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Patriots Advance to Another AFC Title Game: Instant Observations

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You can seemingly take away almost all of the New England Patriots weapons, but as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain, they will always be a legitimate title contender.

New England didn’t appear to be world’s better than the Kansas City Chiefs, but everything you thought would happen, happened, and the Pats won, 27-20

Here are some observations from Saturday’s game.

Patriots

  • When you have what will be the two best players in the history of the game at their respective positions, and one of them is the quarterback, it’s going to take an extraordinary effort to beat them.  It is a treat to watch Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski play football, and they really are a pair of legends.  The last time a team had two of the best ever was the 1980’s San Francisco 49ers with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.
  • On Sunday, Tom Brady will play in his 10th AFC Championship Game.  He’s won six of them and just getting to 10 is a truly amazing accomplishment.
  • The Patriots defense makes you play left-handed.  Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia take away what you do best and force you to beat them with a secondary weapon.  With Jeremy Maclin injured, Travis Kelce was the Chiefs best weapon and he was virtually invisible.
  • When the Patriots have all of their offensive weapons, the offensive line isn’t as big of a concern.  Brady gets the ball out of his hands quickly and makes life easier for everyone.
  • New England is probably the best team ever at answering big moments/drives.  Alex Smith led the Chiefs down the field for a third quarter touchdown to pull within eight points.  New England calmly responded with a field goal drive to make it a two possession game.
  • The Patriots linebackers are much better than they get credit for.  Jamie Collins is a fantastic football player who is as versatile as any linebacker in the game.  Rob Ninkovich is a perfect fit in their system and Dont’a Hightower always seems to be in the right position.
  • James White is going to make a huge play before this postseason is over and he’s been so good that Dion Lewis really hasn’t been missed.

Chiefs

  • It was a really nice season for Kansas City, and an 11-game winning streak is something to be very proud of.  They probably could have beaten the Denver Broncos in the playoffs, but New England was just a tough matchup, especially at Gillette Stadium.
  • It’s detrimental for any team to play from behind, but especially for the Chiefs.  Their offense isn’t built to score in a hurry against a team that tackles well, and a lot of that is the design of the scheme, Alex Smith’s arm and the receivers.
  • Jeremy Maclin might not be the Chiefs MVP, but he was the most important player outside of Smith and his absence caused an already non-explosive offense to be that much more ordinary.
  • Alex Smith is good enough to win a Super Bowl with.  He’s one of the most mobile quarterbacks in football and although he doesn’t have a plus arm, he makes the most of what he does have.  He’s not good enough to elevate mediocre players as Brady does, but he won’t be the reason why you lose in the playoffs.
  • Andy Reid’s clock management continues to be horrible.  He’s a great coach that most teams would love to have, outside of two-minute situations.  Reid’s mismanagement of the clock potentially cost the Chiefs a scoring opportunity at the end of the first half.  Ultimately, it wouldn’t have affected the outcome, but it’s a mistake that you never see the Patriots make.
  • The Chiefs pass rush was almost completely nullified by Brady’s release and the Pats offensive line.  Kansas City needed a huge effort from the line and linebackers and they didn’t get it.
  • Kansas City didn’t have enough playmakers on either side of the ball, as well as special teams. To beat the Pats in New England, you need special efforts and they didn’t get enough of them.  For example, with the Chiefs down eight on the first play of the fourth quarter, Marcus Peters dropped an interception that would have stalled a New England drive where they eventually kicked a field goal.  That could have been a huge momentum shift.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.