Final (OT), Patriots 37-31: The New England Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime in a thrilling AFC Championship Game.
Rex Burkhead provided the winning score on the opening drive of the extra session, plunging over the goal line from 2 yards out for his second touchdown of the game.
The Patriots, who became the first team since the early-1990s Buffalo Bills to win three straight conference titles, will face the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3 in Atlanta.
End of regulation, 31-31: The Chiefs moved the ball into Harrison Butker’s range, and the kicker booted a 39-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining to tie the score.
We’re headed to overtime, ladies and gentlemen. The Patriots won the coin toss ahead of the extra session and will receive the opening kickoff.
A touchdown wins the game. Anything else, and the Chiefs will have an opportunity to respond.
Fourth quarter, 0:39, Patriots 31-28: The Patriots are 39 seconds from the Super Bowl.
Rex Burkhead scored a 4-yard touchdown after a massive completion to Rob Gronkowski on third-and-5 set the Patriots up inside the Chiefs’ 5-yard line with less than a minute to play.
One play earlier, Gronkowski had a pass bounce off his hands and directly to a Chiefs defender for what would have been a game-sealing interception, but Kansas City’s Dee Ford was called for encroachment on the play.
Fourth quarter, 2:03, Chiefs 28-24: The Chiefs needed just 87 seconds to regain the lead.
After a drive during which the Patriots were flagged for defensive holding, roughing the passer and defensive pass interference, Damien Williams plunged across the goal line from 1-yard out to put Kansas City back ahead.
Sammy Watkins set up the touchdown with a 38-yard catch-and-run one play after Jonathan Jones dropped a potential interception in the end zone.
Fourth quarter, 3:32, Patriots 24-21: The Patriots punched back.
After falling behind for the first time tonight, Tom Brady led New England on a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 10-yard Sony Michel touchdown run on fourth-and-1.
Before Michel’s score, the Patriots benefited from a suspect roughing the passer call on Chris Jones and an incredible third-down catch by Chris Hogan that was upheld upon review.
Jones, one of the NFL’s best interior linemen, suffered an injury late in the drive and was not on the field for Michel’s touchdown run.
Fourth quarter, 7:45, Chiefs 21-17: What a thrilling fourth quarter this has been.
After being stuffed on fourth-and-1, the Patriots forced a Chiefs three-and-out, only to give up what appeared to be an incredibly ill-advised turnover when Julian Edelman tried and failed to field a bouncing punt.
Officials initially ruled the ball had touched Edelman as it shot past him, which would have given Kansas City the ball deep in New England territory. But upon review, they determined the wideout did not touch the ball, allowing the Patriots to maintain possession.
That reversal wound up mattering little, however. Two plays later, a Tom Brady pass bounced off Edelman’s hands and into Daniel Sorensen’s for an interception, and two plays after that, Damien Williams caught a short pass and took it the distance for a 23-yard touchdown.
The Chiefs lead for the first time tonight.
Fourth quarter, 9:33, Patriots 17-14: After a lengthy Patriots drive, Rex Burkhead was stopped short on fourth-and-1 from the Chiefs’ 25-yard line.
Handing the ball to Burkhead in such a pivotal short-yardage situation was an odd call. A dive by Sony Michel or James Develin or a Tom Brady sneak seemingly would have had greater chances of success.
Kansas City can tie or take the lead on this drive.
Fourth quarter, 14:51, Patriots 17-14: The Chiefs’ offense clearly has been the more effective unit in this second half.
KC just capped off a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Damien Williams. The touchdown came one play after J.C. Jackson was called for pass interference on Travis Kelce in the end zone and three plays after Williams romped down the sideline for a 30-yard catch-and-run.
The Patriots need to put some more points on the board to combat this Chiefs offensive surge.
Third quarter, 4:02, Patriots 17-7: An offensive pass interference flag on Phillip Dorsett on second-and-9 put the Patriots in a hole, but they were able to pad their lead via a 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
New England isn’t moving the ball nearly as effectively in this second half.
Third quarter, 7:38, Patriots 14-7: Key pass disruptions by J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty and a powerful pass rush — including a second-down sack by John Simon and a third-down QB hit by Trey Flowers — forced the Chiefs to punt.
Julian Edelman returned it to Kansas City’s 37-yard line, giving New England prime field position as Tom Brady and Co. look to extend their lead.
Third quarter, 10:19, Patriots 14-7: The Patriots picked up just one first down before punting the ball back to the Chiefs. Two passes to Rob Gronkowski fell incomplete, including one that was batted at the line by Chris Jones on third down.
Thanks to great punt coverage coupled with a block in the back penalty, Kansas City will begin its next drive at its own 3-yard line.
Third quarter, 12:56, Patriots 14-7: This game is far from over.
The Chiefs opened the second half by driving 74 yards on four plays to get on the board for the first time tonight. Sammy Watkins beat Stephon Gilmore for a 54-yard gain, and Patrick Mahomes hit Travis Kelce in the end zone one play later.
Kelce beat J.C. Jackson on the play, marking the first time the rookie cornerback allowed a touchdown this season.
Halftime, Patriots 14-0: The Patriots enter the locker room with a two-touchdown lead after Tom Brady hooked up with Phillip Dorsett for a 29-yard score with 33 seconds remaining in the first half.
Dorsett’s touchdown — his third in three games — capped an eight-play, 90-yard drive that included a 30-yard catch-and-run by James White.
Kyle Van Noy closed out the half by strip-sacking Patrick Mahomes on the first and only play of the ensuing Chiefs drive. This is the first time Kansas City has been held scoreless in the first half this season and just the second time they’ve failed to crack 10 points in the first two quarters (Week 6 vs. New England was the other).
