An 11-game winning streak that was seemingly sprinkled with fairy dust and luck several times finally ran out on a cold January night in Massachusetts as the Kansas City Chiefs lost 27-20 to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs. Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski, who scored two touchdowns during the game, smothered the Chiefs last-gasp onsides kick attempt which should have ended Kansas City’s season right there.
But even then, the Chiefs luck almost made one more game-saving appearance for the defense. With the game clock at 1:13 and the Chiefs having three timeouts to stop it, the Patriots had to get a first down in order to take a knee and end the game. After Stephen Jackson getting nailed for a two-yard loss on first down, Pats QB Tom Brady fired a pass towards Gronkowski on second down, but the ball bounced off Gronkowski’s hands and floated magically in the air for two seconds with three Chiefs in the immediate area.
During the 11-game win streak, the ball would have been picked off by Marcus Peters or Tyvon Branch and returned for a game-tying touchdown, but in Gillette Stadium with the ball still warm from the charmed Brady touch, the magic wore Patriots Blue and not Chiefs Red. This time the ball fell into the arms of receiver Julian Edelman, who not only caught the ball as he fell to the ground, but he caught it for a first down. Game over.
See the complete box score of the game by clicking here.
Brady showed why he will end up in the Hall of Fame the moment he is eligible, completing 28-of-42 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns, along with a rushing touchdown. It was his ninth 300-yard passing game in the postseason, tying Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history. Showing no signs of trouble from the high ankle sprain he got during a 20-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Brady came out firing laser shots from the get-go.
On the Patriots’ opening series, Brady lined up in the shotgun and threw on 11 straight plays, completing a textbook 80-yard scoring drive capped off by an eight-yard touchdown throw to Gronkowski, who split out wide and beat Sean Smith on a back-shoulder route in single coverage. The touchdown catch was Gronk’s seventh in the postseason, tying him with Vernon Davis and Dave Casper for most by a tight end.
The Chiefs showed that their franchise-best winning streak wasn’t an illusion and put together a 17-play drive of their own that took 8 minutes and 37 seconds off the clock, giving their defense time to regroup from Brady’s opening salvo. Unfortunately, the Chiefs offense couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and settled for a 34-yard Cairo Santos field goal.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith came out almost as hot as Brady, completing passes to five different receivers and picking up a crucial first down on a 15-yard scramble on a third-and-13.
Both defenses took over at that point of the game, keeping the other team’s offense off the scoreboard. The Chiefs had survived the first quarter without getting into a deep hole, and the Patriots found out that all of their injured stars like Edelman and Gronkowski on offense and D’onta Hightower, Chandler Jones, and Rob Ninkovich on defense were fine.
Brady’s rushing touchdown with 3:25 left in the half put the Patriots up 14-3, but the Chiefs answered with a nice drive just before the half. But once again, they had to settle for three points instead of six on a touchdown when Santos booted a 32-yarder to make the score 14-6 with the Chiefs getting the second-half kickoff. The Chiefs knew that they faced a nearly impossible task as the Patriots were 65-0 entering the game under Bill Belichick when leading by seven points or more at the half.
The Chiefs opened the second half mixing nice runs with some crisp passing and moved the ball from their own 25-yard line to the New England 40 in nine plays. But it was here that arguably the play of the game happened. Smith hit running back Knile Davis with a short pass for nine yards where he was tackled by Chandler Jones. On his way to the ground, Jones knocked the ball out of Davis’ grip and Hightower recovered, giving the ball back to Brady at the New England 31.
It took Brady just five plays to move into scoring position and when Gronkowski faked out safety Eric Berry in the flat with a stutter-step and strolled into the end zone with a 16-yard catch, it was suddenly 21-6 and it looked like the second half was going to be one of those New England beat-downs that they tend to do in the playoffs.
However, like they have done all year, the Chiefs refused to die. On their next drive after Gronkowski’s second touchdown, the Chiefs put together one of their most memorable sequences of plays of the season despite leading receiver Jeremy Maclin finally succumbing to the pain in his ankle on the sidelines and Travis Kelce being blanketed by two – and sometimes three or more – Patriot defenders.
Facing third-and-7 at his own 23, Smith channeled Patriot-killer Eli Manning, who has beaten New England twice in the Super Bowl as the quarterback of the NY Giants. Dropping back to pass, Smith faced heavy pressure from the Patriots linemen. Ducking under one tackler, bouncing off another, escaping the grip of a third, and even bouncing off of guard Jeff Allen, Smith launched a pass deep down the left sideline that was snatched out of the air by receiver Jason Avant for a 26-yard gain to the Chiefs 49-yard line.
Smith completed the drive by hitting a hobbled Albert Wilson with a 10-yard strike in the corner of the end zone and the Chiefs suddenly cut the Patriots lead to 21-13 and had a ray of hope. Unfortunately, Brady was Brady and led the Pats to two field goals in the fourth quarter, pushing the lead back out to 14 points, 27-13.
The Chiefs answered right back with another scoring drive that ended with Charcandrick West plunging into the end zone from one yard out. Sadly, it is a drive that will fuel fans that don’t like head coach Andy Reid’s time management skill or Alex Smith’s ability to lead a team from behind.
The drive in question began with the Chiefs having a full complement of time outs in their pocket and 6:29 left in the game. The Patriots defense made sure KC had to dink and dunk their way down the field and they had the ball on the Patriots 1-yard line with three minutes left in the game. But Albert Wilson didn’t get out of bounds on his 19-yard catch that got the ball to the one, and then West got stuffed in the backfield losing a yard trying to run it in with 2:33 remaining in the game.
The Chiefs still had three timeouts and a two-minute warning to stop the clock, but they couldn’t get a play called in the 33 seconds from West’s run as no one on the field or the sidelines seemed to know what to do. West finally scored at the 1:18 mark, but nearly 90 seconds had been wasted. The small amount of drama after the ensuing onsides kick were of little consequence and the Chiefs season ended.
Sadly, a large selection of fans will gripe and groan all off-season about that 90 seconds instead of enjoying one of the more magical rides the Chiefs have provided their fan base in many years. There is much to be appreciated for the way the team overcame injuries to their biggest playmakers on both sides of the ball and they exceeded all expectations after everyone wrote them off when their record stood at 1-5.
Beginning tomorrow, work on the 2016 season begins.