KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The New England Patriots pulled out a thrilling, instantly iconic, flat-out bonkers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday to advance to Super Bowl LIII, winning 37-31 in overtime in the AFC Championship Game.
The game’s fourth quarter alone was an epic in itself, featuring 38 total points, four lead changes, multiple game-alerting penalties and massive swings in momentum on both sides.
For those who had trouble keeping up in real time, here’s a rundown of every insane moment from the final quarter and overtime on an incredible evening of football at Arrowhead Stadium:
15:00 remaining, Patriots ahead 17-7
Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson is called for pass interference in the end zone on tight end Travis Kelce, giving the Chiefs the ball at New England’s 1-yard line. One play later, quarterback Patrick Mahomes flips a 1-yard touchdown pass to running back Damien Williams to cut the Patriots’ lead to three.
9:38 remaining, Patriots ahead 17-14
With the Chiefs’ offense surging, the Patriots opt to go for it on fourth-and-inches from Kansas City’s 25 rather than try an easy field goal. They make the puzzling decision to hand the ball to Rex Burkhead, who’d rarely been used in short-yardage situations this season, and Burkhead is stuffed for no gain by safety Daniel Sorensen, resulting in a turnover on downs.
This would not be the last we heard from Burkhead or Sorensen.
8:47 remaining, Patriots lead 17-14
The Patriots force a Chiefs three-and-out, and Julian Edelman initially lets Dustin Colquitt’s punt bounce. Then, however, Edelman decides to try to pick up the bouncing ball as it shoots toward him. He misjudges the hop, and the ball grazes his thumb as it whizzes by, giving Kansas City possession after Gehrig Dieter recovers.
Or does it? Edelman argues that the ball never touched him, and a lengthy video review ensues.
After several minutes of consideration, the play is reversed, allowing New England to retain possession. Edelman’s relief is short-lived, though, because …
8:06 remaining, Patriots lead 17-14
Two plays after the near-muff, Edelman has a pass from Tom Brady bounce off his fingertips and directly to Sorensen, who returns the interception 24 yards to the Patriots’ 23-yard line.
Edelman is leveled by linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the return, and the Chiefs need just two plays to claim their first lead of the night, with Mahomes finding Williams again from 23 yards out.
7:10 remaining, Chiefs lead 21-17
Play is temporarily stopped while security wrangles an unruly fan who made his way onto the field holding a “VOTE TRUMP” sign. He’s tackled to the ground after 15 or 20 seconds and brusquely escorted away.
On the next play, Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones is called for a dubious roughing the passer penalty after his hand just barely grazes Brady’s facemask. The penalty turns what would have been a third-and-7 for the Patriots into a first down.
6:25 remaining, Chiefs lead 21-17
Patriots receiver Chris Hogan makes an acrobatic catch over the middle to pick up 11 yards on third-and-8. Kansas City challenges the call — replays showed the ball might have come loose as Hogan went to the ground — but the ruling is upheld.
3:35 remaining, Chiefs lead 21-17
After Burkhead is stuffed again on third-and-1 from the Chiefs’ 10, the Patriots bring on rookie running back Sony Michel for their second fourth-down attempt of the quarter. Brady audibles at the line and Michel follows blocks by fullback James Develin, tight end Rob Gronkowski, right tackle Marcus Cannon and Edelman into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown.
3:21 remaining, Patriots lead 24-21
The Patriots appear to drive a nail into Kansas City’s coffin when cornerback Stephon Gilmore strips the ball from Kelce on the second play of the ensuing Chiefs drive and linebacker Dont’a Hightower recovers. There’s a flag, though — another one on Jackson, this one for defensive holding on wideout Sammy Watkins.
3:07 remaining, Patriots lead 24-21
More costly penalties for New England. An incompletion that would have set up third-and-10 is wiped away after linebacker Kyle Van Noy is called for roughing the passer and Jackson is hit with another DPI. Jackson’s is accepted, resulting in a 23-yard gain for the Chiefs.
3:02 remaining, Patriots lead 24-21
A Mahomes heave to Tyreek Hill in the end zone hits cornerback Jonathan Jones in the stomach and falls incomplete.
2:54 remaining, Patriots lead 24-21
The Chiefs get away with an illegal pick on Jackson that springs Watkins for a 38-yard gain down to the Patriots’ 2. Williams scores yet another touchdown — this one of the rushing variety — one play later to put Kansas City back in the lead.
1:01 remaining, Chiefs lead 28-24
On third-and-10 with the game on the line, Brady fires a pass into the flat that clangs off Gronkowski’s hands and is intercepted by cornerback Charvarius Ward.
But wait, there’s a flag. And this time, the Patriots are the beneficiaries. Edge rusher Dee Ford is penalized for lining up in the neutral zone, wiping away what would have been a game-sealing pick.
0:54 remaining, Chiefs lead 28-24
Still facing a third-and-5 after Ford’s penalty, Brady goes right back to Gronkowski. The big tight end beats former All-Pro safety Eric Berry one-on-one down the left sideline for a gorgeous 25-yard pickup down to the Chiefs’ 4.
It’s the biggest moment in what overall has been a frustrating season for Gronkowski and might be the play of the year for the Patriots.
0:42 remaining, Chiefs lead 28-24
One play later, the Patriots call Burkhead’s number again. And on his first touch since his fourth-down stuff, the running back delivers, getting key blocks from Develin, right guard Shaq Mason and left tackle Trent Brown and breaking a tackle at the goal line to put the Patriots ahead once again with 39 seconds to play.
0:11 seconds, Patriots lead 31-28
Thirty-nine seconds is too much time to leave Mahomes and the Chiefs’ explosive offense, who almost immediately move into field-goal range with back-to-back 20-plus-yard completions to Spencer Ware and Demarcus Robinson. After a shot into the end zone soars out of bounds, Harrison Butker trots on to bury a 39-yard field goal that sends the game to overtime.
15:00 remaining, tied 31-31
The Patriots win the toss. They want the ball, co-captain Matthew Slater declares. On the first snap, Brady hits Hogan on a 10-yard out to move the chains.
13:40 remaining, tied 31-31
After a Burkhead run for no gain and an incompletion, the Patriots face third-and-10 from their own 35. Fail to convert, and the Chiefs would get the ball needing just a field goal to win. Brady stands in the pocket and delivers a bullet down the middle to Edelman, who absorbs a big hit as he picks up 20 yards. First down.
12:51 remaining, tied 31-31
Two plays later. Third-and-10 again after an incompletion to Phillip Dorsett and a Cordarrelle Patterson drop. Edelman motions toward the formation and wraps around Dorsett, providing him enough separation to beat Ward for another huge third-down conversion. This one goes for 15 yards down to the Chiefs’ 30.
12:10 remaining, tied 31-31
As if this game couldn’t get more ridiculous, Josh McDaniels dials up a flea flicker on first-and-10. Brady’s pass to Hogan in the end zone falls incomplete, and another to Patterson on the next play hits the turf, as well, setting up yet another third-and-10 scenario.
Sorensen takes a few steps toward the line of scrimmage just before the snap and glances in Edelman’s direction, and Brady fires a pass to Gronkowski in the exact spot the safety vacated. Gronk beats Berry on a quick slant and drags him to the 15-yard line.
10:10 remaining, tied 31-31
Burkhead finishes the job himself, rushing for 10 yards, 3 yards and 2 yards on the next three plays to send the Patriots to Super Bowl LIII.
Thumbnail photo via Mark Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images