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After Further Review: Patriots-Chiefs

A film breakdown of New England's AFC Championship victory over Kansas City 


First Three Quarters

…As they did a week ago versus the Chargers, New England's offense opened the game with the ball first and used stellar blocking by the offensive line, fullback James Develin, and tight end Rob Gronkowski to give running backs Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead good lanes through which to carry the ball, as well as superb pass protection for QB Tom Brady.

…Michel ran especially hard throughout the night, beginning on the opening series. He also displayed good patience with his blockers and vision to find running lanes when they were available. His TD to cap off the first drive came thanks to a great block by Develin on the left side of the formation.

…Defensively, the Patriots played very well for three quarters of the game. On the Chiefs' first drive, though, CB Jonathan Jones earned a defensive holding penalty while trying to stifle WR Tyreek Hill near the line of scrimmage. Just a little overzealous grabbing by Jones. That particular penalty was warranted.

…New England's defensive front did a wonderful job of pressuring K.C. QB Patrick Mahomes all night, beginning with a sack on 3rd-and-10 by LB Kyle Van Noy. The Patriots blitzed five men on that play, with Van Noy stunting from the right side up the middle to drop Mahomes for a 14-yard loss. Thus ended the Chiefs' lone first-quarter possession.

…At the start of the second quarter, Chiefs LB Reggie Ragland didn't overreact to Brady's play-action fake to Michel on 3rd-and-goal from the 1. Rather than attack the line of scrimmage, Ragland hung back, which allowed him to step into the path of Brady's throw to Gronkowski, who was running a crossing route in the end zone. Easy INT for Ragland. Had he been more aggressive against the run, Gronk had beaten his defender for a likely score.

…Excellent run-stuff at the line of scrimmage by DT Malcom Brown on 3rd-and-1, which forced a Chiefs 3-and-out drive.

…New England receivers made some unbelievable catches on this night, starting with White's remarkable grab on 3rd-and-7 on the Patriots' side of midfield. White had to adjust his body while being tightly guarded by a Chief and he managed to make the catch one-handed as he spun clockwise 180-degrees.

New England was highly efficient on third downs versus K.C., converting two out of every three during this game. This was one of the more memorable ones in the early going.

…For all his world-class speed, Hill caught just one pass Sunday night. Granted, it went for a 42-yard gain, but that was his one and only contribution on the stat sheet. He was targeted three times by Mahomes, but the Patriots did a mostly excellent job of guarding him, often with a safety helping out the corner.

…As he did in the earlier meeting this season in Foxborough, Mahomes missed a wide-open receiver in the end zone for what would have been a sure touchdown when he overthrew RB Damien Williams on 1st-and-10 from the NE 23.

…Two plays later, the Patriots again blitzed Mahomes with five players. The other six defenders provided excellent coverage downfield, so, Mahomes had to hold onto the ball as his pocket collapsed. DE Trey Flowers power-rushed RT Mitchell Schwartz to be the first of the blitzers to reach Mahomes. That took the Chiefs out of field goal range.

…White made another difficult third-down reception to pick up a first down near the end of the first half. Coming out of the backfield uncovered, he was underthrown a pass by Brady, but again adjusted his body deftly to make the catch and move the sticks.

…What made WR Phillip Dorsett's end-of-half TD reception even more remarkable was the fact that he was blatantly interfered with by Chiefs CB Steven Nelson. No flag was thrown by Clete Blakeman's officiating crew, so, the Patriots were fortunate that Dorsett was able to make the play with Nelson draped over him.

Dorsett initially beat Nelson with an out-and-up move, and Nelson reacted by grabbing Dorsett before the ball arrived. There should have been a flag thrown even though he made the catch.

…Van Noy had a solid performance against Kansas City. One highlight was his strip-sack of Mahomes to close out the first half. Van Noy used his speed and a nice rip move to beat left guard Cam Erving in order to get into the backfield and bat the ball out of Mahomes' hands from behind.

…CB Stephon Gilmore had a good game overall, but his most glaring miscue came when he gave up a 54-yard pass to WR Sammy Watkins on 3rd-and-2 from the K.C. 34 to start the third quarter. Watkins ran a deep in-route before cutting upfield and Gilmore slowed down a bit when Watkins ran the in. That's how the receiver got open to make the catch.

…Rookie CB J.C. Jackson then got beaten for the first Chiefs TD on the next play by TE Travis Kelce. Jackson didn't get a good-enough jam on Kelce at the line of scrimmage, which allowed the bigger player to get a free release and put himself in position to box Jackson out for the ball at the goal line.

