By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — That was some football game. An all-time classic. The Patriots are certainly happy that they came out on top.
In what at times looked to be a surefire Patriots win and in what at other times looked to be a certain Chiefs victory, the Patriots shook off the sting of giving up a game-tying drive at the end of regulation and executed with perfection in a clinical game-winning drive in overtime.
As a result, the Patriots will be heading to their third straight Super Bowl, and their fourth in five years.
There will be plenty of time to talk about that matchup with the Los Angeles Rams in the coming two weeks, but for now, it’s time to run through the Ups and Downs from that wild 37-31 Patriots win.
The Running Game
From the running back trio of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White, to the offensive line — Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon — to fullback James Develin to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, the running game was once again a well-oiled machine for the Patriots.
Michel ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.
Burkhead ran for two touchdowns — including the game-winner in overtime — and 41 yards on 12 carries.
White ran for 23 yards on six carries, including a pair of first-down pickups on third downs on the opening drive of the game. He also caught four passes for 49 yards.
As a team, the Patriots rushed for 176 yards and four touchdowns, picking up 15 first downs via the run game.
It was a dominant performance from the run game, which has become a real strength of this team.
(Of note: The Rams ranked 32nd in the NFL in yards allowed per rushing attempt this season, at 5.1 yards per carry.)
Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski
Go figure. In the most critical moment of the entire season, it was these two guys combining to convert on three third-and-10 passes, helping to set up the game-winning touchdown run.
These two simply embodied what championship football is all about in that overtime drive.
Kyle Van Noy, Trey Flowers
The final score didn’t show a great defensive performance, but the Patriots’ defense was phenomenal in the first half, when they kept the Chiefs off the scoreboard entirely.
Kyle Van Noy was a major player in that effort, recording two sacks and a forced fumble, costing Kansas City 29 yards on those two plays. The first sack came on a third-and-10, and the 14-yard loss forced the Chiefs to punt from their own 10-yard line.
Trey Flowers sacked Mahomes for a loss of 14 yards on another third down, taking the Chiefs out of field goal range.
Van Noy then ended the first half with a strip sack of Mahomes, which ended any chance the Chiefs would have of scoring before halftime.
Van Noy ended the game with 10 tackles — eight solo, two assists — to lead the team.
Come on now.
Statistically, it wasn’t a prolific day for Brady.
But come on now.
The man will be playing in his ninth Super Bowl. His ninth. After the 12th game-winning drive of his playoff career.
That’s not a coincidence. When it comes to winning time, and when given a fortuitous break or two, Brady knows how to deliver a victory.
EXTRA POINT: Stephen Gostkowski
The kicker warrants a mention here, for going 4-for-4 on PATS and for drilling a 47-yard field goal. On a chilly night, those kicks weren’t easy.
Brady’s End Zone INT
That being said, the man committed a major goof in the first half, one that cost the Patriots at least three points.
On a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Brady ran a playaction fake and threw to a well-covered Gronkowski in the end zone. But the pass never made it there, as Brady threw the pass directly at Reggie Ragland.
The pick took points off the board — either a chip shot field goal or a potential fourth-down attempt — and kept the score at 7-0.
Brady joined Russell Wilson and Kurt Warner in an unenviable group, but Brady’s goal-line pick proved to be less catastrophic.
You can’t say enough about Julian Edelman, who’s now getting real attention as a real Hall of Fame candidate. He caught seven passes for 96 yards.
But he did have a critical drop, albeit on a ball that was not perfectly placed. Edelman allowed a pass to clank off his hands midway through the fourth quarter, setting the Chiefs up at the New England 23-yard line. The Chiefs scored a touchdown to take a 21-17 lead — their first lead of the game — just two plays later.
Edelman made up for it, but it was obviously a critical mistake.
Stephon Gilmore (For One Snap)
It is perhaps unfair to expect Stephon Gilmore to be able to cover Sammy Watkins for the half-hour or so that Patrick Mahomes had to stand in the pocket on one particular snap on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Still, generally when you give up a 54-yard catch, you end up on the Downs.
Clete Blakeman’s Officiating Crew
The officials were all over the place on this one. It wasn’t slanted one way or another, as calls were made that hurt both teams. A very bad roughing the passer penalty on K.C.’s Chris Jones made life easier for the Patriots. A suspect defensive holding penalty (given what was being allowed all night) on J.C. Jackson negated a would-be turnover by the Chiefs. Travis Kelce pushed off J.C. Jackson on a pass in the end zone, but it was Jackson who was flagged. Meanwhile, officials missed an obvious case of offensive pass interference on a 38-yard pass to Sammy Watkins, yet called Phillip Dorsett for offensive pass interference earlier in the game when it was actually the defensive back who initiated contact and did not let go.
After Bill Vinovich’s “all-star” crew made a historic blunder in the NFC title game, Blakeman’s “all-star” crew didn’t really acquit itself very well in the spotlight.