|New England Patriots||7||0||6||3||16|
|Kansas City Chiefs||3||17||3||0||23|
Despite having the best quarterback of the NFL’s next generation, the Chiefs were somehow flying under the radar this year. This was a combination of factors: Partly due to Mahomes’ injury, due to his regression from ludicrously good to
average slightly less ludicrously good, due to shiny new car Lamar Jackson taking the spotlight, and due to this game not being pegged as the potential AFC championship matchup like last year’s matchup was. Regardless, the Chiefs could still make it to a playoff bye only if they won this matchup to claim the tiebreaker over New England.
Kansas City may not have had the barn burning offense they had last year, but they were still by far the most explosive offense in the NFL. For this game, it was seventeen points in the second quarter that provided a 20-7 lead. The Patriots defense settled down and stifled the Chiefs for the rest of the game. The offense brought the game to two scores.
Before I get to the fourth quarter, I want to acknowledge that the Patriots get the benefit of the doubt on a lot of calls. There were the tripping calls in the Cowboys game. Brady gets the occasional soft RTP call (See: 2018 AFC Championship Game Patriots at Chiefs). I recognize that each call in a vacuum is of only middling incompetence rather than worst of the year candidacy, and that the Patriots have benefitted from similar calls in the past few years. But never before have I seen so many in such a short window of time. Even the most ardent Patriots hater would begrudgingly acknowledge how badly the zebras screwed New England in a single drive.
Let us begin in the last few seconds of the third quarter. Mahomes completes a third-down pass to Kelce, who then fumbles it. Gilmore picks it up and has one blocker to deal with Mahomes and a single offensive linesman. There is roughly a 75% chance that Gilmore scores a touchdown on this play. If not, he still gets 30-40 yards on the return. But wait! The referee has called the runner down by contact. Bill challenges, the play is easily overturned, but that is a lot of lost yardage or points.
Well, one bad call does not a ruined game make. Shortly afterwards, N’Keal Harry takes the pass and muscles his way in for a touchdown!. Nope! His foot was on the line. The Patriots had used up their challenges fixing earlier screwups and could not overturn this one. That’s okay, because the Patriots would score (again) on a pass to Jakobi Meyers. But the zebras would strike again: all scoring plays are reviewed. As impartial as I can be, overturning this touchdown was probably the right call. But after getting screwed over twice already in a single drive, this was a slap in the face.
The defense is still playing well and the Patriots get the ball once again. And on third down, Dorsett gets completely clobbered before the ball arrives. Easy DPI, right? Nope! No call. TB1k somehow salvages the situation, but the Chiefs do just enough to stop the Patriots from scoring.
There were other things that happened this game, like the Chiefs sending their equipment to the wrong state and it barely arriving in time for the game, the Chiefs getting called for 100 more yards of penalties than the Patriots, this really sweet flea flicker, New England going 0-3 against the 2018 AFC first place teams, and the Chiefs breaking the Patriots’ 21 game home win streak. Yeah, none of that really mattered because literally the only thing people could talk about were the refs.
We’re on to Cincinnati.