For a team with 16 playoff appearances since the year 2001, 8 AFC championship titles and 5 Super Bowls, it seemed utterly baffling to the football world when Tom Brady proclaimed after beating the Chargers:
“I know everybody thinks we suck and, you know, we can’t win any games, so we’ll see. It’ll be fun”
I agree and disagree, obviously the Patriots can win games; look at the stats above. Nobody thinks they suck; New England is the gold standard of winning in any team sport. Teams, coaches and players look to them from all across the globe in every sport imaginable to see if they can try to sniff the same sort of success they have.
The Patriots this weekend will be on the road as they head to Missouri to face the Chiefs. In Brady’s long and illustrious career every AFC title game he’s played on the road he’s lost. A stat that every Kansas City fan will be pointing to for some hope this Sunday.
In Between the Tackles
The Patriots will look to run the ball in order to drain the clock, sustain drives and keep the ball out of the grasp of Patrick Mahomes. Last week Sony Michel had 129 yards rushing with three touchdowns on route to their 41-28 win. He did this with an outstanding blocking performance by the Patriots offensive line, fullback James Devlin and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Also, don’t forget about James White who had a postseason record 15 catches against the Chargers. They will all need to play well against the Chiefs defensive line in order to help New England advance to the Super Bowl. If they can manage to do that then they will most likely be booking their tickets to Atlanta. This is because since 2000 Bill Belichick is 59-1 when he has a 100-yard rusher.
With Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Chris Jones combining for 37.5 sacks together during the regular season, look out for the Patriots, to use a lot of screens, quick crossing routes and play-action passes to limit their pass-rushing prowess. With New England in the playoffs, you have to think about them dialling up a trick play. It’s almost tradition for the Patriots. With Julian Edelman’s touchdown throw against the Ravens coming to mind. Look for Brady to connect with Edelman and Gronkowski against a porous Chiefs secondary.
Fly to the ball
With defensive co-ordinator Brian Flores reportedly off down to Miami after this season. From last week’s game, you can see why, Flores created a wonderful game plan, full of blitzes and stunts to fool Phillip Rivers. In that game, the Patriots had 28 total pressures! His preparation and communication will be for New England to try and limit the Chiefs.
With only one superstar on their defence in cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Flores and co need to find a way to slow down Kansas City’s offence. Which is more explosive than a film directed by Michael Bay. I think the Patriots will aim to constantly put pressure on Mahomes in order to force him into a mistake. They’ve done it before but with Kansas City able to score in the blink of an eye, they will have to keep their concentration. That is something very difficult in a stadium as loud as Arrowhead.
Tom Brady has played very well this season but not at his usual incredible level. He’s ranked 7th in yards (4,355 yards), 10th in touchdowns (29) and 15th in interceptions. But in the playoffs, he’s a different beast, you know about all the wins and comebacks. So, here’s a stat you’ll like after the Chargers game last week; Brady has thrown 228 consecutive passes in the playoffs without an interception. With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, he’ll be fired up and doing everything he can to get back to win.
Finally, I do agree with Brady. It will be fun.
Image from www.sbnation.com
Alex Riley is a 49ers fan who’s followed the game since 2010, He’s currently at the University of Leicester. You can find him on Twitter at @NFLRiley and his blog at www.rileynfl.wordpress.com