The New England Patriots did it again. All the haters were pissed at the end of the night, all the doubters, once again, proven wrong (I’ve never been so happy to be wrong). With everything that was lined up against them, the Patriots once again came away victoriously, and now they’re headed back to the Super Bowl for the third year in a row.
Did New England play a perfect game? Not even close, but, in the end, it was enough.
The team completely dominated the first half, and was still “only” up 14-0 at the break. That’s because Tom Brady threw a terrible goal line interception. If Reggie Ragland hadn’t picked it off, the guy covering Rob Gronkowski had a shot at it too. Tough to have a play worse than that at the goal line.
Then, Julian Edelman, on almost back-to-back plays, made two of the worst plays you’ll ever see. The punt was worse because there is no excuse for him being in that position, but the drop that led to the Daniel Sorensen pick was more costly, giving the Chiefs the ball with great field position. Lastly, another drop that was picked, this one intended for Gronk was called back because Dee Ford inexplicably lined up in the neutral zone. I don’t know how it’s possible to line up in the neutral zone with 1:01 left in the game, up four points, but he did.
For all the mistakes that were made, the Patriots executed when they needed to.
After the interception on the pass to Edelman allowed the Chiefs to take the lead, the Patriots scored touchdowns on each of their final three drives: 10 plays for 75 yards, 6 plays for 65 yards, and 13 plays for 75 yards in overtime. On that final drive, Brady was 4 for 9, with all his completions going for first downs, including three in third-and-long situations. That was a legacy drive for Brady, and boy did he come through. Just another feather in his illustrious cap.
But it wasn’t just Brady. Yes, the defense faltered in the second half, but it was them who shut down the Chiefs in the first. The pressure they put on Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was unrelenting, and, although the Chiefs eventually figured it out (they always did this year), they were able to slow down the best offense in football just enough.
The running backs also played great. Sony Michel was outstanding again, and Rex Burkhead was fantastic on the final two drives of the game. Edelman made up for his costly errors by putting forth an amazing effort to help them get back in the game. He takes a ton of punishment over the middle, and never slows down. Chris Hogan made some great plays, including the sensational third down catch that Kansas City challenged. For a guy that was basically ignored all year, he played well, as did Phillip Dorsett who only had one catch, but it went for a touch, through a defensive pass interference that wasn’t called. And Rob Gronkowski, who people questioned all year, finally showed some of the old Gronk.
The offensive line needs its own paragraph, because it was that good. Their individual numbers were insane, including Shaq Mason winning every matchup on passing downs. But it’s what they were able to do as a unit that made them so special. Throw James Develin in with them too, because he deserves the recognition. The first two offensive drives combined took 26 plays, and they took 14 minutes off the clock. That’s the way you beat any team, especially one that is as dominant on offense as the Chiefs are.
The biggest show of their dominance is a simple one: they ran 97 plays, and only one of them went for negative yardage. It was Tom Brady’s kneel down at the end of regulation. No sack, no rushing attempts blown up in the backfield, no screen passes snuffed out, just total and complete domination by the guys up front.
Now the Patriots head to their NFL-best eleventh Super Bowl. Tom Brady will have played in nine, which is more than any other franchise in NFL history. They’re playing the team this all started with, except they have the same coach and quarterback while the Los Angeles Rams have had four different coaches (six if you count interims), and countless starting quarterbacks since that fateful day 17 years ago.
What Brady and Belichick have done is unprecedented. We are witnessing the best ever perform at their highest level. The best part is, they’re not done yet.
Pat is the host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats
Welcome to the Pats Pulpit Live Postgame Show: AFC Championship Edition The Patriots win a wild one and are headed to Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta!Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, January 20, 2019