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28.03.2019 07:24
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KANSAS CITY Reggie Ragland Jersey , Mo. (AP) — It's the dead of winter, meaning the weather in New England can be brutal. And that the Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl.It took them overtime and more of Tom Brady's brilliance to get there — for the third straight year. While the folks back home dealt with a frigid storm, Brady blew through Kansas City's exhausted defense on a 75-yard drive to Rex Burkhead's 2-yard touchdown run in a 37-31 victory Sunday for the AFC championship.The drive, during which New England (13-5) had three third-down conversions, was reminiscent of when the Patriots beat Atlanta in the only Super Bowl to go to OT two years ago. "Overtime, on the road against a great team," Brady said. "They had no quit. Neither did we. We played our best football at the end. I don't know, man, I'm tired. That was a hell of a game."Awaiting them in Atlanta are the Los Angeles Rams, who won 26-23 in overtime in New Orleans for the NFC championship. The Rams (15-3) last made the Super Bowl in 2002 while based in St. Louis, losing to the Patriots.New England benefited from two critical replay reviews and made its ninth Super Bowl with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach."This is crazy," said Brady, who was 30 of 46 for 348 yards. "What a game."It's the first time both conference title games went to OT. The last time both visitors won conference championship matches was 2012; New England was 3-5 on the road this season."We knew what our record was, but we didn't let that dictate us," said defensive end Trey Flowers, who led a staunch charge on Patrick Mahomes. "Whatever happened in the regular season happened. We came out and did it when it counted."Several times, the Patriots appeared to have it won, only to see Kansas City (13-5) come back in spectacular fashion.Brady, at 41 already the oldest quarterback to have played in a Super Bowl, drove New England 65 yards in 1:24 to Burkhead's go-ahead 4-yard touchdown with 39 seconds left in regulation. That was enough, though, for his far younger counterpart, the 23-year-old All-Pro Mahomes, to take the Chiefs 48 yards to Harrison Butker's 39-yard field goal with 8 seconds left to force overtime.It was a sizzling offensive showing in the fourth quarter after defense had been in charge most of the way. Indeed, the Chiefs were blanked in the opening half for the first time all season.And they never saw the ball in overtime, which along with the two replay decisions might call into play NFL rules and officiating."I thought if we got the chance," Mahomes said, "we'd score."Mahomes finished 16 of 31 for 295 yards and three touchdowns.New England became the third franchise to reach three Super Bowls in a row. And Belichick now has 30 postseason victories, more than Bill Walsh and Don Shula combined. That Hall of Fame coaching duo also won five Super Bowls; Belichick shoots for No. 6 in two weeks.An apparent muff by the usually reliable Julian Edelman on a fourth-quarter punt return was overturned by a lengthy video review, prompting raucous booing and some demonstrative arguing from the usually laid-back Andy Reid. Edelman definitely touched his next try when Brady's pass deflected off his hands directly to safety Daniel Sorensen. His 22-yard return set up Kansas City at the Patriots 23, and Damien Williams, who scored three times, had no defender near him down the left sideline for the score that made it 21-17, KC's first lead.Back came Brady, engineering a 75-yard march on which Chris Hogan's diving one-handed catch on third down appeared to touch the ground. Reid challenged — and lost.Minutes later, rookie Sony Michel scored from the 10, his second TD of the night.With 3½ minutes remaining, there was plenty of time for more points. Williams' 2-yard run gave the Chiefs a 28-24 edge that New England took up most of the remaining time overcoming. The Patriots were helped by an offside call on linebacker Dee Ford that negated an interception which would have clinched a KC victory.Butker's field goal sent it to overtime."We put ourselves in position to win the game, that's what makes it so tough," Reid said. "If it's a rout, you chalk it up to experience. But this one right here Dee Ford Color Rush Jersey , where you're in it to win it, that's a tough deal. We gave ourselves every opportunity to do it, and they got us in overtime."The Chiefs hadn't been blanked in any half this season, but they barely were a presence in the first 30 minutes, when they had the ball for 8:53. Mahomes was sacked three times for 43 yards; Kansas City's record-setting attack ran only 16 plays and gained a mere 32 yards.The zero disappeared quickly in the third quarter. Finally given solid protection, Mahomes unleashed a 54-yard completion to Sammy Watkins over All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He then hit