Patriots try to overcome road woes in AFC Championship Game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots are going on the road again in the playoffs, a place that hasn’t always been kind to them during the Tom Brady era.

New England was unbeatable at home this season, going 8-0 during the regular season and rolling past the Los Angeles Chargers in the divisional round.

Playing outside of Massachusetts has provided different outcomes. Brady is 6-1 when playing in an AFC Championship Game at home. But he’s 2-3 on the road in the conference title game, with the wins coming in Pittsburgh during 2001 and 2004 seasons. New England was 3-5 in games away from Gillette Stadium during the 2018 regular season.

The Patriots enter Sunday’s AFC title game at Kansas City trying to become the first team since the 1990s Bills to reach the Super Bowl after losing it the previous season. They haven’t won a road playoff game since beating the Chargers 24-21 in the divisional round of the 2006 season.

The Patriots lost to the Colts on the road in the AFC title game after the 2006 season and twice at Denver — in the AFC Championship Game after the 2013 season and again in the 2015 season’s AFC title game. New England has played the rest of its 22 playoff games since the 2006 season at home or on a neutral field in the Super Bowl.

“It’s tough to beat the No. 1 seed on the road. That’s the reality, just like we’re tough to beat at home when we’re the No. 1 seed,” Brady said this week. “It takes a lot. It takes a lot of good football. It takes a great complementary game. All three phases have to be on point. We’re going against a team that scores a lot of points.”

The AFC teams will also have to deal with what could be the coldest temperature for a game in Arrowhead Stadium history. An arctic blast is forecast for Kansas City.

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said his focus will be on trying to contain the NFL’s top scoring offense and not the thermometer.

“It’s definitely one of the hardest places to play. But, at the end of the day, it just comes down to executing It comes down to football and executing plays,” Hightower said. “They’re a high-powered offense and they’re real good on defense, so obviously defensively, we’re going to have to eliminate big plays.”

The Patriots opened as a three-point underdog, the first time in 68 games, including playoffs, that Brady didn’t enter a week as the favorite.

The previous time Brady wasn’t the favorite was on Sept. 20, 2015, at Buffalo. The Pats were two-point underdogs that day and won the game 40-32.

It’s why Chiefs coach Andy Reid is expecting Brady and the Patriots’ best effort on Sunday.

“They’re a heck of a team, so I don’t get caught up in all that,” Reid said. “You’re talking about a dynasty, if there is such a thing, in the National Football League. They’ve been that. You’re talking about a head coach that I think the world of him, I think he’s a great coach. He’s done a phenomenal job keeping that thing together. We’re getting ready to get their best shot, offense, defense and special teams.”

Kyle Hightower is an Associated Press writer.

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