New England Patriots

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) during the second half of the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) during the second half of the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

How many times has it been said in recent years? “We need a championship drive.” Ever since Tom Brady famously uttered those words near the end of Super Bowl XLIX, the Patriots have needed a lot of those. The drives have continued, the phrase has been mimicked.

Well, you can add yet another championship drive to the list – two, in fact – and yet again, Tom Brady has shepherded the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

Mirroring their 34-28 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, the Patriots again won the coin toss and again marched ruthlessly down the field to seal a 37-31 OT win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Pats advanced to Super Bowl LIII after an AFC Championship Game that transcended the phrase “instant classic”, and they did it mainly with Brady pulling off his latest playoff magic trick. For this one, his most trusted weapons came through as well.

Brady and his receivers weren’t perfect on the final drive, but they made plays at the most crucial moments. They faced third-and-10 three times; Brady completed it all three times, twice to Julian Edelman for 35 yards and once to Rob Gronkowski for 15.

The Patriots’ comeback also mirrored last January’s AFC Championship Game, which required a go-ahead touchdown from Brady with under three minutes to go in the game. On Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, No. 12 engineered an arguably even more thrilling, impressive drive to take the lead.

It began with the classic setup. Two-minute warning, Brady with the ball and a chance to win. This was a classic Brady rip-your-heart-out drive, as he completed three big-time passes to Edelman, Chris Hogan, and finally Gronkowski. The latter’s 25-yard haul, which he made while covered, was particularly vintage. Rex Burkhead finished the drive off with his first of two touchdowns on the night.

But that drive, and the game-winner that followed, emanated from the singular greatness of Brady. Time and time again he’s come up with these moments, and plenty of people (including this writer) picked the wrong time to doubt his ability to finish the job this time. And now he’s in the Super Bowl for the third straight season, and ninth of his career.

“It’s hard to imagine,” said Brady after the win. “It’s a great feeling. We’ve overcome a lot this year – down but not out – and we found a way to play our best the last four games.

“A lot of things – one play here, one play there – could’ve changed everything, but that’s football. I’m just proud of our team.”

So in a season where it looked and felt like the Patriots didn’t quite have a Super Bowl team this year, it ultimately came down to Brady once again seizing his chance to get there. Again, why pick against this guy. Just why.

“There’s no one I would rather have on a two-minute drive than No. 12, and he just proved it again,” said Edelman after the game. “I think it’s just his fight, his competition, his prep. It’s in his DNA. There’s a clutch gene – he has it.”

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) during the first half of the AFC Championship game Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. (Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) during the first half of the AFC Championship game Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. (Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Edelman, especially, made up for some crucial mistakes earlier in the game. Brady certainly made up for his ill-advised first-quarter throw into the end zone that resulted in an interception. But in the end, it was Edelman – who had a pass clang off his hands and result in Brady’s second interception moments after nearly muffing a punt – who had the most to answer for on those final drives.

His answer? Three catches for 55 yards on the final possessions, two of them coming on third-and-10.

As for Gronkowski, well, he reclaimed the same familiar Gronkowski big-play magic. The aforementioned 25-yard catch that helped set up Burkhead’s first touchdown was arguably the play of the game. The tight end had moments sprinkled throughout the season where, as Brady lofted up to him while he was well-covered, he found a way to use his hands and catch radius to come down with the football. He made a similar play late in the first game against the Chiefs.

He was always capable of coming up with another big play like that. Good thing Brady gave him the chance to do it.

Despite the challenge the Patriots defense faced against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, the biggest test all along was for Brady and the offense to prove they can excel in a tough road environment, and they had to do it in arguably the toughest stadium in the league. You can consider the test passed, the challenge answered.

It had to come from the top guys, and it did. Another couple of championship drives. And yet another classic chapter to Brady’s long legacy of playoff comebacks. And, for that matter, Edelman and Gronkowski’s legacies too.

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 matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.