Patrick Mahomes may be the future of the N.F.L., but Tom Brady is still the league’s present. The five-time champion earned another trip to the Super Bowl by taking his team 75 yards on 13 plays in overtime, with Rex Burkhead pushing his way through Kansas City’s beleaguered defense for a 2-yard touchdown and a 37-31 victory.
It had been a game of wild momentum swings in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, with Mahomes leading his team back from a 14-0 halftime deficit to briefly lead, 28-24 in the fourth quarter.
That is when vintage Brady kicked in.
The 41-year-old Brady got the ball with just over two minutes left to play and he simply chipped away at Kansas City’s defense, employing a series of small strikes to set up Burkhead’s first touchdown of the day, which gave New England a 31-28 lead.
The Chiefs, with an offense that seemed unstoppable during the regular season, were able to tie the game with a field goal in the final minute of regulation, but after New England won the coin flip, it seemed like just a matter of time before Brady would once again punch his team’s ticket to a Super Bowl.
Brady, despite two interceptions, finished the day having completed 30 of 46 passes for 348 yards. It wasn’t always pretty, and at times he was outplayed by the younger Mahomes, but the combination of New England’s ball-control offense and its punishing defense led to the Patriots holding the ball for 43:59 of the game’s 60 minutes.
Mahomes was all but invisible in the first half beyond a pair of completions in the second quarter, but he still finished the game with 295 passing yards and three touchdowns. It was the second time this season that he rallied his team to a near victory against New England, but in both cases he had simply dug too large a hole against Brady for him to be able to climb out in time.
For Brady, this Super Bowl trip will be the ninth of his career. Last year the Patriots were unable to keep up with the Philadelphia Eagles in a game that set a record for total yards, and this year they will have to contend with Coach Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams, a team with an offense so dominant that teams throughout the league have been hiring new coaches in hopes of emulating it.
[The Los Angeles Rams beat the New Orleans Saints, 26-20, in the N.F.C. championship game earlier Sunday, and will face the winner of this game in the Super Bowl. See how they did it here.]
Here’s how the Patriots beat the Chiefs:
Overtime: The Patriots End It
Rex Burkhead surged in from two yards out to get the Patriots a 37-31 victory in overtime, before the Chiefs ever got a chance to possess the ball.
Fourth Quarter: Mahomes Seizes the Moment
Thirty nine seconds was plenty of time for Patrick Mahomes. The second-year quarterback took his team 48 yards on a pair of long passes, and while he wasn’t able to throw a touchdown pass on his third attempt, he had gotten his team close enough for Harrison Butker to tie things up with a 39-yard field goal.
New England will have just 8 seconds and this game is almost undoubtedly headed to overtime.
Fourth Quarter: Brady, Again
This game has lived up to expectations. Rex Burkhead blasted through the middle for a 4-yard touchdown run and the Patriots, who seemed all but done in this game, are now leading 31-28 with just 39 seconds remaining.
New England went 65 yards on six plays and survived what appeared to be a Kansas City interception that was overturned as a result of a penalty.
For Mahomes there is never a down or distance too far to rule him out, but he has a long way to go with almost no time to do it.
Fourth Quarter: Too Soon?
Damien Williams raced up the middle for a 2-yard score, putting the Chiefs up by 28-24 with 2:03 left in the A.F.C. championship game.
The Chiefs’ drive went 68 yards in five plays, and while it had many key moments for the Kansas City offense, it was far more about mistakes by the New England defense, and J.C. Jackson, a rookie defensive back, isn’t going to be very popular if the Patriots lose this game.
Earlier in the drive, Travis Kelce had lost control the of the ball, and Dont’a Hightower had recovered, giving the Patriots the ball and the lead with just over 3 minutes remaining. A late flag came out, and a defensive holding penalty on Jackson had instead given Kansas City a first down.
It was just two plays later that Jackson committed a brutal pass interference penalty that gave Kansas City 23 yards.
Tom Brady now has two minutes, and the Patriots need a touchdown.
Fourth Quarter: Patriots Retake Control
Not content to let the Chiefs steal the game, New England marched 75 yards down the field, with Sony Michel barreling his way into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown run. With the extra point, the Patriots are now back on top, 24-21 with 3:32 remaining in the game.
