Patriots continue to struggle in AFC Championship rematch

©Alex MacDougall

By Alex MacDougall
BU News Service

It was a weird week for the Patriots leading up to their matchup this week against the Kansas City Chiefs, a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game. First, there were rumors floating about that Antonio Brown, the disgraced wide receiver, may be returning to the Patriots, only to have that be thoroughly debunked. Then, on the day of the game, it turned out the Chiefs had, of all things, left their equipment on a plane and it was only the luck of the plane being in New Jersey that it was able to be returned in time. Otherwise, the Chiefs would have had to forfeit the game.

After today’s performance, perhaps the Patriots would have preferred it not to arrive.

Though the Patriots scored on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead on an impressive trick play, the remainder of the first half was dominated entirely by the Chiefs, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, jumping out to a 20-7 lead at halftime. Mahomes is part of a new generation of dynamic quarterbacks with diverse skillsets in both passing and running, alongside Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Houston’s DeShaun Watson, that the otherwise brilliant Patriots defense has yet to figure out. If they can’t find a way, they will be in serious trouble come playoff time. Officiating also played a role, as two Patriot touchdowns were called back due to penalties.

Of course, you can never really count the Patriots out, not as long as Tom Brady is at the helm. The Patriots narrowed the score to 23-16 and undertook a last-minute drive that saw them only a few yards away from the end zone. But on fourth down, wide receiver Julian Edelman had the ball batted away from him, preventing a winning score and handing the victory to the Chiefs. Edelman was thoroughly restrained by Cheifs’ defenders and while the Patriots rightly don’t want Brown coming back, it’s become apparent they lack any other dependable receivers to rely on.

With the loss, the Patriots have now lost two straight games and all of their losses have come against teams they will likely meet again as the playoff picture starts to slowly come into focus. The Patriots are only one win away from securing a spot in the playoffs, but many of the issues that they had, even when they were comfortably winning every game, have not been fixed. They’ll get another chance to get clinch a playoff berth next game, against a much weaker Cincinnati Bengals team.

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