Patriots-Chiefs Film Review: Tom Brady’s Numbers Lied In AFC Title Win


January 22, 2019

Tom Brady is still a few Clydesdale gallops away from that cliff some people like to talk about.

The Patriots quarterback orchestrated another comeback win Sunday night in New England’s 37-31 AFC Championship Game victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. And that was after he looked relatively mortal over the first three-and-a-half quarters of action when he threw two interceptions (one of those clanged off Julian Edelman’s hands; the other was quite ugly and costly).

Brady led the Patriots to touchdowns on their final three drives of the game to advance to Super Bowl LIII. The Chiefs took their first lead with 7:52 left in the fourth quarter when they went up 21-17 after quarterback Patrick Mahomes connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass to running back Damien Williams.

The Patriots responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off with a 10-yard touchdown run by rookie Sony Michel.

The Chiefs scored again on a 2-yard run by Williams.

Brady and the Patriots responded with a six-play, 65-yard drive capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by Rex Burkhead.

The Chiefs kicked a field goal to end regulation knotted at 31-31.

After the Patriots won the coin toss, they drove 75 yards on 13 plays. Burkhead scored the game-winner with a 2-yard touchdown run.

This is where numbers can lie. Brady finished the game with just a 77.1 passer rating. He went 11-of-19 for 147 yards with a modest 82.6 passer rating over the last three drives. Brady didn’t throw the touchdowns that finished off those offensive series, but the Patriots wouldn’t have outdueled the Chiefs without Brady completing intermediate pass after intermediate pass after intermediate pass on third down in those three drives.

(Brady also did throw an interception that was called back by an offsides penalty against Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford. That ball careened off tight end Rob Gronkowski’s hands.)

This ball traveled over 20 yards.

And it was placed perfectly in front of Edelman, running a deep slant against man coverage.

This ball traveled over 20 yards.

And it was placed perfectly for Rob Gronkowski to catch a jump ball over safety Eric Berry on a fade route against man coverage.

This ball traveled over 20 yards.

And it was placed perfectly in front of Edelman, running a seam route against man coverage.

This ball traveled 20 yards.

And it was placed perfectly in front of Edelman, running a slant against man coverage.

This ball traveled 15 yards.

And it was placed perfectly in front of Gronkowski, running a slant against man coverage.

You get the point.

In five years, it will be easy to stare at the stat line and deduce the Patriots’ run game carried a struggling Brady. The offensive line and run game were fantastic, but Brady certainly didn’t struggle. The numbers might not show it, but Brady put forth another vintage performance especially when it mattered most.

Some other notes from this week’s film review:

— Rookie cornerback JC Jackson had his worst game of the season, but he began the game with a difficult and strange matchup against tight end Travis Kelce. Overall, he let up four catches on seven targets for 89 yards with a touchdown. Jackson let up 38 yards when he got trucked by wide receiver Chris Conley on a pick play before this catch by Sammy Watkins.

Jackson also was flagged three times.

— Linebacker Kyle Van Noy continued to prove why he’s one of the most underrated players in the NFL. He had two sacks and four hurries on just 16 pass-rush snaps.

— Linebacker Elandon Roberts has almost become a situational run defender, similar to an edge rusher. He had one of his best games in coverage Sunday, however.

— Brady relied heavily upon Edelman and James White in the Patriots’ divisional round win over the Chargers. Gronkowski was added to the mix Sunday. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett only had one 29-yard catch, but he made it count. This probably should have been pass interference on top of being a touchdown.

— We’ve said it many times at this point, but this was a special performance by the Patriots’ offensive line.

Brady was hit just once all game, and the Chiefs didn’t register any sacks. The Patriots piled up 176 yards on 48 carries with four touchdowns, and it wasn’t due to overly special performances by Burkhead, White and Sony Michel. They took what was given to them, but the Patriots’ offensive line was allowing them plenty of space.

Thumbnail photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images
NFL official John Parry
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