Belichick AND Brady: Remembering their last stand on top

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Oct. 3—FOXBOROUGH — After a full week of "Belichick vs. Brady," and rightly so being the national and local media said so, I will take a brief look at a slightly different angle drawing little interest:

When Bill Belichick's AND Tom Brady's best — and last — showed the world why they were their respective G.O.A.T.'s.

When Belichick and Brady were not only employed by the Patriots, but they were a true, singularly focused, tag-team duo.

Kansas City.

Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.

AFC Championship game.

The Patriots' trek to that conference title game was unlike most for Belichick and Brady. The Patriots barely won the No. 2 seed after losing two tough road games in December, back to back — the Miami Miracle, 34-33, and to the Steelers, 17-10.

The Patriots lost any hope for a No. 1 seed, falling to 9-5, despite having the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chiefs, beating them 43-40 in Week 6 in Foxborough.

There were other factors going against the Patriots chances.

The Chiefs, favored by three points, had the NFL's MVP favorite, in Patrick Mahomes (he won the award two weeks after the AFC title game), who guided the No. 1 offense in terms of points (35.3) and yards (425.6) per game. They also had a windchill of 5 degrees to go with probably NFL's best and loudest fans ready for bear at Arrowhead Stadium.

In most cases, those factors would be, understandably, too tough to overcome.

Most.

Belichick's great start

The Patriots game plan keyed, obviously, on keeping the freakish Mahomes off the field.

The Chiefs won the toss and deferred. and paid for it.

The Patriots methodically drove the ball 80 yards, taking 15 plays and a whopping 8:05 to do it en route to a 7-0 lead.

Then it got worse for the Chiefs.

By the end of the first half the Patriots, sticking to its relatively conservative offensive game plan, were in complete control.

The Patriots led 14-0, thanks to another long, this time 90-yard drive, to end the half.

Brady was 12 for 17, 146, 1 TD, 1 int. compared to Mahomes' 4-for-8, 68 yards.

The Patriots outrushed the Chiefs, 99 yards to 10.

The Patriots were 7-for-9 on third down compared to the Chiefs' 1-for-4.

The Patriots first down advantage was a whopping 16-3.

While Brady was on his game, Belichick was the dominant figure here, diabolically putting the clamps on the league's best player and offense.

Then the second half happened.

Second half handoff to Brady

Belichick's magical clamps on Mahomes were ripped off. At least at the start.

Three plays into the half, Mahomes hit Watkins for a 54-yarder on 3rd-and-2. A play later, he hit Travis Kelce for a 12-yard score.

Belichick and the Patriots defense was able to slow the Chiefs down a bit the third quarter, with the Patriots extending the lead to 17-7.

The last four minutes of the third quarter flipped on a dime as the Chiefs finished a drive, on the second play of the fourth quarter, a 1-yard run by Damien Williams.

Belichick's incredible defensive game plan basically was null and void at this point. and the baton was basically handed to Brady.

What we got was one of the most exciting late-game, back and forth, heroics in modern NFL history.

An instant classic: Brady versus Mahomes.

The fourth quarter saw everything:

Four lead changes.

A potential "game-ending" interception, tipped by Rob Gronkowski, that was canceled due to a defensive off-sides (Dee Ford).

A "muffed punt" by Julian Edelman that was overturned by video review.

Mahomes driving 48 yards in 21 seconds, on just two passes, to tie the game with 11 seconds remaining, 31-31.

Brady's great finish

Then came the controversy, at least for months afterward, when the Patriots won the toss in overtime.

Brady was at his absolute best with a Super Bowl berth at stake.

He completed three passes on 3rd-and-10 in overtime, two to Edelman and the other to Gronk.

The last three plays of overtime were all rushes, covering 15 yards, by Rex Burkhead to clinch the win, 37-31.

Brady did not throw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter or overtime, but it was among his greatest big-play performances.

Brady went 13-of-19 for 169 yards over that incredible stretch, including 5-for-5 on third down, going head-to-head with the game's newest star, who was 9-for-17 for 164 yards over the comeback.

While the Patriots defense shut down another powerful offense two weeks later, holding the Rams to only three points, this game in Kansas City was the real keeper.

A year later, Mahomes and Kansas City beat the San Francisco 49ers thanks to a late, comeback win — 49ers led 20-10 in the fourth quarter — guided, of course, by the star quarterback.

Belichick and Brady had many games like this, including their first Super Bowl stunner over the Rams, or the come-from-behind (28-3) against the Falcons.

But this was as memorable as any, their last as a true dynamic duo.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

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