Patriots Travel to Kansas City in Search of History, Third Straight Super Bowl Appearance
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Senior Editor // January 20, 2019
6:40 p.m. ET kickoff on CBS
ABOVE VIDEO: The Patriots take on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game set for 6:40 p.m. Sunday on CBS.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA– For the second time in the past four years, the top four teams in the NFL will meet on Conference Championship Sunday.
In the AFC, the No.1 seeded Kansas City Chiefs will host, who else, the No.2 seed New England Patriots and in the NFC, the No.2 seed Los Angeles Rams will travel to face the top-seeded New Orleans Saints.
There are several intriguing aspects to these games. Each contest is a rematch of two of the better games played in the league this season and for the first time since the conference championship games were adapted in 1970, the four highest scoring teams during the regular season have reached the final four.
During the 2018 regular season, the Chiefs led the league with a scoring average of 35.3 points per game, followed by the Rams (32.9), Saints (31.5) and Patriots (27.3). The game features the two winningest active coaches in the Patriots’ Bill Belichick (290 wins) and the Chiefs’ Andy Reid (207 wins).
It’s up to the leagues top four teams to make this playoff season a little more compelling.
The average margin of victory during Wild Card Weekend was a little under a touchdown (5.75 points) but that doubled in the Divisional round as the top seeds entered the mix and won by an average margin of nearly two touchdowns (11.5 points)
ABOVE VIDEO: New England produced the highest point total of their season in their home matchup against KC but they also surrendered the most points in any one game all year during their 43-40 win.
The Patriots and Saints each delivered the Chiefs and Rams their first losses of the season when they met back in weeks six and nine respectively.
New England produced the highest point total of their season in their home matchup against KC but they also surrendered the most points in any one game all year during their 43-40 win.
In the game, the Chiefs nearly overcame a 24-9 halftime deficit thanks to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his 352 passing yards but Patriots QB Tom Brady played like he was 21, not 41, as the G.O.A.T passed for 340 yards and accounted for two scores.
The Chiefs tied the game with a little over three minutes to play but it simply became a matter of when not if Brady would lead the Patriots to the game-winning score.
Brady led the Pats on a six play, 55-yard drive that chewed up all but three seconds of the game clock and culminated with a 28-yard Steven Gostkowski field goal to give New England the win.
ABOVE VIDEO: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes had a special season. He became just the third quarterback in NFL history to have 50 or more touchdown passes in a season, Peyton Manning holds the NFL record as he finished with 55 in 2013.
PATRIOTS VS CHIEFS:
- SERIES RECORD – Chiefs lead 18-15-3
- LAST MEETING – Patriots beat Chiefs 43-40, Oct. 14, 2018
- LAST WEEK – Patriots beat Chargers 41-28; Chiefs beat Colts 31-13
- PATRIOTS OFFENSE – OVERALL (5), RUSH (5), PASS (8)
- PATRIOTS DEFENSE – OVERALL (21), RUSH (11), PASS (22)
- CHIEFS OFFENSE – OVERALL (1), RUSH (16), PASS (3)
- CHIEFS DEFENSE – OVERALL (31), RUSH (27), PASS (31)
Many football fans are hoping for a Kansas City victory on Sunday over New England. The reason you’ll hear many of them give is they simply are tired of watching the Patriots play for the Vince Lombardi trophy.
But do we really appreciate what we are watching New England accomplish during the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era?
This past season, New England won its 10th consecutive division title, the longest streak in NFL history and to add salt to the wounds of the haters, the Patriots are the only team to win 15 division titles in a 16-year span.
With their win over the Chargers last Sunday the Patriots will be playing in their eighth consecutive AFC Championship Game, the first team since the 1970 merger to play in eight consecutive Conference Championship Games.
In all, this is the franchises 15th Conference Championship appearance, 13 of them have come with Bill Belichick as the coach and Tom Brady under center.
With a win on Sunday, the Patriots will set a new NFL record for most postseason wins in a decade with 15 and will improve their all-time franchise mark in the playoffs to 36-20 (.643), the best playoff winning percentage in NFL history among teams that have played at least 15 playoff games.
On the flip side, the Chiefs are playing in just their second conference championship game since 1970. Their only appearance came in 1993 when Joe Montana was under center for the Chiefs. Kansas was beaten up by the Buffalo Bills who were on their way to losing a third straight Super Bowl.
During the Brady Belechick era, the Patriots are 5-4 vs. teams during the regular season that they face in the conference championship game and 5-4 in the rematch in the conference championship game vs. teams they played during the regular season.
ABOVE VIDEO: Max Kellerman says Bill Belichick clearly deserves more credit than Tom Brady for the New England Patriots’ 41-28 win vs. the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC Divisional Round. Kellerman credits Belichick’s game plan and Sony Michel’s three rushing touchdowns for outshining the Patriots’ passing game.
During that same time, New England has swept the regular season and conference championship game on four occasions as they defeated the Colts (twice), Chargers and Steelers in 2003, 07, 14 and in 2016.
