KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- After a half-century of waiting, it’s finally time for the AFC Championship game to visit Kansas City.
It’s the two winningest active coaches overseeing two of the most poised offenses in recent memory. For New England, it’s just another Sunday night. For Kansas City, the biggest game in franchise history.
While the Chiefs may have cleared their closet of skeletons last week against the Colts, they now have the most fearsome sports dynasty of the century standing between them and the Super Bowl.
A breakdown of some of the most important numbers heading into Sunday:
Tom Brady’s average yardage on completed passes during last week’s Divisional Round matchup with the Chargers. That average was good for lowest of any quarterback in the Divisional Round by nearly a yard, as 41 percent of Brady’s completed passes last week were at or behind the line of scrimmage.
This isn’t atypical for a Belichick offense, which are known for utilizing the halfback as a receiver. Sunday’s game against Los Angeles was no exception as James White recorded a season-high 97 receiving yards. White lined up as a halfback on 15 of 17 targets last weekend, using small flare routes to dominate the flat against a cover 3 defense.
The Chiefs have only seen this type of play in small doses this season, namely with White in week six. Kansas City held him to 53 receiving yards in that game, defending him with a safety to prevent mismatches with outside linebackers.
The number of completions Patrick Mahomes recorded on passes longer than 20 yards against Indianapolis. This is one of only a handful of games in which he hasn’t connected with the deep ball.
Should Chiefs fans be concerned? No. It’s not as if the Kansas City offense was stagnant last week, it was simply riding the hot hand of Damien Williams, who recorded 129 rushing yards against the Colts.
When Mahomes did air things out, it was typically through short crossing routes to exploit holes in the Colts’ zone coverage. If those are working, there’s no need to take a gamble with the long ball. Even the team’s deep-ball-prone receiving leader Tyreek Hill found half of his receptions on routes under 10 yards, failing to record a reception on plays past the sticks.
The patented Mahomes-to-Hill connection should return this week against New England’s press coverage. Hill is averaging 4.1 yards against press coverage this season, the highest of any receiver since the 2016 season.
The number of AFC Championship Games the Patriots have appeared in since the turn of the century. For New England, Sunday marks eight consecutive appearances in the conference championship. While impressive, that feat carries little importance to Belichick and company, who likely view anything other than a Lombardi Trophy as a waste of space in an otherwise crowded trophy case:
It could be argued that the previous appearances play a role in New England’s chances of winning, and statistically, that argument is supported. Teams returning to the AFC Championship Game for a consecutive year are 17-11 (60 percent). Historically the Patriots are 5-3 (63 percent) under those same parameters.
At the end of the day it comes down to one thing — experience. Despite having one of the worst road records in the league and being the statistical underdog, New England is the last team Kansas City wants to see in the playoffs.
A capacity crowd at Arrowhead Stadium. The last time the Patriots visited, that crowd set a world record for loudest stadium at 142.2 decibels.
Now, it will be tasked with disrupting a poised offense that’s coming in red hot after putting up 41 points against Los Angeles in the Divisional Round. Many have questioned if the Kansas City faithful will be able to handle the cold weather, including Fox Sports analyst Colin Cowherd.
“Everybody’s going to be wearing a ski mask.” Cowherd said, “People aren’t going to be standing and cheering. They’re going to be huddled, trying to stay warm.”
Chiefs fans are widely recognized as being some of the loudest fans in sports, and they’ll need to be on Sunday if they want to create a truly difficult road environment for Brady and company. New England enters the game on Sunday with a 3-5 record on the road this season, with all five losses coming against teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Kickoff for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game is scheduled for 5:40 p.m. CT on KCTV5. Download to KCTV5 News app for more coverage and in-game alerts.