The New England Patriots did not play their sharpest game of the season tonight against the Houston Texans. In the end, though, the team did enough to beat the visitors 34-16 to advance to the AFC Championship Game – just like they did in every season since 2011.
The Patriots’ sixth straight AFC title game birth does not only bring the team one step closer to the Super Bowl, it also sets a new NFL record for consecutive conference championship game appearances. New England was previously tied with the Oakland Raiders, who played in the game every year from 1973 to 1977.
Once we know who the Patriots’ opponent will be we will start looking forward to that game. For now, though, let’s take a look back at the Patriots’ previous five AFC title games:
After dismantling the Denver Broncos 45-10 in the divisional round, the Patriots’ title game against the visiting Baltimore Ravens came down to the wire. A broken up touchdown pass and a missed field goal allowed New England to hold on to a 23-20 victory. Two weeks later, the team lost the Super Bowl.
Just like this year, the Patriots beat the Houston Texans 41-28 to advance to the next playoff round. The team did not advance any further, though, as it lost 28-13 at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
Yet another blowout in the divisional round – this time of the Indianapolis Colts (43-22) – yet another loss in the AFC title game. The Patriots had to travel to Denver to face the number one seed and lost 26-16.
After one of the most thrilling playoff games in franchise history – a 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens – New England reached its fourth straight AFC Championship Game. This one was a lopsided affair as the Patriots beat the visiting Colts 45-7 to advance to and ultimately win Super Bowl XLIX.
The Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs – a potential opponent next week – 27-20 in the first playoff round before facing the Denver Broncos. The Broncos would win the game 20-18.
It remains to be seen how 2016 will be play out – but one thing is sure, reaching six straight AFC Championship Games is an impressive feature.