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.
"It's pretty special to get back to another AFC championship game," said Brady, who will play in his 10th conference title game. "It's pretty cool. It's hard to do, man. 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 the last 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 cut the deficit to 27-20 with just over one minute left.
"It's just great to have those guys back," Gronkowski said. "They're hard workers, they're great players. The chemistry was clicking tonight."
After trading punts twice, the Patriots started on their when punt returner Danny Amendola was flagged for a helmet-first hit to coverage man Jamell Fleming. The drive was in danger of stalling at the Kansas City 35 when Chiefs linebacker Dezman Moses hit Brady late and was called for roughing the passer.
The stadium erupted in cheers of "Brady!" - just as it had four months ago when the four-time Super Bowl champion returned from his looming "Deflategate" suspension to play in the season opener.
Four plays later, unable to find an open receiver, Brady sprinted - sort of - for the corner of the end zone. The Chiefs managed to keep him out, but only for one more play. On the next snap, Brady leaned forward and reached into the end zone to make it 14-3.
"I thought I could try to make it. We were close. Not close enough, but we got in on the next play," said Brady, who shrugged off the two big hits on that drive. "It's football season, so there's bumps and bruises, but you've got to fight through those."
Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press