Whether fans like it or not there is the very real reality that the New England Patriots make another Super Bowl this season. Credit where credit is deserved, they are arguably the best dynasty in NFL history. The Kansas City Chiefs are the last line of defense in keeping the Patriots from the promise land once again.
December 9, 2018— TOM MARTIN (@TomKCTV5) January 17, 2019
2:54 PM – Patrick Mahomes completes a 4th and 9 to Tyreek Hill, leading to Chiefs comeback win in OT
3:09 PM – The Miami Miracle vs. the Patriots
Fifteen minutes decided home field advantage in the AFC Championship.
Andy Reid teams typically do better than most against Bill Belichick’s Patriots. They were competitive when they faced off earlier this season, and for last season’s opener managed to win the game. Of course, things are quite different now, but the Chiefs are in a position to win the AFC Championship, and here’s how:
Going back to last season, the Chiefs managed to shut down Rob Gronkowski by sticking Eric Berry on him. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do that this season and the TE had 97 receiving yards. It appears as though Berry will play this week, but there is no evidence this season to show that he’ll be shutting down Gronk.
Rob Gronkowski’s week 17 against NYJ was quietly one of his best games of the season. Only had two receptions, but had a 30 yard reception with two broken tackles called back. Dominated his run blocking assignments. This is the healthiest/strongest he’s looked all season: pic.twitter.com/5zCIxENlT5— Patriots Film (@PatriotsFilm) January 13, 2019
Against the Chargers, Gronkowski was used as a blocker more than a receiver, and if that’s the case Berry should be matched up against James White and/or Sony Michel. Don’t waste his talents against a guy that isn’t an aerial threat. Instead, focus on shutting down the RBs that are catching passes out of the backfield, or are moving out wide.
Derwin James had some success doing that in the Divisional Round, but the Patriots just threw to a different target in those situations. That’s a sign of success though, forcing the Patriots to modify their game plan, By limiting the impact that White, Michel, Rex Burkhead will be vital.
Perhaps the biggest factor to this game is Patrick Mahomes and the Patriots containing him. New England blitzed and pressured Philip Rivers effectively, but the Chiefs OL is much better than the Chargers.
Patrick Mahomes was dominant from a clean pocket this season pic.twitter.com/mLxQRQdbzB— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 18, 2019
Mahomes is also more mobile than Rivers and should be able to escape some of those pressures, which will then extend plays and I suspect this will be how the Chiefs win. The Patriots were very vulnerable to deep passes against the Chargers, and their CBs struggled to win the outside battle. The Chargers couldn’t make these plays frequently enough because Rivers was under pressure so often, but the Chiefs might have more success at hitting some of these deeper passes.
Where else can the Chiefs have success? Focus on closing down Edelman with single coverage. Kendall Fuller and Steven Nelson had good games against the Colts, and they’ll need to play tight man coverage against one of Brady’s favorite targets. This should force Brady to target his other receivers, including on the outside, which is where they’ve struggled throughout the season.
DEE FORD— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 12, 2019
If Anthony Hitchens can pursue the ball carrier as he did against Indy, with Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Chris Jones making plays, the Chiefs are in for a good day. But they have to avoid penalties and mistakes, including on special teams, which is also where the Chargers were undone.
Undoubtedly the Chiefs are up against it, and Brady and Belichick are so experienced that they can never be written off. This will be a close game, but by controlling the clock, taking away the Patriots’ RBs in both the ground and air game, and protecting Mahomes long enough for plays to develop, Kansas City can get it done.