There ya have it folks. For the fifth straight year, and for the tenth time in the last fourteen seasons, the Patriots are on their way to the AFC Championship game after beating the Chiefs by a touchdown Saturday night. Even though the score was 27-20, I don’t really think the game was that close. A garbage time touchdown brought that score closer and all, but the Patriots were up for the entire game. Here are my five thoughts from the win:
- The common thing I saw, despite not being able to put away Kansas City (more on that later) was “start slow, finish strong”. I’m specifically talking about two things. The first- Julian Edelman. In his first game back since breaking his foot against the Giants, #11 caught 10 balls for 100 yards even. By his standards, that’s a casual night for Jules, however, he had some bad drops and bad routes in the first half. I’m not worried, because rust is obviously a thing and he obviously shook it off. It was refreshing to see him end the game on a high note, and we can expect him to do more of the same next week. The other is the defense. Despite only giving up 3 points on the first drive, they looked really, really sloppy. Continuously, KC had manageable third downs which kept their drives alive. The Chiefs, known for their signature drives that sap time off the clock, played their game for the first quarter. After that? They were done. Don’t get me wrong, they left plays on the field. They only sacked Alex Smith one time, they allowed 12 third-down conversions in 20 attempts, and they allowed sizeable runs at a time. At the end of the day, 20 points let up is 20 points.
- It isn’t a Pats article without talking about injuries, am I right? Yesterday, all possible, able hands (everyone who wasn’t deemed out for the year) were on deck. And offensively, I thought the Pats looked very good. Sebastian Vollmer played excellent, and his return stabilized the rest of the offensive line, who didn’t allow TB12 to get sacked once. I’ve talked about Edelman already, but Rob Gronkowski was also dealing with a plethora of ailments. How did he respond? 7 catches, 83 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 Gronk Spikes, and a partridge in a pear tree. Defensively, I thought Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung really played well in their return. They hit hard, finished tackles, and made their presence known on the field. However, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Jerod Mayo all left with different injuries at different points. The only one to return, if I’m not mistaken, was Hightower. Should that cause concern? Maybe, I guess. But all the Pats players showed today that, 100% or not, they’re on the field if it’s a gameday in January. I don’t know the extent of the injuries as I write this (10:30 on Sunday morning), but expect all hands to be on deck again.
- Danny Amendola had a thunderous his on a punt return. If you haven’t seen the play, watch it here or check it out below. To set the scene, the ball was most likely going to be downed within the 10-yard line, and as a player, you are allowed to block someone to make sure that doesn’t happen. Amendola launched himself into an unsuspecting Jamell Fleming, which started a scrum and led to the chippiness that was there for most of the game. I’m all for physical football, and I understand making the play. If there’s one thing that play did, it was to set a tone that the game was going to be physical. Okay, that’s fine. Also, I get the whole “low-risk, high-reward argument”, since the penalty was only about two and a half yards. I still sit here and think it was a stupid decision. Sure, it paid off in retrospect. But, he could’ve either gotten himself ejected or given himself a concussion. We all know that Amendola of all people has been one of the most prone players to injury ever since he came into Foxborough. I won’t call Amendola a wuss again, but I’m not going to sit here and say I think that hit was okay. You play for the Patriots, bro, not the Bengals.
- Tom Brady looked great again. In the first few drives, he missed a few throws. A few were ruled drops, but realistically speaking, they could’ve been better balls. In the game as a whole? Masterful. He ended the day 28 for 42 with 302 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Oh by the way, he had a sweet 10-yard run to the goal line and snuck it in on the ensuing play. It was one of his better playoff games in the last few years, in my opinion, and it was against a KC secondary that I put in the top five of all of football. Brady was fired up start to finish yesterday, and he looked like a man possessed. PSA to Pittsburgh, Denver, Seattle, Carolina and Arizona (sorry Green Bay)- that is not a good sign for you. Like, at all. He’s always motivated to go get that next ring, but he’s hellbent on getting it and forcing the Dictator himself, Roger Goodell, to hand him the Lombardi Trophy yet again like the peasant the commissioner truly is. #DriveForFive #OneForTheThumb #GoodellWearsAShowerCap
- Maybe it was in the game plan, maybe it wasn’t. I ain’t complaining, since the Pats won. But there was absolutely no running game yesterday at all. I’m not saying rush the ball 20+ times. I’m just saying that the defense sitting on just pass can lead to bad things. Steven Jackson, James White, Brandon Bolden and Tom Brady aren’t exactly going to score defenses, but if you can get your running backs involved a little bit, it forces the defense to respect the run. Who knows? Maybe you get a big play out of it. We’ve entered an age in pro football where one does not need a great running back to win a Super Bowl. However, I don’t think that you can be as one-dimensional as the Patriots offense was yesterday. I’m not complaining, I’m merely suggesting for the next time around.
- This afternoon, Pittsburgh plays Denver in the other game in the Divisional Round. I don’t know who the better scenario would be. I put out a poll on Twitter yesterday, and I’ll update this article when the results are final. It strikes me as most people want Pittsburgh, because it means a game at Gillette. Big Ben Roethlisberger is really banged up, and while he’ll be in there, he won’t be his usual self. Out this week is Antonio Brown, but supposing they beat Denver, the Steelers could have him back supposing he passes concussion protocol. Pittsburgh’s defense is also very, very suspect. That’s all fine and good, but I see them as a Patriots-killing team. I’m not saying that I think New England loses a game like that, I’m just saying that it isn’t an automatic win. Denver obviously has a dominant defense, obviously has two good receivers, and obviously would be playing at home. Quarterbacking that team would be Peyton Manning though, and against the Patriots in the cold, regardless of the stadium, I always think that’s favorable. I don’t know, I’d be okay with a game against Manning in his prime, but especially now in his inability to throw, I’d take them again. I guess I’ll side with ‘rooting’ for the Steelers today so the Pats don’t have to travel. But the Steelers, to me, are a better team matchup-wise against the Pats.
There was more to take away from yesterday’s win, but those are the biggest things that crossed my brain. Think I missed something? Think my opinions are wrong? Comment below and let me hear what you think. See you next Sunday, Patriots fans.
Cover photo courtesy of kansascity.com.
GIF courtesy of SB Nation.