If you’re not from New England and are hoping to not have to hate-watch this year’s Super Bowl, you’re down to your last chance.
The New England Patriots are back in the AFC championship game after blowing out the Tennessee Titans 35-14, and are now one step away from Super Bowl LII. It’s their seventh straight AFC championship game appearance, which is incredible. They’re one win from making it to their third Super Bowl in four seasons, and their eighth Super Bowl of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. Brady is on the verge of his eighth Super Bowl trip, and no other player in NFL history has more than six. Brady has been the starting quarterback for 26 playoff wins, 10 more than Joe Montana, who is second place on that all-time list. No team, especially in the salary-cap era, has come close to this level of consistent dominance.
And the way the Patriots looked on Saturday night, it seems hard to believe they’ll lose in Foxborough next Sunday. By the end of the game, it seemed crazy to remember that the Titans once led in the game. The Patriots started slow, and Titans rookie receiver Corey Davis made a great one-handed catch for a touchdown late in the first quarter. That was the last time it looked like the Patriots might lose.
New England started to pick apart the Titans after that. The Patriots decided the best way to attack Tennessee was with Brady and the passing game, and he did what he usually does, spreading it out among his receivers for a big game. The Patriots had a pass-heavy attack against a Titans defense that is much better defending the run than the pass. Results were predictable. Brady was 34-of-51 for 337 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. By the time Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a fourth-quarter touchdown to make the score 35-7, the outcome of the game had been long decided. That didn’t stop Bill Belichick from challenging a catch by Titans receiver Eric Decker with 4:15 left. Patriots haters all rolled their eyes at the same time.
Saturday’s game was never really competitive after that Davis touchdown. The second half was drama-free, but that seems to be typical for Patriots divisional-round playoff games. We’ve seen it time and again. If you have Patriots fatigue at this point, it’s understandable. The last time there was an AFC title game without them, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat a New York Jets team coached by Rex Ryan. LaDainian Tomlinson was the Jets’ starting running back in that game. He’s in the Hall of Fame already. It has been a while since we’ve had a championship Sunday that didn’t feature New England.
Everyone is anticipating a Patriots-Pittsburgh Steelers AFC title game, which would be a fun rematch from a great Week 15 game. The Jacksonville Jaguars might have something to say about that, as they take on the Steelers in the other AFC divisional-round game on Sunday. But we’ve anticipated a Patriots-Steelers showdown all season. Pittsburgh has a very good team and if the Steelers win Sunday they’ll have a shot to knock off the Patriots and save fans of the other 31 teams from having to watch New England in yet another Super Bowl.
And if the Patriots go on and win, it will make for a familiar Super Bowl Sunday. Like it or not.
– – – – – – –