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Patriots in AFC title game again after topping Chiefs

Rob Gronkowski, right, enjoys his second touchdown catch of the game, giving him the career playoff record for tight ends.

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Rob Gronkowski, right, enjoys his second touchdown catch of the game, giving him the career playoff record for tight ends.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady took off for the end zone and dived for the pylon, taking a helmet in the back as his body sailed over the goal line.

The ball stayed out, but it didn't matter. The reigning Super Bowl MVP carried it in for a score on the next play, reaching over the line to convert in a way Kansas City couldn't Saturday.

Brady threw two touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski and sneaked in for another, and the defending Super Bowl champions reached their fifth straight AFC title game with a 27-20 victory over the Chiefs.

New England (13-4) meets the winner of today's Steelers-Broncos game at Denver for a spot in Super Bowl 50. The Patriots are trying to become the first team to win back-to-back NFL titles since they did it in 2003-04.

They also became the second team ever to make five straight conference championship games, joining the 1973-77 Raiders.

"It's pretty special to get back to another AFC championship game," said Brady, who will play in it for the 10th time. "…You've got to grind throughout the entire year. There's only four teams playing next week, and we're one of them. That game means a lot."

After spending two weeks recovering from knee and back injuries, Gronkowski caught seven passes for 83 yards, including touchdowns from 8 and 16 yards out. Gronkowski also recovered an onside kick after Kansas City (12-6) cut the deficit to 27-20 with just more than one minute left.

He has eight career playoff receiving touchdowns, surpassing Dave Casper and Vernon Davis for the record among tight ends, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Julian Edelman returned from a broken foot to catch 10 passes for 100 yards for New England. Danny Amendola had two catches for 18 yards.

"It's just great to have those guys back," Gronkowski said. "They're hard workers, they're great players. The chemistry was clicking tonight."

Trailing 27-13, Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense burned more than four minutes off the clock to score their last touchdown, a mismanaged try that helped end Kansas City's franchise-record 11-game winning streak.

"It's a fine line of getting into the best play and just keep going at the line of scrimmage," Smith said. "It would've been nice to get a score before the two-minute warning. It would've helped tremendously with three timeouts. It probably hurt us there."

Smith completed 29 of 50 passes for 246 yards and a score.

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Patriots in AFC title game again after topping Chiefs 01/16/16 [Last modified: Saturday, January 16, 2016 10:15pm]
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