By Tyler Englander 1/25/18
Sunday’s AFC Championship Game was more of a game than most expected. The defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots had their hands full with the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars. Even with a stitched-up thumb on his throwing hand, Tom Brady was masterful when it mattered most.
Unheralded Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles got the Jags got off to a fast start building a 14-3 mid-way through the second quarter thanks to a TD pass to Marcedes Lewis followed by a Leonard Fournette TD run. Jacksonville dominated the first half, but gave the Patriots life late in the second quarter. Brady and the Pats offense were in the two minute drill when Jags safety Barry Church crushed Rob Gronkowski with a helmet to helmet hit. Church was penalized 15 yards for the hit. Gronk suffered a concussion on the play and didn’t return to the game. The Pats were helped once more when a 32 yard defensive pass interference penalty which led to a James White one-yard TD run made it a four point game at the half.
The Jags tacked took a 10-point lead into the 4th quarter when the Pats reached into their bag of tricks. Looking to get something going, Brady fired a backward pass to Danny Amendola who found Dion Lewis on the other side of the field, the play worked brilliantly until Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack made the defensive play of the year stripping Lewis and giving Jacksonville the ball back. But what looked like a turning point turned into a footnote as the Jags drive stalled and the Patriots got the ball right back.
Brady started doing his thing as he marched the Pats down the field converting a huge third and 18 play to keep the drive alive. The Patriots capped and 8 play, 85 yard touchdown drive with 9 yard Danny Amendola touchdown catch. The Pats got the ball back with a little over five minutes to play, and with a short field, Brady found Amendola in the back of the endzone once more to give the Pats a four-point lead. The Patriot defense closed the book from there, locking up the Patriots 24-20 victory. The win sends the Patriots to Super Bowl 52 in Minnesota, where they will face the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s New England’s record 10th trip to the NFL’s marquee game.