The Patriots wasted little time answering major questions this past weekend against the Chiefs as on the first drive of the game Tom Brady completed two passes to Julian Edelman, three passes (including a TD) to Rob Gronkowski and one pass to Danny Amendola.
Rank them however you choose, but those three are Brady’s favorite targets and all of them had major injury suspicions heading into the playoffs. The fact that all of them seemingly made it through Playoff Game No. 1 all healthy is a minor miracle given the Pats’ injury luck this season.
Know this: that healthy Pats unit we saw on Saturday is the best team remaining in this tournament. None of the other three teams left wowed anyone in the divisional round.
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The Panthers came oh-so-close to blowing a 31-0 lead in the span of 30 football minutes against Seattle. The Cardinals’ offense looked decidedly “blah” in their win over the Packers as they ran for just 40 total yards and Carson Palmer threw two picks. And Steelers – Broncos was as ugly a playoff game as you will ever find. Denver did not score a touchdown until there were three minutes left in the fourth quarter and 2016 Peyton Manning made 2016 Alex Smith look like 2006 Peyton Manning by comparison.
On Saturday, the Patriots sure as hell looked like they were playing possum during the final five weeks of the regular season as they turned in the strongest performance of the final four teams.
The 27 points the Patriots put up against KC was not on par with the 35.5 points per game they were averaging in the first seven weeks of the season. But anyone watching the 27-20 Pats win never thought the game was in doubt for New England. It was pure control from start to finish, even with Kansas City clearly implementing a “keep the ball away from Brady” strategy. The Chiefs won the game’s time of possession, 37:51 to 22:09, but that’s about the only victory KC scored.
It was assumed that Brady would throw the ball 50 times against KC going in, but he only had to throw it 42 times to get a line of: 28 completions, 302 yards, two TDs, zero picks and a 103.5 passer rating.
If the Pats do play two more games, there is little doubt he’ll hover around 100 attempts the rest of the way. The big difference now is that he has some relatively healthy bodies to catch those passes. The Big 3 of Edelman, Gronk and Amendola also open things up for after-thoughts like Keshawn Martin and Brandon LaFell in single coverage.
The Pats entered the divisional round as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed with the worst chance of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. In the span of one weekend, those odds have flipped. The defending champs are again the favorites.