By Traci McCartney //@traciamc
Jacksonville 20-24 New England
For the 8th time in the 16 years that Tom Brady has been a healthy starting quarterback for the New England Patriots with Bill Belichick as his head coach, the New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl.
Let that sink in. It’s amazing, astonishing, and sounds impossible, but it’s true.
The Patriots beat the #1 passing defense in the AFC Championship game, 24-20 to advance to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis where they will take on the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles after their rout of the Minnesota Vikings.
All week, the media was talking about two things: Jacksonville’s defense and Brady’s injured throwing hand. Despite the 12 stitches at the base of this thumb, Brady was able to engineer his 11th game winning drive to seal the Patriots’ victory.
At the end of the first half, things didn’t look great for the Patriots. Jacksonville’s defense is young, strong and very fast, and they showed it. They sacked Brady twice and held him to 124 yds passing. They had effectively stopped the run game as well, holding the offense to a mere 17 yds rushing. While Jacksonville scored 2 touchdowns, the Patriots had scored on a Stephen Gostkowski 31 yard field goal. That was the last time the Patriots would lead until their 4th quarter comeback.
In the second quarter, with New England driving up the field and down by 11, Jaguars’ safety Barry Church was called for unnecessary roughness on a helmet to helmet hit on tight end Rob Gronkowski as he attempted to catch a pass. The penalty put the Patriots at the Jacksonville 45, but at a steep cost. Gronkowski got up woozy and wobbly and was taken to the locker room for evaluation. He was ruled out for the rest of the game and into the concussion protocol. The Patriots and their fans are now hopeful that with the 2 weeks between the championship and Super Bowl games, Gronk will become available.
On the next play, Jacksonville cornerback AJ Boyue drew a Pass Interference penalty while covering Brandin Cooks up the sideline. That put the ball on the Jacksonville 13 yard line. A short pass from Brady to Cooks picked up 12 yards, allowing James White to go in on the next play from the 1 yard line. With the score 14-10 Jaguars and with 55 seconds and 2 timeouts left, Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles took a knee to end the half.
In the second half, the Jaguars scored 2 field goals, and at the beginning of the 4th quarter, were leading the Patriots 20-10. Brady was sacked for the 3rd time, and on 3rd and 18 connects with wide receiver Danny Amendola for the first down.
The next play was a flea flicker: James White to Brady to wide receiver Phillip Dorsett for 31 yards. It was his only catch of the day, but it put the Patriots on the Jacksonville 23 yard line. Brady passed to Amendola for the first down and then went back to him for the touchdown.
The defense stepped up to hold the Jaguars on the next 2 drives, and when they had to punt from deep in their own territory, the short punt allowed Amendola to return it to the Jaguars’ 30 yard line, setting up a short field for the Patriots.
James White ran the ball to the 15, and another perfect throw and catch to Amendola put the Patriots at the 7 yard line. A Brady quarterback sneak got the first down, and 2 plays later, an amazing back of the endzone touchdown catch by Amendola and a perfect extra point kick put the Patriots up for the first time since the first drive of the game.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 21, 2018
With the score 24-20, the Jaguars still had 2:48 and 3 timeouts. But the Patriots’ defense would not let them score. After James Harrison and Trey Flowers combined to sack Bortles, the ball came out. It was recovered by Jacksonville, but they lost 9 yards on the play. On 4th and 14, with the game on the line, cornerback Stephon Gilmore earned his paycheck by smacking down Bortles’s pass to Dede Westbrook. The Jaguars would turn the ball over on downs. The Jaguars used their timeouts, but when Dion Lewis sped ahead to pick up the first down, the Patriots were able to kneel down and drain the clock.
138 yards and two TDs for Brady in the 4th quarter against the number 1 defense in the league filled with young guys looking for his pelt on the wall.
There will never be another.
— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) January 21, 2018
For the 10th time in franchise history, the New England Patriots would be the AFC Champions and would be returning to the Super Bowl for the 3rd time in 4 years. The last time that happened? It was the Patriots in the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. This will be the last time Belichick and his two coordinators, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will coach the Patriots together. McDaniels has accepted the head coaching position for the Indianapolis Colts and according to Adam Schefter, Patricia will be the next head coach of the Detroit Lions. One more ring would be quite the parting gift on their departure, wouldn’t it?
#AFCChampions #GoPats #NotDone #SBLII #OntoPhiladelphia
Talk Patriots with Traci on Twitter // @Traciamc