KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some leftover notes and nuggets from Sunday’s instant-classic AFC Championship Game, in which the New England Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium:
— The Patriots bucked two trends by dispatching the Chiefs in their own building: 1) New England had been miserable away from Gillette Stadium this season, winning just three of their eight away games. 2) home teams had been 10-0 in conference championship games in the previous five years.
Both road teams won Sunday, with the Los Angeles Rams also knocking off the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. That game went to overtime, as well.
— Rookie running back Sony Michel once again powered the Patriots’ ground attack with 113 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 29 carries, but the two most impactful rushes came courtesy of Rex Burkhead.
Burkhead scored a 4-yard touchdown to put New England ahead 31-28 with 39 seconds remaining and, after Kansas City rallied for a field goal to force overtime, scored another from two yards out on the opening drive of extra time to send the Patriots to Super Bowl LIII.
“It was great,” Burkhead said after the game. “You hope there’s not a penalty, of course, but everyone’s just excited, yelling your name, the fans are quiet. It’s an unreal moment. You don’t really feel a thing.”
The two-touchdown performance was the clear highlight of what’s been a trying season for Burkhead, who spent eight weeks on injured reserve after suffering a neck injury in Week 3.
“It’s fun,” he said. “But more than that is we won the game and we get another chance to play in two weeks.”
Burkhead’s late-game heroics came after he was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter and again on third-and-1 one possession later. He finished with 41 yards on 12 carries, plus four catches on four targets for 23 yards.
“It’s frustrating when you don’t convert on a fourth-and-short, of course,” Burkhead said, via Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal. “Definitely had some motivation to get out there and make some more plays.”
The Patriots converted three third-and-10s on their game-winning drive — two on passes to wide receiver Julian Edelman and one to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
— This victory carried special significance for Patriots safety Obi Melifonwu, a Grafton, Mass., native who grew up rooting for the team.
Melifonwu, who signed with New England earlier this season, was active Sunday for the first time since Week 14, tallying one special teams tackle.
— Wide receiver Chris Hogan has been an invisible man in New England’s offense for most of this season, but he made several important plays against the Chiefs, most notably a highlight-reel 11-yard reception on third-and-8 in the fourth quarter.
That catch extended a drive that culminated in a Michel touchdown run that allowed New England to regain the lead with less than four minutes remaining.
“Hoags made an incredible catch in the fourth quarter there,” quarterback Tom Brady said.
Hogan also opened the Patriots’ overtime possession with a 10-yard catch. He finished with five catches on seven targets for 45 yards.
The Patriots have reached the Super Bowl in all three of Hogan’s seasons with the team.
“It’s unbelievable — three Super Bowls in a row,” he said. “I don’t really have words to kind of explain that. I’m just really happy for the guys in this room. We’ve worked really hard. I just know that we love winning and we love to work. We’ve been working all year for this moment and we did it. And now we’ve got a little more work to do.”
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images