awful music plays in the background.
  • Watching Jonathan Freeny come in on a delayed blitz is like watching the old knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade give a half-assed attempt to keep Indy away from the grail.
  • A 15 point lead is one of the best ways to counter the read-option offense, as it limits the playbook and forces teams to skew away from the run. Plus, KC just isn't to play from behind.
  • In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Andy Reid isn't really built to play from behind. And that man is built of a lot of things - mostly hot dogs and Mallomars.
  • Overall, pretty solid day from the defense. It was a little 2011-esque, with a number of frustrating short ins and completions before stiffening up in the red zone, and third down D wasn't great, but can't really complain too much.
  • What you can't really defend against, though, is some insane scramble on 3rd and 7 where Alex Smith inexplicably avoids nine sacks and makes a huge completion to Jason Avant out of nowhere. Do I have to add him to the list of nobodies who eat the Patriots for lunch every time they play them?
  • And why do plays like that always happen to this team?
  • I wonder what the final score of this game would have been if one of the five Patriots right in Smith's face on 3rd and 7 wrapped him up...
  • James White, man. What more does he have to do here?
  • Does anyone else get thrown off by how long some field goals end up being? Like a team can be on the six yard line, and somehow it's a 56 yard FG attempt.
  • OK...that's an exaggeration. But you know what I mean.
  • How about that...Patriots offensive line? What?
  • Seriously...O-line gets an A-plus for this game. KC's defensive front is no joke, and I don't think that Tommy B needs more than a quick spritz of Febreeze on his jersey today.
  • Speaking of Febreeze...that stuff doesn't get nearly as much credit as it deserves. If you're kind of a slob - hypothetically, of course - that stuff is a lifesaver.
  • Anyone want to tell me what constitutes defensive illegal contact?
  • Or pretty much any NFL penalty, while we're at it?
  • The secret agent guy who answers a call from his mom on the rooftop surrounded my bad guys has nobody but himself to blame. If you're otherwise indisposed, you don't pick up. How is ma supposed to know what you're doing?
  • I'll give Kansas City this: down 14 with eight minutes to play at Gillette, and I didn't feel fully comfortable with the lead. In all fairness, a 14 point lead it kind of hits a nerve for me this season.
  • You know, for such a brilliant, Hall-of-Fame coach, Bill Belichick is a mediocre challenger.
  • That said - I think challenging the Conley incompletion is the right play there. You don't need timeouts up 14, if you lose it's still 4th and 10, and if you win it's a huge play for the defense.
  • Why was Duron Harmon celebrating an interception that cost the Patriots 30 yards?
  • Why am I complaining about a huge playoff interception? #Patsfanproblems
  • Tommy B's left-handed throw as he's falling down is still better than my right-handed throw in perfect conditions. Dammit.
  • After that turnover on downs is exactly why the Patriots need a running back who can grind out yards. New England had to keep throwing to move the ball, took less than a minute off the clock, and that isn't the recipe for wins in January. That should have been the ballgame right there. Instead KC got the ball back and drove right down the field.
  • Alex Smith's deep ball really is awful. I counted at least three times where KC receivers had a step on the defender and Smith straight-up overthrew them and it wasn't even close.
  • Seriously, Jason Avant, what the hell? Where have you been all season? And how old are you? What do the Patriots do to these players?
  • Jone's knee is hurt? I know something that's really good for pain management...
  • That's it for Jones and weed jokes. The statute of limitations is up on that rib.
  • Andy Reid sure does love to bungle clock management when playing from behind in the playoffs. We owe him some thanks when he was with the Eagles, and we owe him some thanks now. Absolutely inexplicable.
  • PATRIOTS SPECIAL TEAMS COMING UP BIG!
  • Finally glad to get a chance to write that.
  • So THAT'S how it feels to get a ridiculous deflection go your way. Hmm. Not bad.
  • Holy Tebow could that Edelman reception to put the game away ended horribly. To quote the immortal Dan Fouts, "if he had managed to hold onto that ball and then run it back into the end zone, that would be a pick six."
  • And to the folks saying that the football gods have a special thing for the Patriots...I ask you to go back and look at how many times over the years the Pats have been on the business end of a play like that with much, much more on the line.
  • It was fitting, though, to see Julian Edelman coming up big, wasn't it?
  • Tom Brady has been the Patriots' starter for 14 seasons. 10 of those seasons has seen him start in the AFC Championship Game. This will also mark the fifth straight trip for the team. That's absolutely insane. I've said it before and I'll say it again - enjoy this. Block out the hate and the negativity. Leave the pessimism at the door. We're never going to experience this kind of success again. Milk it. Relish it.
  • We're on to the AFC Championship.

Huge game coming up. Denver is no joke, and Mile High Stadium is a tough place to play. It's time to prepare for what is likely the last Brady vs. Manning matchup we will ever see. Sunday can't get here fast enough.