Kansas City’s defense had tightened up considerably on its last few tries, but this time around they once again fell prey to a series of short grinding plays by the Patriots. On top of that, New England was able to take another 4:13 off the clock, extending its lead in time of possession to 37:35 to Kansas City’s 18:53.
The drive was impressive overall, but on what is proving to be a rough day for officiating — especially in New Orleans — New England’s drive was extended by an extremely questionable roughing the passer penalty against Chris Jones. The play, in which Jones reached over Brady’s shoulder and tapped his shoulder, was ruled on by an official who was out of position to see what type of contact was made between Jones and Brady.
Fourth Quarter: Kansas City Goes Ahead
The Chiefs have taken the lead.
Given the ball in New England’s territory, Patrick Mahomes needed just two plays to put his team on top, 21-17, with a 23-yard catch-and-run to Damien Williams in which the running back took a floater of a pass from Mahomes and sprinted past the entire Patriots defense on his way into the end zone.
Mahomes is up to three touchdown passes in the second half, and this time he capitalized on a Tom Brady mistake — the interception to Daniel Sorensen — to give his team its first lead.
Fourth Quarter: Thumbs Up
In a wild turn of events, the Chiefs had a touchdown taken off the board thanks to a replay review, but then got the ball back thanks to a huge interception by Daniel Sorensen.
It had briefly looked as if Kansas City had taken the lead on a muffed punt that was returned for a touchdown. A lengthy replay review determined the ball never made contact with Julian Edelman’s hands, giving New England the ball at its own 28-yard line.
The various replays appeared to show the ball clear Edelman’s hands, despite some odd movements in his thumbs.
Considering the Chiefs had come up with a huge stop on 4th-and-inches on New England’s previous drive, the muffed punt was pushing the momentum of the game decidedly in Kansas City’s favor. While losing the points from the fumble return had to be a blow to morale, Sorensen’s interception got the Chiefs right back into it.
Fourth Quarter: Chiefs Heat Up
Patrick Mahomes threw four touchdown passes in the second half of the Chiefs’ loss to the Patriots in Week 6, and he’s already up to two in the second half of this game. His latest, a 1-yarder to Damien Williams, has Kansas City trailing New England, 17-14.
The scoring drive went 75 yards on nine plays, with the biggest highlights coming on a 33-yard catch-and-run by Williams, and a brutal pass interference penalty in which New England’s J.C. Jackson mugged Travis Kelce in the end zone, setting the Chiefs up with a 1st-and-goal from New England’s 1-yard line.
On top of those plays, Mahomes showed some toughness on the drive, stepping out of the way of a sack attempt and racing for a 9-yard gain, plowing into Patrick Chung at the end of the play, and then picking up a first down on a sneak up the middle.
A few plays later, Mahomes saved the drive yet again with a sidearm throw to Sammy Watkins for a first down. The play after that was the huge run down the sideline by Williams in which the running back spun his way down the field past New England defenders.
The touchdown seemed all but inevitable once the Chiefs reached the red zone, but the pass interference call against Jackson made it nice and easy for Mahomes to roll out and hit Williams with the short pass.
Third Quarter: Two-Score Lead for New England
The Patriots’ lead is up to 10 points after Stephen Gostkowski connected on a 47-yard field goal attempt.
New England had to go just 8 yards to set up the score after having held tight against Kansas City’s offense with the Chiefs backed up inside their own 5 to start their previous drive. As a result, New England started the drive on the 50-yard line.
The Chiefs’ defense acquitted itself fairly well on the latest scoring drive, holding tight on a 3rd-and-17, but thanks to the short field that didn’t matter.
Third Quarter: Good Field Position for the Patriots
In what could be turning into a game of field position, the Patriots may have just given themselves a big advantage despite the teams having traded punts.
Kansas City failed to do anything on its second possession of the second half, with Patrick Mahomes and his teammates going just 4 yards on five plays. But the drive had started at Kansas City’s 4-yard line thanks to a brutal sequence in which Tyreek Hill cost himself around 12 yards by running backward in hopes of finding a seam to exploit, and a blocking penalty tacking on another 3-yard loss.
As a result, New England will be getting the ball at the 50-yard line, still up 14-7.