For the Patriots to sweep for the fifth time, they will have to battle forecasted severe cold conditions and a Chiefs offense led by Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes had a special season. He became just the third quarterback in NFL history to have 50 or more touchdown passes in a season, Peyton Manning holds the NFL record as he finished with 55 in 2013.
The other quarterback to throw 50 touchdowns during the regular season will be standing on the opposite sideline on Sunday. Tom Brady had 50 TD passes in 2007.
This past season KC ranked first in the NFL in scoring (third in NFL history) with a franchise-record 565 points (35.3 ppg). The club led the league in yards per play (6.84) and ranked first in the NFL in yards per game (425.6).
Mahomes had 300 plus passing in 10 games this season led the league with 52 throws of 25-plus yards. He had plenty of weapons on the receiving end of the throws.
Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill finished fourth in the NFL with 1,479 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Hill had five TDs of 50 yards this season. Tight end Travis Kelce had career-best 1,336 yards receiving and has now caught a pass in 79 consecutive regular-season games.
For all of the talk of how bads the Chiefs defense was this season, they tied for the league as a unit in NFL with 52 sacks.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones has 15.5 sacks and set an NFL record this season with a sack in 11 consecutive games. Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford has 11 QB pressures that caused turnovers or fumbles this season, including a strip-sack against Indianapolis last week
ABOVE VIDEO: Patriots rookie running back SonyMichell rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns in his postseason debut, while running back James White caught 15 passes in the divisional round, tying an NFL postseason record.
If New England is to win they will have to rely on their rushing attack to keep Mahomes and the Chiefs explosive offense off the field.
Patriots rookie running back Sony Michell rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns in his postseason debut, while running back James White caught 15 passes in the divisional round, tying an NFL postseason record.
Michell, a first-round draft pick, surpassed 100 rushing yards in five of his 13 games this season. The Chiefs’ defense has been one of the worst in the NFL at stopping the run and Michel accounted for 102 of the Patriots’ 173 rushing yards in their win over with Chiefs earlier this season.
Tom Brady will have to rely on the short passing game as he has done with great success on Sunday if the Pats are to advance to their third straight Super Bowl.
Brady will look to Julian Edelman who simply racks up yards and catches in the playoffs. Brady has targeted Edelman 10 or more times in each of the Patriots’ last 10 playoff games and he’s excelled averaging eight catches and 101.6 yards per game during that span.
Last week in the divisional round, Edelman tied his career high with 191 yards on nine catches. Edelman will likely be covered by Chiefs slot corner Kendall Fuller, who according to Pro Football Focus has allowed 19 catches on 23 targets for 206 yards and has missed five tackles over the last three games.
The venue matters in the NFL, especially in the playoffs. The first game was played in New England where going back to 2001, the Patriots are 19-3 in the playoffs but just 3-4 on the road.
This past season, including Saturday’s dominant win over the Chargers, New England went a perfect 9-0 at Gillette Stadium and posted a league-best point differential of 143, winning their home games by an average of two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
On the road, they went 3-5 and finished with a negative-19 point differential (17th).
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are 8-1 at home this year and their win over the Colts on Saturday snapped a six-game home-playoffs losing streak. Kansas City will have to hope they exorcized all the home-field playoff demons.
Home teams have won each of the last 10 conference championship games. The last road teams to advance to the Super Bowl were the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 postseason.
ABOVE VIDEO: Lamar Hunt is the original owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. The winner of the AFC Championship game receives a trophy that bears his name, which the Chiefs have never won.
The Kansas City Chiefs are three-point favorites. This the first time New England has not been favored in a postseason game since the 2013 AFC Championship a 26-16 road loss to the Denver Broncos. The last time the Patriots were underdogs in a game Tom Brady started was Week 13 in 2014 at Green Bay.
When the Chiefs last played in the Super Bowl, Len Dawson was matriculating the ball down the field for head coach Hank Stram as Kansas City upset the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings, 23-7 in Super Bowl IV, following the 1969 season.
The first quarter could be an indicator as to how this game might go. Kansas City outscored their opponents by 91 points in the first 15 minutes of a game this season. In their regular season matchup with the Chiefs, the Patriots won the first quarter 10-6 and the game 43-40.
But that game was in New England and Kansas City is arguably the toughest place to win a road game, much less the Chiefs first-ever home AFC Conference title game.
In fact, Arrowhead Stadium set the Guinness world record for the loudest outdoor stadium during September 2014 game between guess who, the Chiefs and Patriots.
To take it a step further, New England has not won a road playoff game since beating Chargers 24-21 in the divisional round in 2006 season.
The Chiefs have scored at least 26 points in every game this season and while I think the weather will prevent this game from duplicating the 83 total points the teams combined to score earlier this season in their game, I do think the Chiefs score their 26 and a few more in this contest.
As long as Andy Reid doesn’t outthink himself or stops thinking altogether, for the first time in franchise history, the trophy that bears the name of their founding owner, Lamar Hunt, will be hoisted in Kansas City as the Chiefs advance to their first Super Bowl in 49 years.
PREDICTION: Kansas City Chiefs 30 New England 14
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