The Patriots defeated the Jaguars 24-20 in the AFC Championship and will return to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years where they’ll face the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots faced the Eagles the last time they were attempting three-of-four titles and defeated them in Super Bowl 39.
There will be plenty of time to jump into that intriguing matchup, but for now we have to talk about the AFC Championship. Really, it was one of the most remarkable games in Patriots history. The Jaguars played absolutely perfectly for the first 50 minutes. They attacked the Patriots’ weaknesses, they played mistake-free and they even knocked out Rob Gronkowski. Dion Lewis was getting nothing on the ground and the Jaguars had a number of early sustained drives.
But the Pats kept battling like they always do. Without Gronk or a running game, Brady, with some help from super clutch Danny Amendola, willed the Patriots to victory. Of course it didn’t come without the defense turning around after getting shredded early. They once again made the key plays that opened the door for the Patriots to come back. Stephon Gilmore‘s pass defense sealed what was a championship-worthy performance by a defense comprised of many new faces from last season.
I always say you can never truly appreciate a win until you’ve accepted a loss is very possible, and this game had that. Of course 28-3 has ruined us in that regard because now, more than ever, we know the Patriots are never truly out of it until the clock reads zero.
This never gets old. And the Patriots keep finding new ways to demonstrate just how mentally and physically tough they are. The Jags had all the look of the teams that beat the Patriots at home in the playoffs — the two Ravens teams and one Jets team all had a swagger about them, a fearlessness that Jacksonville seemed to emanate as well. But this time their clean game didn’t matter because the Patriots simply outplayed them in the final ten minutes.
It was perfect football in all three phases and in tight games like this that’s what makes all the difference. When it came time to finish the game the Jags couldn’t do it, and Tom Brady did.
Here are the Posits on another crazy epic playoff win.
On 3rd & 18…
— NFL (@NFL) January 21, 2018
— This game reminded me of the new Star Wars in the sense that it wasn’t the same old villains like the Broncos, Steelers or Ravens, it was a hungry new team that didn’t have much history with the Pats. For that reason, and for how well they played, this was something new, something without history weighing the rivalry, just two teams cutting it loose. I really can’t credit the Jags enough, they did exactly what they had to do, they just couldn’t do it for a full 60 minutes and that’s what’s required against New England.
— I hope we don’t start sweeping incredible wins like this under the rug for Brady, I’m not sure there’s been a more impressive win given all the circumstances, especially after Gronk went down. They scraped and clawed their way back and let’s face it, they even had to do some Flacco’ing to get there. Brady played safe with the ball and never blinked at an impressive pass rush that was held in check most of the day. Great performance by the offensive line despite not getting much going on the ground.
–Fitting that Stephon Gilmore made the final play of the game after such a rough start where he was a media target. Gilmore has certainly surpassed Malcolm Butler this season and it was once again apparent on Sunday as Butler had his struggles.
— This is just a different defense with James Harrison, who contributed by setting the edge and coming up with a key pass rush that helped open the door for Brady’s comeback. His presence on the edge was so badly needed and the toughness he brings has transformed the defense. The run defense all day played tough. Fournette made a few plays but when the Jags were looking to put the game away they shut him down.
— As I expected the Pats opened with plenty of James Develin, to mixed results. Dion Lewis never broke free and he’s been a critical spark this season getting things started. Once the Pats fell into the hole they had no choice but to play into the Jags’ strengths, which made the comeback even more impressive. The game unfolded right into the Jags’ laps and it still wasn’t enough.
— If there was any doubt about it before, Danny Amendola is a New England legend and I imagine after the Super Bowl he’ll be right on the Mount Rushmore of Brady receivers with Brown, Branch, Welker and Edelman. Just an absolute beast performance, which is the kind of super clutch we’ve come to expect from Amendola. Without Gronk or Edelman there really was no one else left who could’ve stepped up like Amendola did.
— It’s a bit of a joke now thanks to the great PFTCommenter but this was as gritty a win as I can remember from the Patriots. We’ve seen plenty of crazy comebacks from Brady, but never have they come with the offense so shorthanded and down for so much of the game. In SB51 they were moving the ball, they just weren’t finishing, but in this one they couldn’t do much of anything. They faced down so much adversity in this one game. They really shouldn’t have won it if you look at just the game stats. But it’s just another special win that we hopefully don’t take for granted.
Plenty to dissect from this one, including Tuesday’s all new Patshow. It’s hard to believe but the Pats are off to their eighth Super Bowl under Belichick and Brady. Insane.