Patriots headed to Super Bowl. Again
The New England Patriots victory over the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, Jan. 20 was a nerve-wracking rollercoaster-of-a-ride to watch, but will probably go down as one of the greatest games in NFL history.
The AFC Championship game was a slugfest, with both teams attacking each other with urgency, knowing that a victory meant a trip to the Super Bowl. The game had it all for the football enthusiast: laser-like passes, acrobatic catches, hard hits, big plays, lead changes, controversial calls, and dreaded replay challenges. There was also a vintage, seen-it-before, game-winning drive by quarterback Tom Brady in overtime.
When it was all said and done, the Patriots did what they have done many times over the last two decades: they refused to lose. In doing so, they earned the right to advance to Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3. It will be their 11th trip to the big game, which is an NFL record.
The Patriots will be playing in their third consecutive Super Bowl; the team’s fourth appearance in five years. They’ve won two of the last three, and are the third team to reach three straight, along with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.
With the victory the Patriots tied the Pittsburgh Steelers for most postseason victories in NFL history with 36 wins, and will be gunning for their sixth Super Bowl ring under Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.
The Patriots have come full circle with their victory over the Chiefs, as they began their dynastic run back in 2001 with a 20-17 victory over the then, St. Louis Rams, in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans. That was the year Brady took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe, and the rest was history.
This postseason, the Patriots played the underdog role with a chip on their shoulders, and used a balanced offensive attack to beat the Chiefs. The offensive line provided an impenetrable wall around Brady, and the defensive line was disruptive, harassing QB Patrick Mahomes all game long.
The Chiefs offense sputtered early in the game, before mounting a second half attack. It was like watching a boxing match in the fourth quarter, with each team trading haymaker punches. But the Patriots pulled it out, and will now face a similar-style team in the Rams in the Super Bowl.
The Rams are led by head coach Sean McVay, who compiled a 24-and-8 record over two seasons. On the field, QB Jared Goff has played well, although inconsistently, and is complemented by running backs C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley. At receiver, ex-Patriot Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds, and Robert Woods, along with tight end Tyler Thigbee, can catch the ball and make some plays.
On defense, the Rams, ranked second in total defense, will try to put pressure on Brady with defensive ends Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. However, the back half of the Rams’ defense is vulnerable. Although ex-Patriot Aqib Talib, and Nickell Robey-Coleman, are solid cornerbacks, the Rams linebackers are susceptible to being picked apart.
It’s hard to imagine that the Rams will give the Patriots more trouble than the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. The game will be played inside a dome on turf, so the Patriots should have sure footing to execute their offense, while devising a scheme to slow the pass rush.
At press time, the Patriots were 2.5 point favorites in Super Bowl LIII, which will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m., and broadcast on CBS.
Cash’s pick: Patriots 34, Rams 24