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When the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs kick off their AFC Championship tilt on Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET , a game will be opened that was in the making all year long — one that features the two best teams in the conference, regardless of what the Los Angeles Chargers’ regular season record said. It was always supposed to be Patriots versus Chiefs for the AFC title.And why wouldn’t fans want to see this heavyweight fight between the multiple-time champion New England and an up-and-coming Chiefs? Between the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady, and the second-year boy wonder Patrick Mahomes?A battle of wits between two of the NFL’s best head coaches in Bill Belichick and Andy Reid? Two powerful offenses and defenses capable of making the big play? A possible — but given the Patriots’ track record, unlikely — changing of the guard? The storylines heading into Sunday’s game certainly are manifold, but the one that might override them all is that New England and Kansas City clearly established themselves as the class of the conference, especially after last week: both teams went up against solid opponents — the aforementioned Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts, respectively — and showed that there can be only one final pairing this year.The Patriots blew out L.A. 41-28 in a game that was really never as close as the final 13-point differential might indicate, a day after the Chiefs blew past the hapless Colts en route to a 31-13 victory. The two divisional round games now set up a showdown at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium — the perfect stage for what will likely be some high-stakes drama.Back on October 14, we were already gifted a teaser for the upcoming event. The Patriots hosted the Chiefs in a prime time matchup that lived up to its hype, the time slot and the star power of its two participants. New England won in a shootout decided on a last-second field goal, on a day that saw the two teams’ offenses combine for 946 yards. Turnovers, big plays, a thrilling finish John Hannah Color Rush Jersey , you name it — the game had it all.But even though the first Patriots-Chiefs meeting was as big a week six game as you will see in the NFL, the stakes were still comparatively low. Yes, the number one seed might have come down to this contest, but with 10 more games left in the season there was still a lot of room for change no matter the outcome. Ultimately, it did not matter much to the playoff picture courtesy of New England dropping five games compared to Kansas City’s four.This week, however, is different as nothing less but a ticket for Super Bowl 53 is on the line: it would be the Patriots’ third in a row, and the Chiefs’ first since the Beatles broke up.What adds to the promise of the matchup is that both teams are pretty much at the height of their powers right now. While, yes, Josh Gordon and Kareem Hunt will both not part of the game for reasons unrelated to football, both clubs are heading into the matchup near full strength: only one player was absent from the two teams’ practices today (Chiefs linebacker Dorian O’Daniel), meaning that they are as close to full health as one can expect at this point of the season.What more can you want from a conference championship game. This is how it should be. This is what was in the making all year long. Patriots against Chiefs is the way it was supposed to be. Usually, the New England Patriots are the team that is best prepared when it comes to situational football. During Sunday’s 34-33 loss against the Miami Dolphins Tedy Bruschi Jersey , however, they appeared flummoxed during the final Hail Mary play that decided the game in the home team’s favor. However, the 59 minutes and 53 seconds before that play also produced plenty of noticeable performances. Let’s take a look at those that stood out — for better or for worse.Loser: The coaching staffNew England’s coaching staff made some dubious decisions on Sunday, especially late in the game. First, it decided to kick a field goal from the 4-yard line with only 20 seconds left instead of going for a touchdown or at least giving Miami worse field position for a Hail Mary play. Second, it brought its Hail Mary pass defense onto the field with seven seconds left despite the Dolphins appearing to be out of quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s passing range. The decision came back to haunt them, as the multi-lateral play that followed was taken 69 yards for the game-deciding score.Winner: QB Tom BradyThe Patriots left points on the board when Tom Brady let himself get sacked late in the second quarter (to be fair, the offensive line did not help much), yes, but the 41-year old still played a terrific game against Miami — arguably his best of the season. Brady was in total command all day long: he made great decisions on most of the plays, and delivered some excellent passes. For the first time this season, Brady looked like the player that was heads and shoulders above every other quarterback in the NFL the last three years.Winner: LB Albert McClellanHardly ever does one man alter the way a team approaches punt plays but that is exactly what Albert McClellan did to the Dolphins. The in-season acquisition had not one but two blocked punts on Sunday and forced Miami to go to a quicker rugby-style punting procedure in the second half. As for McClellan, he executed to perfection: twice he beat the long snapper and displayed perfect form to get his hands on the football to set the offense up with very good field position.Loser: DT Malcom BrownWhen you are billed as a run-first defender Rob Gronkowski Color Rush Jersey , you better be able to stop the run. Malcom Brown, however, was unable to do that on Sunday. The Dolphins ran for 189 yards on just 21 carries on Sunday, and Brown more often than not was moved out of the way to allow runners to get to the second level. While he is not the sole culprit for the Patriots’ performance versus the run, the 24-year old still failed to give the unit any spark and contributed to its struggles.Winner: TE Rob GronkowskiFirst things first: do not blame Rob Gronkowski for not being able to tackle Kenyan Drake before he reached the goal line on the Hail Mary play. Gronkowski was a fish out of water that should never have been put in this position. Other than that, the 29-year old had a great performance. While he still does not appear to be fully back to his old dominant self, he put up terrific numbers and provided a serious big-play threat on every play. All in all, Gronkowski finished the game with eight catches on eight targets for 107 yards and a touchdown.Loser: K Stephen GostkowskiComing off a shaky Super Bowl, Stephen Gostkowski bounced back nicely in 2018. Yesterday, however, the veteran had his worst game of the season. His very first scoring attempt — an extra point after the game’s opening touchdown — hit the upright, which left the Patriots trailing every time Miami scored a touchdown and might have altered the team’s approach near the goal line at the end of the game. In the third quarter, Gostkowski also missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right.Loser: RB Rex BurkheadNew England’s running backs had a quiet day but still made some contributions. Rex Burkhead , on the other hand, was virtually invisible in his second game back from injured reserve. The 28-year old registered five touches — four runs and a pass reception on two targets — on the day and gained a mere five yards. With Sony Michel and James White both being held in check, Burkhead needed to step up to provide a spark for the running game. He failed to do that.Winner: WR Josh GordonWeek in and week out, Josh Gordon shows why his acquisition — he was brought in via trade from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick — was a steal for the Patriots. Yesterday was no exception, as Gordon was outstanding when it comes to making tough catches and generating yards after the reception. At the end of the day, the 27-year old had five catches for 96 yards as well as a big pass interference call drawn late in the fourth quarter.Winner: WR Julian EdelmanThe other half of the Patriots’ top wide receiver duo — Julian Edelman — also had a very good performance. The 32-year old finished the day as the team’s leader in pass receptions (nine) and gained 86 yards in the process, all while also scoring a touchdown. Edelman displayed his usual great instincts and chemistry with Tom Brady, and was vital in New England’s offense doing enough to ultimately win the game.Loser: The Hail Mary defense (DE Trey Flowers, DT Adam Butler, DE Adrian Clayborn, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB J.C. Jackson Dwayne Allen Color Rush Jersey , CB Jonathan Jones, CB Jason McCourty, SS Patrick Chung, FS Duron Harmon, FS Rob Gronkowski)The Dolphins had 69 yards to go and only seven seconds to do it. And somehow, they were indeed able to do it. Credit where credit is due: Miami performed to perfection. Blame where blame is due: the Patriots’ Hail Mary defense was atrocious (it should probably never have been on the field in the first place). Multiple players missed easy-looking tackles, took bad angles or simply were out of position to stop the game’s final play. It was a textbook example of bad situational football all around.