The New England Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 27-20 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday to advance to the AFC Championship game next Sunday.
Tom Brady looked like the same MVP quarterback who began the season 10-0 as he received a big boost offensively from his favorite targets in Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski. Brady finished 28-42 with 302 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and zero sacks.
Brady led the Patriots on an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive and found Gronkowski in the end zone one-on-one. Edelman and Gronkowski were targeted seven times combined with five receptions for 64 yards, including three third down conversions. “I thought we had a good plan,” Brady said. “I thought we worked hard, studied this team, watched a lot of film, so, I think the preparation was good. We had a good week of practice.”
Edelman and Gronkowski, who combined for 64 percent of the offense, caught 17 of Brady’s 28 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns. The return of the dynamic duo combined with the resurgence of the offensive line and helped revive the offense that has had its fair share of struggles during the last month.
The Patriots offensive line played made major improvements from the last several weeks and did not allow a single sack. Offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer returned to the lineup after missing the last three games with an injury.
After leading 14-6 at halftime, the Patriots offense got back on the scoreboard when a forced fumble by defensive end Chandler Jones on the Chiefs’ first drive of the second half. Brady and co. marched back down the field and scored on a touchdown to Gronkowski to increase their lead to 21-6.
Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell and Keyshawn Martin played well in their roles as No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 targets respectively. This marks the first time the offense was relatively healthy on the field at the same time since week 10 against the New York Giants. “It’s just great to have those guys back,” Gronkowski said. “They’re hard workers, they’re great players. The chemistry was clicking tonight.”
The Patriots only had 38 total rushing yards against the Chiefs and exploited some holes in their all-pro caliber secondary with a pass-heavy game plan. However, they should try to make improvements and have a more balanced approach.
Brady feels encouraged by the way the team played compared to the last several weeks and still feels the team can play better.
“I thought we did a better job today than what we’ve been doing,” Brady said. “But I think we can still do a lot better. I think we had plenty of plays out there that we left on the field, things that we can definitely do better, and I think we can be sharper next week. So that’s what we’re going to try to be. We’re going to need it.”
Brady will play for the conference title for the 10th time in his 14 seasons as a starter, which is more than 27 other franchises all together. This will mark the fifth consecutive conference title game appearance for the Patriots.
“It’s pretty special to get back to another AFC championship game,” said Brady. “It’s pretty cool. It’s hard to do, man. You’ve got to grind throughout the entire year. There’s only four teams playing next week and we’re one of them. That game means a lot.”