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Opinion: New England Patriots ‘underdog’ ploy tiresome but sends them back to Super Bowl

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Opinion: New England Patriots ‘underdog’ ploy tiresome but sends them back to Super Bowl

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s so refreshing to see the underdogs finally catch a break.

Dissed and dismissed by seemingly everyone, the New England Patriots proved all the doubters wrong Sunday, reaching the Super Bowl for the – checks notes – third year in a row and ninth time in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady Era. In two weeks, the team no one gave a chance will go for its – checks notes again – sixth Super Bowl title in 18 years.

On a night when the NFL was in flames over a blatant no-call on pass interference that helped the Los Angeles Rams stun the New Orleans Saints, the Patriots restored some sense of order, doing what they always do. What everyone expects them to do, regardless of whatever kind of faux motivation Brady and Co. tried to gin up.

“Everybody thinks we suck,” Brady said after New England’s rout of the Los Angeles Chargers in last week’s divisional round.

Not even close to being true. But that didn’t stop the Patriots from taking that chip on their shoulders and turning it into a chasm. Julian Edelman even sold “Bet Against Us” T-shirts on his website.

More: Patriots sink Chiefs in overtime, return to Super Bowl for third consecutive year

More: Rams stun Saints in overtime after controversial no-call, advance to Super Bowl LIII as NFC champs

And yet, here they are, AFC Champions again after a surgical drive in overtime lifted the Patriots to a 37-31 victory over the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs.

Truth is, nobody thinks the Patriots “suck.” Everybody outside of New England might hate them, tired of Belichick’s arrogance, Brady’s smugness and all that winning. But think New England sucks? Only if they haven’t been paying attention for the last two decades.

Yes, this was a “down” year for the Patriots. They were in danger of not getting their birthright first-round bye – the horrors! – until late December, and their 11-5 record was their worst since 2009. With Rob Gronkowski diminished this season and the Patriots having to face the soon-to-be-named MVP Patrick Mahomes in the AFC title game, it was fair to say the dynasty is showing its age. 

More commentary: Ready more columns from Nancy Armour

The Patriots didn’t help matters with uncharacteristic, and completely boneheaded, mistakes against the Chiefs. Brady’s end zone interception at the start of the second quarter. Rex Burkhead’s inability to pick up a yard on fourth-and-1 in the fourth.

Brady’s really bad throw to Julian Edelman that was tipped – yes, that one Edelman did get a hand on – and picked off by Daniel Sorensen, leading to the touchdown that would give Kansas City its first lead of the day. J.C. Jackson’s pass interference call – his second of the day, for those keeping score – on the Chiefs’ second go-ahead drive.

And, yet, when it came down to it, when it really mattered, Brady and his plucky underdogs did what they always do.

Win.

Brady executed the 2-minute drill to perfection, completing passes of 20, 11 and 25 yards before Larry Burkhead scored a 4-yard touchdown to take a 31-28 lead with 39 seconds left. The Chiefs would tie it up, but the Patriots got the ball to start overtime and Brady did Brady things, mixing in runs with short passes to his favorite toys.

Burkhead capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run and the Patriots were on to Atlanta.

New England’s dynasty is still very much alive. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

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