Jacksonville Jaguars 20 New England Patriots 24
What a game. Whilst the NFC didn’t deliver a decent game for their championship game, the AFC sure did as the New England Patriots are going back to the Superbowl to defend their crown after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars after yet another fourth quarter comeback by Tom ’12 stitches’ Brady.
Going in to the game, it was all about TB12’s throwing hand. Brady needed 12 stitches in his throwing hand after it got caught on Rex Burkhead’s belt buckle as the pair were running a standard handoff play in practice. Well it turns out, it didn’t matter one bit as the Patriots are heading to another Superbowl by doing what they always seem to do in big spots, adjusting to the nature of the game they’re playing, relishing in their opportunity to play situational football.
For the first three quarters of this football game, Jacksonville dominated. Up until the final few minutes of the first half, the Patriots had been limited to only three points, which they had obtained on the first drive of the game. Then Jacksonville got going. Their running game was strong. Running back Leonard Fournette seemed to always get a few yards on a run even when it looked like he was going to be stopped at the line of scrimmage. Blake Bortles continued to do enough, hitting receivers in space on short passes allowing them to rack up a serious number of yards after the catch. Early in the second quarter, Bortles hit an open Marcedes Lewis for a four yard touchdown pass, putting the Jags up 7-3. I wasn’t worried at this point.
The next score would come from fourth overall pick Leonard Fournette as he ran right through the front seven of the Patriots on a four yard touchdown run. 14-3 Jags, still not worried. On the last Patriots drive before the half, they would score. However, it would come at a cost. The two biggest plays of the drive would both come on penalties; unnecessary roughness by Barry Church on Rob Gronkowski and defensive pass interference by AJ Bouye on Brandin Cooks. The former would result in Gronkowski being out for the rest of the game due to a failure to pass the concussion protocol. At the end of the drive, James White, who doesn’t seem to rush for touchdowns in the regular season, rushed for a touchdown from the one yard line. 14-10 Jags at the half.
The first two scores of the second half would both come from the right foot of Jags’ kicker Josh Lambo (I need him to play for the Packers one day) and the score would be 20-10 Jags going into the fourth quarter.
And now for the moment that would make me nervous. The Patriots were emptying the playbook at this point. They were running trick plays like they were going out of fashion. On one of those plays, Danny Amendola threw a pass to Dion Lewis, who would then run for twenty yards after the catch. And then he fumbled the ball. And Myles Jack (an absolute steal when the Jags took him in the second round of the 2016 draft) recovered the ball. That’s when the sweat became apparent. That was the moment I was shouting at the TV saying that Lewis was down like the refs could hear me. That was the moment when I had to start pacing in my living room because I couldn’t keep still.
Without Gronkowski and Edelman in this game, and up against one of the scariest defensive teams in the NFL, someone needed to step up. That man would be Danny ‘Playoff’ Amendola (I did say this in my post from last week, I literally said he would do damage in this game. Someone send Jalen Ramsey my work, he might learn a thing or two). In this game, Danny Amendola, a man who was considered a potential candidate to be cut before the season started, would have 7 receptions off 9 targets and go for 84 yards and two touchdowns. On his first touchdown drive, Amendola would have three massive catches on the drive and on the game winning drive, Amendola would show an elite level of control over his own body as he was able to toe tap both feet in bounds at the back of the endzone whilst falling to the ground to haul in what would be the game winning touchdown.
Technically, the game wasn’t over. The Jags started driving and they had even made it to New England’s 38 yard line before the two minute warning. Then, on second down, Kyle Van Noy got the one of the biggest sacks of his career. By fourth down, the Jags needed fifteen yards to keep the game alive. Bortles threw a great pass that looked like it was going right into the hands of the receiver but then a flying, Superman-like Stephon Gilmore appeared right in front of rookie Dede Westbrook and batted down the pass attempt. With the two minute warning already gone and Jacksonville still possessing all three timeouts, all the Patriots needed to win the game was a single first down. On their first two running attempts, they didn’t get much. However, on third down, my guy Dion Lewis (who didn’t have his best game), would complete a New England victory and the dark side of the force is still mighty and powerful.
Next week, it’s the Pro Bowl and because the Patriots are in the Superbowl, they at least don’t need to fake a bunch of injuries because Patriots don’t go to the Pro Bowl. That’s because the Pro Bowl is just a game for players who didn’t make the Superbowl.
And then, the night before the Superbowl, it’s NFL Honours, where Tom Brady won’t be there to pick up his third NFL MVP Award because he has more important things to think about.
Sunday 4th February, 11.30pm on BBC and Sky Sports, tune in for THE THREE TIME MVP, FIVE TIME SUPERBOWL CHAMPION AND FOUR TIME SUPERBOWL MVP TOM BRADY vs. Nick Foles.