After a game that was supposed to mark the end of New England’s historical dynasty, the Patriots silenced critics as they demolished the deemed “most complete team in the NFL” in the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 to advance to their 8th straight AFC Championship game. The Patriots scored on their first 4 offensive drives as they jumped out to an early 28-7 lead, and never looked back.
The Patriots used their running back tandem very effectively as Sony Michel and James White were big contributors to Sunday’s victory. Michel carried the ball 24 times and rushed for 129 yards and a 3 touchdowns and White tied the playoff record in receptions with 15 catches for 97 yards.
The Patriots have to travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the #1 seeded Chiefs, a place that hasn’t been kind to Tom Brady. He is a career 1-2 when playing there and has only thrown 3 touchdowns compared to 6 interceptions in those games combined. As the weather calls for temps in the single digits, the running backs will once again be heavily relied on to keep the ball moving and out of the hands of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. With that being said, let’s take a look at the arsenal of weapons that make up this explosive Chiefs team:
Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback- At the helm of the dangerous Chiefs offense is second year star quarterback Patrick Mahomes. After being drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Mahomes was assigned the role of backup quarterback for a year to learn behind former Chief Alex Smith. In his first full season as a starter, Mahomes put up record breaking numbers as he threw 50 touchdowns for 5,097 yards and 12 interceptions. He is the lead candidate to win MVP this season to go along with a First Team All-Pro nomination and a Pro Bowl selection. There’s no question that Mahomes is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league already, as his accuracy and arm strength mixed with his athletic ability makes it difficult to game plan against him.
Tyreek Hill, Wide Receiver- Tyreek Hill is the engine to the Chiefs high powered offense. With a 40-yard dash time of 4.25 seconds he is one of the fastest players in the NFL, as you don’t earn the nickname “the cheetah” for nothing. Hill put up an impressive 87 catches this season for 1,479 and 12 touchdowns. His 17 yards per catch is one of the top averages in the league for wide receivers. His blazing speed matched with the arm strength of Patrick Mahomes makes for consistent shots downfield in attempt to gain big chunks of yards.
Travis Kelce, Tight End- The Chiefs have the best in the business at his respective position in the NFL with Travis Kelce(sorry, Gronk). Kelce is a defense killer, as his combination of above average speed, agility, and precise route running make him a matchup nightmare for any opposing linebacker or safety. Kelce had a career year in 2018, as he had 103 receptions for 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns. Once Kelce and Mahomes get in-sink, the Chiefs offense gets into a rhythm that has been rarely stopped this season.
Damien Williams, Running Back- After the Chiefs lost star running back Kareem Hunt earlier in the season, running back Damien Williams was called upon to fill the big shoes Hunt left behind. So far, Williams has been very impressive throughout his first 4 starts this season. In those starts he’s rushed for 332 yards and 4 touchdowns, as well as caught 19 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. Williams displays great speed within the tackles which allows him to quickly hit open holes and fly through them. Damien Williams is no Kareem Hunt, however he could be a X-factor on Sunday.
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Chris Jones, Defensive Tackle- After being drafted by the Chiefs in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Chris Jones is having a career season in his third year with the team. During the regular season Jones totaled 15.5 sacks, 40 combined tackles, and 29 quarterback hits. His sack total was enough to rank him 3rd him the league in sacks, just behind J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald. Jones is a young playmaker that wreaks havoc on opposing offenses. He was a major contributor to the Chiefs leading the NFL in sacks in 2018.
Anthony Hitchens, Outside Linebacker– Hitchens joined the Chiefs this past offseason after he spent his first 4 years with the Dallas Cowboys. He has the speed to run sideline to sideline and provides solid coverage, as according to Pro Football Focus he was targeted 36 times in the passing game last season and didn’t give up a single touchdown. Hitchens was added to Chiefs in order to fill the roles of former linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, as the 25-year old provides a younger presence on the linebacking core. Hitchens could possibly be matched up on James White in the passing game come Sunday, so this matchup will be one to watch for.
Dee Ford, Defensive End- Ford has had the best season of his career in 2018. So far he has 13 sacks, 55 combined tackles, and 29 quarterback hits. He also led the NFL with 7(!) forced fumbles. His numbers this year were enough to earn him his first Pro Bowl nomination. The Chiefs led the league in sacks with 52, and Dee Ford was a big help to that.
Eric Berry, Safety- Berry tore his achilles against the Patriots in the 2017 season opener and hasn’t played since. However, it’s looking like Berry will finally make his anticipated debut this season at the perfect time. Berry is a 5-time Pro Bowler and a 3-time First Team All-Pro, as his achievement are enough to prove his value alone. He is the leader of Kansas City’s defense and will make an instant impact when he is back on the field.
Sunday’s AFC Championship game is one that many expected throughout the season. The two AFC heavyweights will match up for the second time this season, as the first game ended on late field goal attempt that sent the Patriots over the Chiefs 43-40. To continue their success from earlier in the season, the Patriots will have keep the defensive line of the Chiefs honest by establishing the run to later open up the passing game. The Chiefs led the NFL in sacks, and behind that loud home crowd in Arrowhead, you don’t want that d-line to heat up.
Limiting the big plays will also be extremely important too, as wide reciever Tyreek Hill is exceptional at stretching the field and picking up big yardage. The Patriots will have to control the game on the ground and be physical for a full 60 minutes in order to be successful. If Sunday’s matchup is anything similar to their week 6 duel, than we are in for the game of a lifetime.
-Adam Pasquale, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @adampasqualejr
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