FOXBORO, Mass. — The Kansas City Chiefs can score in an instant from anywhere on the field. They can erase a multi-score deficit in the time it takes you to get up from your seat and grab your next beer. Teams hoping to beat them need to play close to a perfect game of football.
That’s the mentality the New England Patriots are taking into Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Patriots played a fabulous first half when they hosted the Chiefs in Week 6, holding their high-flying offense to nine points and intercepting two Patrick Mahomes passes. Mahomes and Co. caught fire after halftime, however, dumping 31 points on New England’s defense before losing 43-40 on a last-second Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
New England had the benefit of hosting that game. Since Sunday’s will be played in Kansas City — which boasts one of the NFL’s loudest crowds and where the Chiefs have lost just once this season — the Patriots know their margin for error will be much slimmer.
“We have to be able to communicate and know what each guy’s doing out there,” safety Devin McCourty said Wednesday. “And really, we can’t have anybody that has a bad game Sunday. It’s that time of the year where we need to play our best football. And that’s the team that wins.”
The Chiefs scored touchdowns of 67 and 75 yards in the second half of that Week 6 loss and also had a 97-yard kickoff return that set up another score. Mahomes completed 9 of 13 passes for 188 yards and four touchdowns over the final two quarters, including three to wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
McCourty, who was in coverage on two of Hill’s touchdowns, said Mahomes eventually was able to decipher the disguised coverages and rush schemes that confused the young quarterback in the early going. He knows a more complete performance will be necessary in the rematch.
“We even thought in the first game we got him with some stuff, but later he was able to figure it out,” McCourty said. “And I think you see that throughout the season, even as a younger guy, he understands coverages.”
While Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense won’t be directly competing against the likes of Mahomes and Hill, Kansas City’s scoring potential puts pressure on them, as well. New England got points out of all but one second-half possession and still needed a last-minute rally to eke out a three-point win.
“This is not the week to have less than our best,” Brady said. “It’s a tough game. It’s a tough challenge. It’s tough to beat the No. 1 seed on the road. That’s the reality. It’s like we’re tough to beat at home when we’re the No. 1 seed. It takes a lot. It takes a lot of good football. It takes a great complementary game. All three phases have to be on point. We’re going against a team that scores a lot of points. They lead the league in sacks, strip sacks.
“That’s a good group, and I think everybody at every position has to play well. That’s what championship games are all about. These aren’t just handed to you on a silver platter — here you go; here’s your trip to the Super Bowl. You’ve got to go fight them out. We’ve been in a lot of games that came down right to the end.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images