…A traditional four-man rush managed to bring down Mahomes for a sack midway through the third quarter. All four defenders collapsed the pocket and contributed collectively in the takedown.

4th Quarter & Overtime

…The game really got going midway through the fourth quarter, after the Patriots failed to convert a 4th-and-less-than-a-yard in Chiefs territory. Though the Patriots' D then forced a Chiefs punt, it was that punt that seemed to ignite the frantic final eight minutes of regulation.

That punt bounced short of return man Julian Edelman, who then made an attempt to field the ball. In real time, it appeared the ball hit Edelman on either the hands or right arm or both, but slow-motion replays clearly proved it didn't. The original ruling on the field of a muffed punt recovered by Kansas City was correctly overturned by the replay officials in New York.

…When a Brady pass went off Edelman's hands and into a Chiefs' two plays later, K.C. had its first chance to take a lead and it capitalized. New England's D was fooled by a great play design – a screen to the left set up to look like a rollout to the right.

The Patriots bit on the well-executed fake by Mahomes and his offensive teammates. The two receiver to the left came across to the right, drawing their secondary defenders. Meanwhile, only two Patriots linemen stayed put on that side, meaning they'd eventually be outnumbered as nine other Patriots went to the other side to follow Mahomes' rollout.

When Mahomes turned and unloaded the football to Williams, he made the easy catch, had plenty of blockers in front of him, and raced the 30 yards or so to the end zone. Kudos to Andy Reid and his group for coming up with this clever play.

…Brady made some excellent throws throughout this game, but he also received help from his receivers at times. WR Chris Hogan, for instance, made one of the catches of the year for New England when he speared a slightly overthrown Brady pass with one hand, brought it to his body, and managed to keep control as he fell to the ground.

The play was ruled a catch and rightly challenged by the Chiefs, as it was a really close call. Replay video showed that Hogan never lost control of the ball, even though the pigskin might have made slight contact with the grass. The ruling was properly upheld by New York.

…What a good night for Gronkowski. Not only did he provide superb run-blocking yet again, he made a number of crucial catches, including an 11-yard pickup on 1st-and-10 from the Chiefs' 30., during which he shed to would-be tacklers to pick up the extra necessary yardage.

…While Michel racked up more than 100 yards on the ground yet again, it was Burkhead, his backfield mate, who picked up much of the slack late in the game. Burkhead's fresh legs and quick, darting moves helped the Patriots maintain possession and put needed points on the board. Burkhead also contributed with a number of important pass receptions on these final drives.

His return from IR earlier this season has proven significant to the Patriots' ability to be versatile in the backfield and offensively in general.

…Michel's final TD came from what appeared to be Brady audibling out of the original call. It seemed the Patriots were going to run Brady on a QB sneak on 4th-and-inches from just outside the K.C. 10, but the Chiefs clogged the area in front of center/co-captain David Andrews. Brady made a signal to his teammates pre-snap, and while the Chiefs' front collapsed the middle of the o-line, Michel took the handoff to the right side, where there wa a dearth of defenders. He easily raced into the end zone untouched.

Wonderful awareness by Brady.

…Jackson's naturally aggressive play on defense cost the Patriots again when he threw down a Chiefs receiver and incurred a deserved defensive holding penalty. The infraction wiped out a great forced fumble of Kelce by Gilmore and a recovery by LB Dont'a Hightower deep in Chiefs territory.

…Jackson's next PI penalty two plays later was a questionable one, however. If seen that type of hand-fighting both called as penalties and not called so many times before, it easily could have been a non-call. On the same play, Van Noy received a roughing-the-passer penalty for hitting Mahomes at the knees as he unloaded the pass. That was a proper call by Blakeman's crew.

…Great KO return by Cordarrelle Patterson to help set up New England's last TD of regulation. Patterson made a nice move early to evade a couple of Chiefs and pick up 38 yards on the runback.

…What a tremendous catch by Gronk on a perfectly lobbed ball by Brady down the left sideline with under a minute to play in the 4th. Safety Eric Berry was guarding Gronk as tightly as legally possible, but had his back turned to Brady, who floated a precision pass that Gronk adjusted nicely for in the air to come down with a 25-yard gain inside the Chiefs' 5.

…Gronk, Edelman, and Hogan made several clutch receptions on the lone overtime drive to sustain the possession for New England. Their precise route-running was what got them open for Brady to target them.


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