The New England Patriots will move onto their 10th AFC Championship game since Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe 15 years ago. Even more than that,the last time the Patriots missed the AFC Championship was after their Divisional Round loss to the New York Jets on January 16th, 2011. Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski led the team with four catches for 65 yards in that game.
After a weird week that involved a Chandler Jones synthetic marijuana fiasco and a Bill Belichick black eye, the Patriots came out firing with an eleven play drive capped by a Gronkowski 8-yard touchdown reception to start the game. All eleven plays were passes from Brady.
Patriots fans liked what they saw as they began to recognize this offense as the one they saw back in October. Gronkowski and Julian Edelman were crucial as they accounted for just over 60% of Brady’s 28 completions in the game. Keyshawn Martin also chipped in with two receptions for 57 yards.
The Patriots all but abandoned the running game as the team’s leading rusher was Steven Jackson with a measly six attempts for 16 yards. Even late in the game when most teams would turn to the ground game to run the clock out, Brady and the Patriots stayed committed to the short passing routes.
The turning point for the Patriots was a ten-yard run by Brady with 3:34 left in the second quarter. On the next play Brady pulled off the classic “over the top” QB sneak for the touchdown to give New England the 14-3 lead. Gillette Stadium was in pandemonium and we got this fantastic moment from Brady:
It’s that Jordan-esque and persistent competitiveness from Brady (thanks to his avocado ice cream and lack of coffee consumption) that sets him apart from Peyton Manning and other quarterbacks in the league. That’ll be a story for Friday’s blogpost, though.
New England, starting Marcus Cannon at right tackle, caught a break as Kansas City’s Justin Houston was nagged by his prior injury and played only 14% of the defensive snaps for the Chiefs. A healthy Houston would’ve tormented Cannon.
Running back Charcandrick West rattled off a few nice runs and added a touchdown late in the 4th quarter, but it was too late for Kansas City. Patriots finished off the Chiefs after New England recovered the ensuing onside kick and, luckily gained a first down on a tipped pass bounced off a double covered Gronkowski and landed in Edelman’s hands.
As usual I’ll have the AFC/NFC Championship picks posted later this week. The official Manning-Brady encore will start at 3:05pm on Sunday. Highlights from the Patriots 27-20 victory over the Chiefs: