KANSAS CITY, Mo. — First, they were going to Kansas City. Now they’ve got Georgia on their mind.
Rex Burkhead plunged over from the 2-yard line in overtime to give the Patriots a 37-31 win over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Bill Belichick’s club now heads to their third straight Super Bowl, where they’ll face the Rams in Atlanta in two weeks.
Patrick Mahomes, the NFL’s new young gun, threw three second-half touchdowns and the Chiefs erased a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit and tied late in regulation, but it was savvy veteran Tom Brady who led his club back to the Super Bowl.
Brady powered a 13-play 75-yard drive in overtime, never letting Mahomes get his hands on the ball.
The Patriots certainly got the start they wanted, embarking on a lengthy and time-consuming initial drive after the Chiefs elected to defer following a coin toss win.
Striking a near perfect balance (Sony Michel 32 rushing yards, Brady 38 passing yards), Brady moved his troops 80 yards on 15 plays, taking a whopping 8:05 off the clock.
The journey exhausted the Chiefs defense and wore out the Arrowhead Stadium crowd, which just minutes earlier had been at full throat.
Michel opened the drive by ripping off an 11-yard run and closed with a 1-yard touchdown burst.
Brady was 4 of 5 on the drive, with his only incompletion a rare drop by James White. The drive was fueled by a pair of third-down conversion rushes from White.
When the Chiefs finally got their hands on the ball, they couldn’t hold onto it for very long. The host’s first drive ended after five plays when Kyle Van Noy sacked Mahomes for a 14-yard loss.
The Patriots went right back to work on their second possession, moving down the field methodically. Just when it looked like they would double their lead, disaster struck in the form of Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland.
Faced with a third and goal from the 1, Brady tried to sneak a quick pass over the middle to Rob Gronkowski, but Ragland rose up and snagged it for the interception and touchback.
The Chiefs could not take advantage, however, as their second drive ended with a three-and-out when Van Noy and Malcom Brown stuffed Damien Williams for no gain on third and 1.
Brady and Co. were held without points on their next possession, but they did drain another four minutes off the clock before Ryan Allen pinned the Chiefs at their 15 on a short, high punt that Hill had to fair catch.
Mahomes heated up on the Chiefs’ next possession, and back-to-back throws to Sammy Watkins (14 yards) and Tyreek Hill (42 yards) got the Chiefs to the New England 23. Mahomes missed a chance to tie it when he sailed a pass over a wide-open Williams in the end zone. The momentum ended when Trey Flowers came crashing in off the edge to sack Mahomes for a 14-yard loss.
The Patriots took over with 3:08 left in the first half and seemed content to run out the clock when they started their drive with four straight Michel runs.
Then White showed up. Again.
The speedy back picked up 44 yards on three plays — a 5-yard catch, a 30-yard catch and run, and 9-yard run — to the Kansas City 29.
Brady then promptly dropped a dime into Phillip Dorsett’s arms in the end zone, again silencing the crown, and extending the Patriots’ lead to 14-0.
Mahomes got the ball back with 21 seconds left and was immediately sacked for a 10-yard loss by Van Noy. The quarterback’s next run was to the locker room for halftime.