Patrick Mahomes may be the future of the N.F.L., but Tom Brady is still the league’s present. The five-time champion earned another trip to the Super Bowl by taking his team 75 yards on 13 plays in overtime, with Rex Burkhead pushing his way through Kansas City’s beleaguered defense for a 2-yard touchdown and a 37-31 victory.
It had been a game of wild momentum swings in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, with Mahomes leading his team back from a 14-0 halftime deficit to briefly lead, 28-24 in the fourth quarter.
That is when vintage Brady kicked in.
The 41-year-old Brady got the ball with just over two minutes left to play and he simply chipped away at Kansas City’s defense, employing a series of small strikes to set up Burkhead’s first touchdown of the day, which gave New England a 31-28 lead.
The Chiefs, with an offense that seemed unstoppable during the regular season, were able to tie the game with a field goal in the final minute of regulation, but after New England won the coin flip, it seemed like just a matter of time before Brady would once again punch his team’s ticket to a Super Bowl.
Brady, despite two interceptions, finished the day having completed 30 of 46 passes for 348 yards. It wasn’t always pretty, and at times he was outplayed by the younger Mahomes, but the combination of New England’s ball-control offense and its punishing defense led to the Patriots holding the ball for 43:59 of the game’s 60 minutes.
Mahomes was all but invisible in the first half beyond a pair of completions in the second quarter, but he still finished the game with 295 passing yards and three touchdowns. It was the second time this season that he rallied his team to a near victory against New England, but in both cases he had simply dug too large a hole against Brady for him to be able to climb out in time.
For Brady, this Super Bowl trip will be the ninth of his career. Last year the Patriots were unable to keep up with the Philadelphia Eagles in a game that set a record for total yards, and this year they will have to contend with Coach Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams, a team with an offense so dominant that teams throughout the league have been hiring new coaches in hopes of emulating it.
Here’s how the Patriots beat the Chiefs in the A.F.C. championship game:
Overtime: The Patriots End It
Rex Burkhead surged in from two yards out to get the Patriots a 37-31 victory in overtime, before the Chiefs ever got a chance to possess the ball.
Fourth Quarter: Mahomes Seizes the Moment
Thirty nine seconds was plenty of time for Patrick Mahomes. The second-year quarterback took his team 48 yards on a pair of long passes, and while he wasn’t able to throw a touchdown pass on his third attempt, he had gotten his team close enough for Harrison Butker to tie things up with a 39-yard field goal.
New England will have just 8 seconds and this game is almost undoubtedly headed to overtime.
Fourth Quarter: Brady, Again
This game has lived up to expectations. Rex Burkhead blasted through the middle for a 4-yard touchdown run and the Patriots, who seemed all but done in this game, are now leading 31-28 with just 39 seconds remaining.
New England went 65 yards on six plays and survived what appeared to be a Kansas City interception that was overturned as a result of a penalty.
For Mahomes there is never a down or distance too far to rule him out, but he has a long way to go with almost no time to do it.
Fourth Quarter: Too Soon?
Damien Williams raced up the middle for a 2-yard score, putting the Chiefs up by 28-24 with 2:03 left in the A.F.C. championship game.
The Chiefs’ drive went 68 yards in five plays, and while it had many key moments for the Kansas City offense, it was far more about mistakes by the New England defense, and J.C. Jackson, a rookie defensive back, isn’t going to be very popular if the Patriots lose this game.
Earlier in the drive, Travis Kelce had lost control the of the ball, and Dont’a Hightower had recovered, giving the Patriots the ball and the lead with just over 3 minutes remaining. A late flag came out, and a defensive holding penalty on Jackson had instead given Kansas City a first down.