Third Quarter: Travis Kelce Scores for the Chiefs
Kansas City wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the second half, needing just 2:04 to get a 12-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs now trail, 14-7.
Things started slowly, with Damien Williams picking up a combined 8 yards on a short reception and a short run. But Mahomes saw an opportunity to do some damage on third down, and he rolled out to his right before launching the ball downfield to Sammy Watkins for a 54-yard reception that caught the Patriots’ second sleeping.
Clearly energized by the play, Mahomes threw aggressively to Kelce in the end zone, and as he has done so many times before, Kelce was able to control the ball in traffic and reward his quarterback’s faith.
Halftime: The Chiefs Have Time
A mostly quiet first half ended with the Chiefs going out meekly, as Patrick Mahomes momentarily lost the ball on a strip-sack fumble before he recovered it and simply knelt on the ball to send his team to the locker room, down by 14-0.
While the score is still relatively close, New England has dictated the tone of the game. The Patriots have exploited the Chiefs’ front-seven with a series of short passes and runs — not allowing Kansas City’s top pass-rushers any time to get to Tom Brady — and New England’s defense has mostly contained the Chiefs’ offense.
That has resulted in a huge disparity in playing time, with New England’s offense holding the ball for 21:07 compared to 8:53 for the Chiefs.
There was a brief glimpse of what Mahomes is capable of on two completions in the second quarter in which he was able to deal with the New England pass-rush and find his receivers deep downfield, but that drive produced nothing after a sack pushed Kansas City out of field goal range.
Beyond those two throws, Mahomes’s passes have been off the mark, and Damien Williams has gotten nowhere with the running game. The Chiefs were outgained, 245 to 32, in total yardage.
This year’s Chiefs scored the third-most points in N.F.L. history, so it is hard to declare them out of any game they play regardless of the score. But Kansas City Coach Andy Reid will need to heavily adjust his strategy on both sides of the ball if he wants to get back into the game.
In the one small bit of good news for the Chiefs, they will receive the ball to start the second half.
Second Quarter: Patriots Push Their Lead
The second quarter had nearly ground to a halt thanks to a series of punts, but New England woke up in the final minute of the first half, with Tom Brady finding Phillip Dorsett for a 29-yard touchdown reception that, along with the extra point, has New England up, 14-0.
The Patriots’ latest long drive went 90 yards on eight plays and has left Kansas City with just enough time to run one or two plays — or kneel on the ball — to end the half.
Second Quarter: Brady Intercepted in the End Zone
The Chiefs’ defense, after failing a series of tests to start the game, came up huge on 3rd-and-goal, with Reggie Ragland intercepting Tom Brady’s pass attempt to Rob Gronkowski, thus stealing some momentum back for Kansas City.
Up until that point, the Patriots had seemingly been doing anything they wanted, using runs and short passes to expose a front-seven that is good at rushing the passer but far worse at putting up with the quick hits that the Patriots can accomplish with their small wide receivers and their talented group of running backs.
In all, the drive went 43 yards on 11 plays, but the Chiefs were able to escape, still trailing by 7-0.
New England had gotten the ball back quickly thanks to a fairly inept first drive by the Chiefs’ offense in which Kansas City generated minus-6 yards as a result of a sack of Patrick Mahomes that came after he had his first two pass attempts of the game fall incomplete. The only positive movement of the drive for the Chiefs came thanks to a 5-yard run by Damien Williams — which he followed with a 2-yard loss — and a 5-yard penalty by the Patriots’ defense.
Now Mahomes will get a second chance to show what he can do.
First Quarter: Chiefs’ Defense Challenged Already
It was clear coming in that this game would be a tough test for the Chiefs’ defense, and the unit looked almost helpless on an opening drive by the Patriots in which New England marched 80 yards on 15 plays, punching the ball into the end zone on a 1-yard run by Sony Michel.
The seemingly endless drive chewed up 8 minutes 5 seconds of the first quarter and has Kansas City on its heels.
The Patriots got off to a quick start on an 11-yard run by Michel, and proceeded down the field through a combination of short passes — Rob Gronkowski had two catches on the drive after having just one all game last week — and runs by their three-headed monster at running back (Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead).
In all, Brady threw for 38 yards and the running game contributed 42.