The Kansas City Chiefs dropped a tough one to the New England Patriots by a score of 37-31 Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC Championship game.
There’s a lot to digest from this game—from missed opportunities to a pretty substantial overall display of intestinal fortitude, and plenty in between, but in the end, outside of the loss, the Chiefs seemed to answer back often—a trait that should help this young team moving forward.
But for now, as Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid said in his postgame press conference, this one is going to sting.
Here are six observations from the game:
1. The Chiefs overcame a slow start
The Chiefs were trailing 14-0 after the Patriots controlled the ball for the majority of the first half.
After 30 minutes of play, the Patriots had picked up 16 first downs and controlled the ball for 21:07, compared to the Chiefs’ 8:53, and they had converted 7 of 9 third-down opportunities.
It looked to be all-Patriots until the Chiefs showed what they were made of in the second half.
The Chiefs raced out in the third quarter by putting together a touchdown drive that took a little more than two minutes off the clock. That was all the points they’d get in the third quarter, but they would figure out some things defensively as they held the Patriots to just three points in that quarter.
The Chiefs would ultimately score 24 points in the fourth quarter thanks to some big plays by their odds-on-favorite MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who helped send this game into overtime.
Mahomes threw three second-half touchdowns to give the Chiefs a chance.
2. The Patriots didn’t give the Chiefs a chance in overtime
Despite a strong second-half showing, which included watching the Chiefs go 48 yards on four plays in the games’ final 31 seconds to set up Harrison Butker’s 39-yard game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime, the Chiefs’ offense never had a chance after that.
Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady orchestrated a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive in overtime that saw them convert three-straight third-and-10 opportunities, twice to receiver Julian Edelman and a final one to tight end Rob Gronkowski, and that was too much to overcome.
Then, on second-and-goal from the two-yard line, Patriots’ running back Rex Burkhead ran it up the middle for a game-winning touchdown, which sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl for the third-straight year and the ninth time since 2001.
3. Damien Williams scored three second-half touchdowns
Williams, who has been a spark plug for the Chiefs’ offense down the stretch this season, finished with three touchdowns on the day (two receiving, one rushing).
He finished tied for the team lead with eight targets on the day, catching five passes for 66 yards to go with the two scores. He carried it 10 times for 30 yards with the one rushing touchdown as well.
4. Patrick Mahomes showed us some more of that third-down magic
The future looks bright in Kansas City and much of that has to do with the fact that Patrick Mahomes is their quarterback and looks to be one of the faces of the NFL for the foreseeable future.
Mahomes finished the game 16 of 31 for 295 yards and three touchdowns, but it was the plays he made on the run, when things had broken down, and on third down that are what made his first season so special. And we saw several of those plays on display again on Sunday night.
While there were a few throws he might like to have back, the throws Mahomes did make gave the Chiefs a chance to win, and there’s little denying that had the Chiefs won the coin toss in overtime, the result would likely have been different.
Sammy Watkins, who had missed a chunk of the season with a foot injury, finished with a team-high 114 yards on four receptions, which included key receptions of 54 and 38 yards in crucial situations. He stepped up as both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce saw considerable attention from the Patriots’ defense.
5. The Chiefs’ defense made enough plays to keep them in the game
With Reggie Ragland’s interception in the end zone early in the game, Chris Jones’ batted pass that stopped the Patriots in a crucial second-half situation, the fourth-down stop inside the red zone by Daniel Sorensen and company, or the interception by Sorensen off a tipped pass following the controversial muffed punt by the Patriots, there wasn’t a lack of plays by the defense on Sunday night.
Overall, the Patriots’ offense ran 94 total plays, which took its toll on the Chiefs’ defense late in this game.
The Chiefs had an interception called back because of an offsides penalty, and a tough roughing-the-passer penalty called on Chris Jones, who appeared to hit the shoulder of Brady at the end of a rush.
Photos from the Chiefs AFC Championship matchup against the Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium on Jan. 20, 2019
6. Despite the loss, the future is very bright for the Chiefs
There’s no way to take away the sting of Sunday’s loss. This Chiefs’ team was good enough to go to the Super Bowl and compete for a championship. They just ran into a team that made a few more plays than they did on this one particular night.
But it’s hard to believe the Chiefs aren’t going to be right in the middle of the AFC playoff picture every year moving forward considering they have one of the league’s premier players under center. Mahomes gives them that ability to be a threat every year.