Posted on January 21, 2019, by Travis Pulver
The game plan for the new England Patriots heading into Sunday’s AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs was likely pretty straightforward. Do whatever it takes to score more points than the Chiefs and keep the ball out of the hands of Patrick Mahomes as much as possible.
The strategy worked wonders during the first half as the Patriots had drives of 8:05, 5:56, and 4:25 to start the game. Kansas City couldn’t get their offense on track and gained only 32 yards as the Patriots got out to a 14-0 lead.
But then, much like their Week Six contest, the Chiefs made a few changes at halftime and started seeing some success in the second half. Kansas City took the lead for the first time after Mahomes connected with Damien Williams on a 23-yard touchdown.
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Kansas City’s offense looked good finally and it appeared like the Patriots might be in trouble. But then the Chiefs defense couldn’t stop them. New England answered the Williams touchdown with Sony Michel’s second score of the day a few minutes later.
Now that the Chiefs offense was awake, it didn’t take long for them to respond with the third touchdown of the day for Williams. But with 2:03 to go, Brady had plenty of time to get the Patriots back in the end zone—and did with a four-yard plunge by Rex Burkhead.
As nice as the drive was, Brady made one mistake—he scored too fast. With 39 seconds on the clock, Mahomes had plenty of time to get the Chiefs in position for a game-tying field goal, which he did (with eight seconds to go from 39 yards out).
At this point, it had to have been clear to both teams that whoever started overtime with the ball needed to win the game on the opening drive. If they didn’t, then the other team would. So, when the Patriots won the toss and began the opening drive, they knew what they had to do.
Thirteen plays later, Rex Burkhead plunged into the end zone from two yards out to secure the win, 37-31. The Patriots had to convert on third and long three time on the drive. But they also got lucky; Brady threw what would have been his third interception of the day but Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford lined up offsides negating the play.
“… They said I was in the neutral zone. I’ve got to see the ball,” Ford said after the game (NFL). “I’ve got to see the ball. Especially at that time in that game and what was at stake, I’ve got to see that ball.”
Mahomes never touched the ball in overtime. New England led in time of possession, 43:59 (including OT) to just 20:53 for the Chiefs. Sony Michel paced a run game that gained 176 yards and scored four touchdowns with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.
The Patriots may need to take a similar approach when they face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on February 3.