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The New England Patriots have played in 38 postseason games in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. 23 of those games have come at Foxborough, where the Patriots are an absurd 20-3. Their eight (8) Super Bowl appearances (5-3 record) have, of course, come on a neutral playing field. Because the Patriots dominate annually in the regular season—winning the AFC East 10 consecutive years (and counting) and clinching a first-round bye in each of the past nine seasons dating back to 2010—they have rarely traveled to enemy territory in the postseason. In fact, they have played just seven (7) road playoff games under Belichick and Brady, posting a 3-4 record.
Sunday's AFC Championship will be played at Arrowhead Stadium in arctic conditions against the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs. Before the Patriots play their eighth road postseason game with Brady under center, let's review how the Patriots fared in each of their previous seven away playoff contests with TB12.
Brady, playing in his first road playoff game of his decorated career, exited the AFC Title at Heinz Field with an ankle injury. Drew Bledsoe—the opening day starter and former face of the franchise—was thrust into action and performed admirably in relief duty, throwing for 101 yards with a TD pass to David Patten.
Special teams was the story in New England’s victory, as Troy Brown returned a punt 55 yards for a TD and Antwan Harris scooped up a blocked kick and returned it 49 yards for a score.
The Patriots later captured their first title in franchise history after defeating the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots won 14 games in the 2004 season, but did not attain home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs because the Steelers—quarterbacked by then-rookie Ben Roethlisberger—went 15-1, which included a victory over New England.
In the playoff rematch, Brady threw for 207 yards and two scores. Deion Branch had 116 receiving yards and a TD, and the Patriots dominated, jumping out to a 31-10 lead before holding on for a 14-point win.
The Patriots went on to win their third Super Bowl in four years by beating the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots lost at Denver in a game most remember for one specific play: Champ Bailey picked off Brady at the Broncos’ 5-yard-line and nearly returned the interception for a TD—before Patriots tight end Ben Watson caught up and knocked the ball from him at the 1-yard line as the pigskin ended up out of bounds in the back left of the end zone.
The ruling on the field was that Bailey fumbled it at the 1-yard line. The Patriots challenged the call—hoping that the officials would reverse it to a touchback because the ball was punched towards the back of the end zone—but the call was upheld. The Broncos scored on their next offensive play with a TD run by Mike Anderson, giving them a 17-6 advantage in a game they ultimately won by two touchdowns.
In the contest dubbed “Lights Out, San Diego,” the Patriots upset the top-seeded Chargers, who entered the playoff matchup with a league-best 14-2 record. LaDainian Tomlinson, the 2006 NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, had a monster outing, rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns, adding two receptions for 64 yards.
The most memorable play came when Troy Brown stripped Chargers safety Marlon McCree—who made what could have been a game-clinching interception with the Chargers leading 21-13. The Patriots turned the forced fumble and recovery into a touchdown, as Brady threw a four-yard TD pass to Reche Caldwell and then converted the two-point attempt to even the game. Rookie Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 31-yard field goal in the waning moments to seal the victory.
The visiting Patriots jumped out to a 21-3 lead, but Peyton Manning and the Colts stormed back for an incredible come-from-behind victory. Asante Samuel picked off Manning and returned it for a touchdown in the second quarter, but Manning recovered (349 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and rallied the troops from a 15-point halftime deficit.
Marlin Jackson intercepted Brady in the final minute to clinch the win for the Colts, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
Manning, the 2013 NFL MVP, threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns in the Broncos' win. The Patriots had lost Rob Gronkowski to a torn ACL earlier in the year and Brady relied on his favorite target, Julian Edelman, to keep the game close. Edelman caught 10 passes for 89 yards and a score, but it wasn't enough for the overmatched Patriots, who trailed 23-3 before making it competitive.
Playing in his final season in the league and a shell of his former self, five-time MVP Manning and a dominant Denver defense prevailed over New England. Manning completed just 17 of 32 passes and lost a fumble, but managed to toss two scores and let his defense lead the charge. Brady was sacked four times—2.5 credited to All-Pro linebacker Von Miller—and threw two interceptions in the loss.
The Patriots' postseason track record on the road under the helm of Belichick and Brady— which includes three straight defeats—means absolutely nothing. With that said, the Patriots struggled on the road (3-5) this season. All five of their losses came to teams who missed the playoffs.
Kansas City is 8-1 at home this year, including their divisional round win over the Colts. Kansas City’s defense plays much better at Arrowhead. They have allowed just 17.4 points per game at home, far superior to the 34.8 points per contest they surrender on the road.
The Patriots must find a way to slow down MVP-favorite Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 352 yards and four TDs with two interceptions in the Chiefs' Week 6 43-40 loss at New England.