Top 10 playoff games of the Brady/Belichick era (Part 2)
By Mike Caliri
5. 2018 AFC Championship Game at Kansas City Chiefs
January 20, 2019
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Vegas Odds: Chiefs -3.0
The 2018 regular season was not one Patriots fans were used to seeing. It was an up and down year, with New England losing to below-average teams on multiple occasions and Tom Brady looking like age finally started to catch up to him at times.
After the “Miracle in Miami” loss and the abysmal showing in Pittsburgh the following week, the Patriots found themselves at 9-5 in December, and it was beginning to look like they would have to play on Wild Card Weekend for the first time since 2009.
To find the last time that Brady and Belichick lost consecutive games in December, you have to go all the way back to 2002 – which was also the only year that they missed the playoffs (not including the year Brady tore his ACL).
However, wins in their last two games (and some help from other teams) landed the Patriots the No. 2 seed eventually and a first-round bye.
Seemingly “flipping a switch”, the Patriots rolled at home in the Divisional Round, beating the Chargers 41-28 to advance to the AFC Championship Game in Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs.
Going into the game, a lot of the talk was about the old vs. new, especially Brady vs. Mahomes. The league’s up-and-coming superstar in the making, Patrick Mahomes, came off an MVP caliber season, and Tom Brady, last season’s MVP, whose play had perhaps slipped marginally.
Most national media and even members of the local media in Boston were convinced the Chiefs would be moving on to Super Bowl 53. The best offense in the league, playing at home in a tough stadium for visiting teams, combined with the Patriots’ struggles on the road seemed like a recipe for K.C.’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1970.
The first half of the game came as a surprise to everyone, as the Patriots became the first team all season long to hold the Chiefs scoreless in a half. They were able to do this by executing long drives on offense and by getting pressure on Mahomes to throw him off his rhythm, sacking him four times.
The second half was more like what everyone expected, with points put up in bunches by both teams: the Chiefs scored 24 of their 31 in the fourth quarter and the Patriots had 14 of their own in the fourth.
The fourth quarter of this game featured four lead changes. The game was filled with tense moments and pressure situations throughout, which make this perhaps the most nerve-racking game on the entire list.
Plays like a punt midway through the fourth quarter that came within a fraction of an inch from touching WR Julian Edelman. Then on the very next play, a pass off the hands of Edelman getting intercepted by the Chiefs.
Patriots WR, Chris Hogan also made an incredible one-handed catch on a crucial third down with the Patriots trailing 21-17 in the fourth quarter. What would have been Brady’s third interception of the day and likely a win for the Chiefs, was called back because Chief’s DE Dee Ford was lined up offside.
Another ridiculous catch by Gronkowski on 3rd and 5, with under a minute and the team trailing by four, would set the Patriots up inside the five yard line, where they went on to score on the next play to go up 31-24. Kansas City would force overtime, but the Patriots won the coin toss and Brady engineered another masterful touchdown drive, converting three third-and-longs in a row at one point.
It was clear to everyone that this game was an instant classic, and that is why it made the Top 5 of a list with so many great games.