another All-Pro, tight end Travis Kelce, on a slant to make it 14-7 — and awaken the slumbering crowd.But one of several bad decisions further damaged Kansas City when Tyreek Hill, the All-Pro flex player, retreated deep in Chiefs territory returning a punt. Eventually, KC had to punt and the Patriots had excellent field position, setting up a 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.Not one to be shy about innovation, Mahomes completely sidearmed a throw to Watkins for 10 yards on a third down, then a dump-off to Williams covered 33. Kelce drew a pass interference call on J.C. Jackson in the end zone, and Mahomes threw a strike to Williams for the score.Although the Chiefs were on their heels much of the night, they were down only 17-14.LOPSIDED FIRST HALFJust as they did last week in manhandling the Chargers early and cruising, the Patriots delivered a message — and a touchdown — on their first series. It was a classic, covering 80 yards in 15 plays and using up more than eight minutes. Michel, who had 113 yards rushing, scored from the 1.But Brady made a rare mistake on the next dominant drive. His third-down pass from the 1 for Rob Gronkowski was short and Reggie Ragland picked it off.Brady had never thrown an interception from the 1.When the Chiefs finally got a trademark big play on Mahomes' 42-yard completion to Hill, it went for naught. Mahomes overthrew a wide-open Williams near the end zone, then took a 14-yard sack to send KC out of field goal range.Big mistake.The Patriots kept dominating the line of scrimmage, Brady took them 90 yards and connected with Phillip Dorsett over sloppy coverage by Steven Nelson to make it 14-0 with 27 seconds left in the half.STATSIn Week 6, the Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in a game featuring 946 yards total offense. This one had 814. … New England has played in eight straight AFC title games, but this is its first road playoff win since the 2006 season vs. San Diego. … Brady matched former Patriots K Adam Vinatieri, now with the Colts, for the most wins in NFL history (236). … Kansas City's defense tied for first in the NFL with 52 sacks, but had none on Sunday. New England had four.COIN TOSSReid's decision to defer after winning the opening coin toss proved unwise as New England had 22 plays in the opening period, and Kansas City had seven. Then, the Chiefs lost the more important toss before overtime. Less than five minutes later, they were headed to the offseason.UP NEXTThe Patriots head to Atlanta to play the Rams in the Super Bowl. Thanks to the Christmas holiday, we’re combining Week 17’s pundit power rankings (typically published on Tuesdays) with our Wednesday True Power Rankings.It would have been perfectly reasonable to expect that the Chiefs — after losing to the Los Angeles Chargers in primetime a week ago Thursday and following that with a 38-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in front of another national audience on Sunday night — would have fallen dramatically in the eyes of the national writers.But if watching Die Hard is one of your Christmas traditions, you’ve already been reminded: It’s Christmas, Theo. It’s the time of miracles.And we seem to have a fully-formed Christmas miracle on our hands: the Chiefs have held steady with the pundits.Pundit Power Rankings for Week 17Chiefs AFC West Teams Other AFC TeamsHere's what the pundits we're tracking said about the Chiefs this week:ESPN (3rd from 3rd) (Elliot Harrison - 4th from 3rd)Sporting News (Vinnie Iyer - 4th from 3rd)Yahoo! Sports (Frank Schwab - 4th from 2nd)CBS Sports (Pete Prisco - 3rd from 4th)USA Today (Nate Davis - 5th from 5th)Other power rankings we noticed this week:Bleeding Green Nation (Brandon Lee Gowton — 9th from 3rd) Andy Reid’s team is just 2-3 in their last five games. One of those wins was a narrow overtime victory over Baltimore. Another was just a seven-point difference over Oakland. Missing Kareem Hunt hurts. And the defense is a problem.Mile High Report (Pete Baron — 8th from 5th) Oh, how the once mighty have fallen. I just don’t get it, KC. I thought this was the year you didn’t pull the usual tank job in December and then January. Sure, January has yet to happen, but damn! You do realize that in order to stop getting the history thrown in your face like a drink after using a lame pick up line, you gotta actually do something to change it, right?Washington Post (Mark Maske — 8th from 5th) Nothing was really lost, at least not yet , with the defeat Sunday night in Seattle. The Chiefs still can wrap up the AFC’s top seed with a win Sunday at home over the Raiders. But it doesn’t appear that this team is peaking as the postseason nears. The Chiefs will enter the AFC playoffs appearing vulnerable, even if they win Sunday.NBC Sports Pro Football Talk (Mike Florio — 5th from 3rd) Even with the MVP on the roster, this team seems to be too flawed to get to the Super Bowl.Houston Chronicle (John McClain — 5th from 3rd) Even