Tom Brady and the gang brought what they needed to this game. With injured players finally coming back after a week of rest, the offense was firing right out of the gate and looked dominant over a hot Chiefs' defense. Let's analyze how the key pieces performed tonight:
Let's start from the top and check out Tom Brady's performance. Without the benefit of analyzing every play over again, Tom seemed to be near the top of his game. He routinely dissected the defense and put the ball on the money for his receivers to catch and run while staying safe from nearby defenders. His run for the endzone should have been a rushing touchdown but it was stolen by the zebras. Fortunately he took it upon himself to dive into the endzone over the defensive line. Up until the last few possessions when the lead was in hand and they seemed to play conservatively, Brady was nearly able to move the ball at will with 17 passing first downs according to ESPN.
The offensive line held its own against the dominant Chiefs front. In pass protection they held the Chiefs to 0 sacks and usually gave Brady enough space to step up and move around in the pocket. The Chiefs are known to blitz often and the line effectively held off premier pass rushers all game. They did not seem to give the running game much room to run around, but they also only allowed 2 tackles for loss which means the runners were consistently gaining positive yards. This group was vital to the Patriots' success against the Chiefs.
Speaking of the running backs, they had a minuscule impact on the game. There were only 14 registered runs by the Patriots, half of which came from Tom Brady and a handoff to Julian Edelman. Six went to Steven Jackson going right up the middle in an attempt to keep the defense honest, while one went to James White on the edge to show off his speed. Only 38 yards were gained on the ground, showing the Patriots weren't unwilling to run the ball but noticed quickly they could take advantage of the Chiefs through the air. The running back that had the largest impact on the game was James White who registered a mere 2 catches for 39 yards on top of his 1 rush for 5 yards.
Let's give some love to Rob Gronkowski, the new all-time NFL leader in postseason TDs for a tight end at the young age of 26. He grabbed both receiving touchdowns on the day and caught seven of his eight targets. He also set up his first touchdown with his longest play, a 32-yard reception on a long 3rd and 13. He played a key role as a blocker and multiple times you could see him leading the charge for another player, most notably Julian Edelman on a big third-down conversion.
Overall the offense had a fantastic game when they needed to put up points. As the game went on they pulled ahead of the Chiefs and were able to play more conservatively while still taking time off the clock. With all of their pieces finally becoming healthy at the right time, it looks like the Patriots will again have the hottest offense in the NFL.
Tom Brady: Greg M. Cooper, ESPN/USA Today Sports
Julian Edelman: Greg M. Cooper, ESPN/USA Today Sports
Game statistics are available through ESPN.