That was something, eh?

The New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl because, well, they followed the lead of their leader.

The Patriots’ 37-31 overtime victory at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night came down to Tom Brady being Tom Brady.

Put him in the worst situation, with no margin for error, and he responds with his greatest performances.

Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs, who dared to take the lead on the Patriots twice in the fourth quarter, the final time with 2:03 remaining.

Just ask the Atlanta Falcons, who had a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter of the 2017 Super Bowl and ended up losing 34-28 in overtime.

Just ask any other team that watched Brady rally the Pats through the years.

Brady, 41, has crafted 57 game-winning rallies after the Patriots were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter. Twelve have come in the postseason, including four Super Bowl wins and the last two AFC championship games.

The Patriots will play the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta on Feb. 3 in their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance – exactly 17 years since New England beat the dynasty-in-the-making St. Louis Rams in a Super Bowl in New Orleans, a 20-17 final that gave the first glimpse of Brady’s greatness.

The Rams tied the game with 1:30 remaining on a 26-yard pass from Kurt Warner to Ricky Proehl. The Patriots got the ball with no timeouts at their 17. Television analyst John Madden said they should play for overtime.

Instead, Brady completed three short passes to J.R. Redmond to move the ball to the 31. Then he hit Troy Brown for 23 yards, with Brown getting out of bounds with 21 seconds remaining. A 6-yard pass to tight end Jermaine Wiggins, followed by a Brady spike set up a 48-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri as time expired. The New England football dynasty monster was born.

Brady and Coach Bill Belichick are the faces of the success, surrounded by an ever-changing roster of stars and role players. They are the winningest head coach-quarterback combination in NFL history and Sunday’s win over the Chiefs illustrated what makes them so dominant.

Belichick put together a game plan that was almost perfect. The Patriots controlled the tempo with a punishing offense that ran 94 plays to 47 for the Chiefs. They ran the ball 48 times. Brady threw 46 passes. The offensive line dominated – Brady wasn’t sacked and the Patriots didn’t have a negative rushing play.

Defensively the Patriots presented Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ wunderkind quarterback, with a dizzying array of looks. He was never sure where the pressure was coming from or even if it was coming. They held Kansas City’s two best offensive threats, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, to four catches for 65 yards.

Still, the Chiefs and Mahomes are talented enough to eventually break any defense. And they did, scoring 24 fourth-quarter points.

But Brady and the Patriots didn’t blink.

The Chiefs went ahead 21-17 with 7:45 left. Brady led the Patriots 75 yards in 10 plays to go ahead on a Sony Michel 10-yard run.

The Chiefs came back to score again, going up 28-24 with 2:03 left. Brady took the Patriots 65 yards in six plays, the big one a 25-yard third-down pass to Rob Gronkowski. New England took the lead again, 31-28, on a 4-yard run by Rex Burkhead. Yes, the Chiefs helped the Pats – an offside penalty by defensive end Dee Ford negated what would have been a game-clinching interception. But the Patriots still had to pick up a first down to keep the drive alive – they did, on Gronk’s catch – and still had to score a TD to go ahead.

So even after the Chiefs sent the game into overtime with a field goal, you’ve seen this ending before. And when the coin toss went New England’s way, well, it was over.

It wasn’t a perfect drive – Brady threw more incompletions (five) than completions (four) – but he converted three third-and-10 passes to keep the drive alive: 20 yards to Julian Edelman, 15 yards to Edelman, 15 yards to Gronkowski. When it was needed, his passes were perfect. Then Burkhead scored from the 2 and the Patriots were back in the Super Bowl.

It will be Brady’s ninth Super Bowl appearance.

What will he do for an encore?

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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