though the Chiefs lost at Seattle, a victory over Oakland at Arrowhead Stadium will give them home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.It’s not that the pundits are blind to the faults the Chiefs have exposed in recent weeks — based on their comments, they see these clearly — but as we have seen several times this season, they think the faults of other teams (particularly the Chargers and Texans) are worse.After ranking them ahead of the Chiefs for the first time since Week 1, the pundits savaged the Chargers, dropping them to sixth place after their 22-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.I’ll be honest: that wouldn’t have been my take.I watched the Chargers-Ravens game in its entirety, and the Chargers’ 12-point loss was deceptive.With just under three minutes to go, it was clear the Chargers were about to do exactly what the Chiefs had done to the Ravens two weeks ago: hand them a narrow loss in a relatively low-scoring game.But then Antonio Gates fumbled, the Ravens returned it for a touchdown, and suddenly the game was over.Was the Chargers’ loss to the Ravens worse than the Chiefs’ loss to the Seahawks?In my mind, it wasn’t.The Chargers lost their game on a single play, while the Chiefs lost their game on multiple plays.This week, it’s almost as if some kind of bizarre selective recency bias is taking place with the pundits: they’ve already forgotten that the Chargers beat the Chiefs just a week ago, and used the way the two teams played the Ravens to justify ranking the Chiefs above the Chargers.This kind of thinking would seem to violate every argument we’ve ever seen pundits use to justify their rankings.Or... maybe the pundits are simply feeling so guilty about ignoring the Seahawks — and the very fine season Russell Wilson has had in 2018 — that they couldn’t bring themselves to downgrade the Chiefs for their loss.The fact that the Seahawks made the top tier of teams for the first time all season might lend some credence to that theory.Or... maybe the pundits simply saw the amazing throws Patrick Mahomes continues to make and were reminded how they consider quarterback play to be among the most important facets of the game.But as you’ll see, the number-crunchers had no such crises of conscience.Cruncher Power Rankings for Week 17Chiefs AFC West Teams Other AFC TeamsThe Chiefs held steady in all the data-based models except SRS, and remain in second place with the number-crunchers.Hmmm.Well, maybe the pundits had some idea what they were talking about after all.As we see here, the data-based models (except DVOA) gave the Chargers a similar hit for their loss this week.We even see that Elo has now caught up with the rest of the models, and counts the Ravens among the league’s best teams — just as the pundits did.Which brings us — as always — to this week’s True Power Rankings.True Power Rankings for Week 17Chiefs AFC West Teams Other AFC TeamsSince the Chiefs held steady with both the pundits and the crunchers, it’s therefore no surprise that they remain in third place in this week’s combined rankings.There aren’t a lot of big movers in the combined rankings.The biggest difference between the pundits and the crunchers is the Miami Dolphins, a team that is ranked 10 spots higher by the pundits.But this is hardly new.As we see here, when compared to the crunchers, the pundits have been overvaluing the Dolphins since about halfway through the season.The big spike with the pundits (of course) followed the Dolphins’ last-second victory over the New England Patriots in Week 14.It’s hard to blame the pundits for being excited about that, but the following week’s beatdown by the Minnesota Vikings — and this week’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars — brought most of the pundits back to Planet Earth.Interestingly, though, both of the poll-based pundit rankings — ESPN and MMQB — still see the Dolphins are an average team.And now, here’s your weekly reality check.Cruncher Grades for Week 17Chiefs AFC West Teams Other AFC TeamsAs we have seen for a number of weeks now, five or six teams (including the Chiefs) remained grouped at the top, a handful of teams are clustered at the bottom, and there’s a whole-lotta-mediocre going on in between.Put any of these top teams against each other on a neutral field, and it would be very hard to reliably pick a winner.The playoffs promise to be interesting.Snark of the weekDidn’t see a lot of first-quality clever snark from the pundits this week, so we’ll close with a trio of comments about the Denver Broncos — just because we can.Mile High Report’s Pete Baron surely didn’t think we’d let the Broncos off the hook easily after his comments this week about the Chiefs!Nate Davis, USA TodayVinnie Iyer, Sporting NewsMark Maske, Washington PostJust one week to go.Let’s enjoy the Week 17 games, and on Tuesday, we’ll start the New Year with our final round of calculations.


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