An explosion of points called for Tom Brady to do Tom Brady things. In the end, the Chiefs left too much time for Brady and the Patriots to come up clutch.
By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Down 33-30 in the fourth quarter, it sure felt like the Patriots needed another touchdown. Because Patrick Mahomes and the surging Chiefs simply couldn’t be stopped.
Fortunately, neither could Brady or his weapons.
After a squirrelly third quarter and a wide-open fourth, Brady engineered a late drive for a touchdown and two more for field goals as the Patriots edged out the Chiefs by the skin of their teeth in a thrilling 43-40 win on Sunday Night Football. The Pats outscored the Chiefs 13-7 in the final eight minutes and 38 seconds of the game, and it happened with everyone chipping in for big-time plays.
What was the mindset down 33-30, knowing deep down that they need to keep scoring at will to have a chance at the win?
“Just got to keep fighting no matter what the situation is,” said running back James White after the game. “Stick together as a team, as an offense, take control of the game, melt some of the clock away and finish it off.”
The Patriots got their clock-killing opportunity with a pair of huge plays by Brady’s two most targeted weapons of the season so far. First, White made would-be tackler Anthony Hitchens miss and scampered for 16 yards. That set up the most clutch offensive play of the game, a 39-yard dime from Brady to Rob Gronkowski that put the Patriots in finish-it-off mode.
White started to make more guys miss in the second half after he made just one catch for 17 yards in the first half. He made four in the second, with none bigger than his first-down catch in the final 90 seconds. White knew he’d have to beat single tacklers going into the game, and simply elevated himself to make that happen in crunch time.
“Coach stressed it all week, if you get in 1-on-1 situations you’ve got to win, so that was my mindset,” said White.
Before that final, game-winning drive was that aforementioned touchdown that the Patriots desperately needed. It got a spark from who’s become an unlikely source in recent weeks. Chris Hogan came down with a 42-yard bomb from Brady, a throw that sucked most of Gillette Stadium into breathless silence as the ball was in the air. Hogan hadn’t come up big much for the Patriots before that play, but perhaps it was the play he needed to get himself going in what’s been a surprisingly down season for the receiver.
Another pass to Hogan, a 19-yarder, set up Brady’s biggest play of the game. And he made that play with his legs. With time to throw but nowhere to go with the ball, Brady eventually realized it was run or bust. The decidedly-un-fleet-footed Brady broke away from a rusher and found a way to hop through two defenders for the score, which put the Patriots back on top after the Chiefs briefly held their only lead of the night.
“I was pretty excited; I was just hoping that he didn’t get hurt,” Hogan joked when asked about Brady’s touchdown run.
That touchdown, which came with 5:25 left in the game and was followed up by a Chiefs punt, certainly felt like the “Brady wins again” moment. But the Chiefs had other plans. A stunning 75-yard bomb from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill suddenly had the season’s craziest shootout tied at 40.
For Brady, White, and Gronkowski, that turned out to be not much of an issue. Two massive plays later, Brady was centering the ball for Stephen Gostkowski’s game-winning field goal.
As if it became appropriate to doubt Tom Brady with the game on the line. It most certainly did not.
Brady admitted after the game that the late Hill touchdown, the receiver’s third of the second half, actually helped the Pats. It was too big of a play in too short of a time. It’s hard to blame Hill for scoring when he had the chance, but the Chiefs made the worst mistake you can against Brady.
They gave him too much clock.
“Yeah, you know, we had confidence [on the final drive],” Brady said after the game. “I think, I’m glad when [Hill was running] I said, ‘Good, score quick.’ Because then we had enough time. They had one timeout left, and it gave us a little time to go down and kick the field goal.”
Brady eventually hit the Chiefs with the double-whammy of getting enough time to work with, and leaving them with none. And it happened because Brady was at his sharpest at the most important time, and so were his targets. It can only help this group’s confidence and mental toughness as they build on a thrilling win.
“I think we have a lot of clutch players,” said Brady. “I think we have no problem grinding it out. That’s what the football season’s all about. I don’t think we’ve seen our best. I think we can play a lot better, and I think that’s what we plan to do.”
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.