A thoroughly dominant performance by the Patriots thus far. Now, let’s see if they can keep it up after halftime.
Second quarter, 3:08, Patriots 7-0: The Patriots experimented with rookie cornerback Keion Crossen on Tyreek Hill during Kansas City’s third possession, and that change came back to bite them.
Hill beat Crossen — who possesses blazing speed but still is raw in coverage — for a 42-yard gain on first-and-10 to give the Chiefs their best field position of the evening.
The Chiefs should have left the drive with at least three points, but they were forced to punt after Trey Flowers sacked a scrambling Patrick Mahomes for a 14-yard loss on third down.
The sack came two plays after Mahomes missed running back Damien Williams on what should have been an easy touchdown pass. Williams was wide open after running a wheel route out of the backfield — the same route Kareem Hunt scored his 67-yard touchdown on against the Patriots in Week 6.
Second quarter, 7:32, Patriots 7-0: The Patriots picked up two first downs — including one on a sublime third-down catch by James White — before punting the ball away.
New England has run 34 plays to Kansas City’s eight.
Second quarter, 11:57, Patriots 7-0: Three-and-out for the Chiefs, who have minus-2 yards of total offense through two possessions.
Pressure up the middle on first down helped force an incompletion, and Malcom Brown and Kyle Van Noy teamed up to stop Damien Williams for no gain on third-and-1 after a 9-yard completion to Travis Kelce.
Second quarter, 13:37, Patriots 7-0: The Patriots staged another impressive drive that spanned the final four-and-a-half minutes of the opening quarter, but it failed to produce any points.
After running the ball twice from the 1-yard line, New England opted for a play-action pass on third-and-goal, and Tom Brady’s throw to a tightly covered Rob Gronkowski was intercepted by Reggie Ragland.
The interception snapped an NFL-record streak of 237 consecutive postseason passes without one for the Patriots quarterback.
The Patriots outgained the Chiefs 119 to minus-11 in the first quarter but lead by just one score.
First quarter, 4:33, Patriots 7-0: A defensive holding call on Jonathan Jones gave the Chiefs a first down on third-and-7, but outside of that, this has been an ideal start for the Patriots’ defense.
Patrick Mahomes has yet to complete a pass — missing on two to Sammy Watkins with Stephon Gilmore in coverage — and was sacked by Kyle Van Noy on third down, resulting in the first punt of the game.
Gilmore has been shadowing Watkins thus far, with Jones on Tyreek Hill and J.C. Jackson, interestingly, on tight end Travis Kelce.
First quarter, 6:55, Patriots 7-0: The first quarter is more than halfway over, and Patrick Mahomes has yet to touch the ball.
The Patriots opened the game with a masterful 15-play, 80-yard drive that featured three third-down conversions and culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel.
Michel, who tore up the Los Angeles Chargers’ defense last week, carried the ball on seven of those plays, picking up 32 yards.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski already has surpassed his catch total from last week, catching two on two targets for 19 yards on the opening drive. Gronkowski’s second catch pushed him over 1,000 postseason receiving yards for his career, making him the first tight end ever to reach that mark.
Julian Edelman also hauled in a 14-yard reception on third-and-7.
These are exactly the kind of drives you need to have when you’re playing against an offensive juggernaut like the Chiefs.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Chiefs won the coin toss and chose to defer. The Patriots, who had Vince Wilfork out for the toss as an honorary captain, will receive the opening kickoff as we get underway at a jam-packed Arrowhead Stadium.
5:14 p.m.: The Patriots’ inactive list includes a few surprises:
— Deatrich Wise is inactive despite being removed from the injury report this week. Derek Rivers and Adrian Clayborn get the nod in his place.
— Danny Shelton is back to being a healthy scratch after suiting up for the last three games — a curious move that seems to dare Kansas City to run the ball.
— Safety Obi Melifonwu is active for the first time since Week 14. He hasn’t played a snap since Week 13.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots use the freakishly athletic defensive back, who had a role in the team’s amoeba package against the Minnesota Vikings. He has the size (6-foot-4) to match up physically with tight ends, so perhaps he’ll be tasked with covering Travis Kelce at times.
Here are the Chiefs’ inactives:
4:45 p.m.: Miss our Pregame Chat with Doug Kyed, Zack Cox and Matt Chatham? Watch it in full below.
Some scenes from pregame:
2 p.m.: Think Tom Brady is fired up for today’s game? Listen to what he reportedly had to say this week:
Yeah, fairly fired up.
This is Brady’s eighth consecutive AFC Championship Game and his 13th in 17 seasons as New England’s starting quarterback.
8 a.m. ET: Good morning from Kansas City, where the New England Patriots are preparing to do battle with the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
This is the second meeting between the AFC’s top two seeds this season, with New England taking the first 43-40 back in Week 6 at Gillette Stadium. The Chiefs are pegged as three-point favorites in today’s rematch, which will be played at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Patriots, who haven’t visited Arrowhead since their infamous Week 4 loss there in 2014, are just 3-5 away from Foxboro, Mass., this season. The Chiefs are 8-1 at home, including a 31-13 victory over the Indianapolis Colts last Saturday in the divisional round.
New England blew out the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 last Sunday to advance to its eighth consecutive AFC title game. Bill Belichick’s squad is looking to become the first team since the early-1990s Buffalo Bills to reach in three consecutive Super Bowls and the first since the 2012 postseason to win a conference championship on the road.
Thumbnail photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images