The numbers don’t lie.
The question is whether they’ll tell the story in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game in Kansas City and doom the Patriots’ chances of making it to a third consecutive Super Bowl.
For all of their greatness during this dynasty of nearly two decades, there’s one thing the Patriots haven’t often been asked to do in the playoffs: win on the road.
The road is the Patriots’ kryptonite.
It’s been an obvious Achilles heel this season, with the Patriots 9-0 at Gillette Stadium and 3-5 on the road (the first time they have had a losing road record since 2009) — with the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium looming.
Overall, under the watch of head coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots are 3-4 away from home in the playoffs. In that same span, dating back to 2001, the Patriots are 20-3 in playoff home games.
The 3-4 road playoff record is a little deceiving. In their past five road games in the postseason, the Patriots are 1-4.
Their last road playoff win came 12 years ago against the Chargers in San Diego. And that Jan. 14, 2007, win was gifted to them by the Chargers, when cornerback Marlon McCree picked off a Tom Brady pass in the closing minutes with San Diego leading and carelessly fumbled the ball away while trying an ill-advised return.
The Patriots’ numbers this season at home versus on the road also don’t lie.
They scored an average of 33 points per game at home in the regular season but just 22 on the road. Defensively, they allowed 17 points per game at home and 24 on the road. Brady’s completion percentage is 5 percent lower on the road than it is at home.
Not surprisingly, Belichick scoffed at the home-versus-road argument.
“We try to play well every week, so that’s what we’re going to do this week,’’ Belichick said in his weekly radio appearance on WEEI. “At home, on the road … we try to play well every week in all three phases. I think the most important thing this week is to be ready to play the Chiefs. All we can control [is] our preparation and performance.’’
The Patriots had ample chances to control their playoff destiny and keep the path to the Super Bowl at home. It’s fitting that the reason they are playing this game at Arrowhead, where the Chiefs are 8-1 this season, is directly related to their Dec. 9 road loss to the Dolphins, when they allowed that 69-yard razzle-dazzle desperation touchdown on the final play of the game.
Had the Patriots won that game, they would have finished tied with the Chiefs with a 12-4 record and earned the No. 1 seed based on their home win over Kansas City in October. A win in that game at Miami and the Patriots would be hosting Sunday’s AFC Championship at Gillette, where they are 6-0 in conference title games.
“We play half our games on the road, half at home,’’ Belichick said. “We’ve been in those situations, both ways, plenty of times, as have all of our opponents. It is what it is. We’ll deal with the conditions as they come up just like we always do.”
The expected frigid weather conditions, with temperatures forecast to be between 10 and 15 degrees at kickoff, have become a considerable topic for discussion this week.
Asked if he minds playing in the severe cold, Belichick said, “Love to play in a championship game. Schedule it wherever you want. We’ll be there.’’
The fact is, the conditions figure to favor the Patriots. They run the ball better than the Chiefs, who rely heavily on quarterback Patrick Mahomes — as evidenced by his 50 touchdown passes and 5,000 passing yards this season. The Patriots rushed for 155 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday’s playoff win over the Chargers.
The Chiefs were ranked 31st overall on defense in 2018, allowing an average of 405.5 yards per game. They were 31st against the pass and 27th against the run and allowed an average of 26.3 points per game.
In Saturday’s divisional playoff win over the Colts, though, the Kansas City defense was aggressive, holding Indianapolis to 13 points (seven of which came on a blocked punt) and just 263 yards of offense.
“The hardest thing about playing at Arrowhead is the Chiefs,’’ Belichick said. “They are a great football team, the top seed in the AFC this year. Obviously they’re very good. Playing them anywhere is hard.’’
But playing them at home would be a lot less difficult.