The Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter and trailed 20-10 in the fourth — and it didn’t matter. Tom Brady showcased the magic that makes him the greatest of all time, leading his Patriots to their third Super Bowl in the past four seasons with a 24-20 win. The veteran quarterback turned to Brandin Cooks (six catches, 100 yards) and Danny Amendola (seven catches, 84 yards, two touchdowns) to carry his team to an epic comeback victory.
That doesn’t mean the Jaguars should hold their heads. Blake Bortles exceeded expectations, at one point carving up his opponent with 12 straight completions. A dialed-up blitzing scheme ultimately slowed him down, but it was the embattled passer’s mistake-averse play that kept his team alive. In the end, it was an overtaxed secondary and a legendary quarterback on the other sideline who quashed Jacksonville’s hopes for a first-ever Super Bowl appearance.
Here’s everything that happened:
The full recap
- An illegal hit from Barry Church took Rob Gronkowski out of the game in the second quarter.
- The Jaguars could have taken a commanding lead into the locker room at the half, but failed to follow through.
- Myles Jack’s never-give-up strip and recovery deflated the Patriots’ fourth quarter comeback hopes.
- Danny Amendola’s postseason value has never been more apparent than it was Sunday afternoon.
- The Patriots gave Stephon Gilmore a huge contract the past offseason specifically for plays like this.
- James Harrison is heading back to the Super Bowl, and he played a pretty important role for New England Sunday.
Today in Tom Brady saltiness
- It took approximately 30 seconds of pregame warmups for Brady and Jalen Ramsey to start jawing at each other.
- Brady does not care for your television cameras.
Final: Patriots 24, Jaguars 20
Patriots 24, Jaguars 20: Facing third-and-9, Dion Lewis ripped off the longest Patriot run of the game to seal a Patriot win. Amazing comeback for New England, who will advance to its third Super Bowl in four years.
The moment wasn’t lost on Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
Patriots 24, Jaguars 20: Jacksonville’s 4th-and-14 gambit failed to pay off thanks to some pressure from Harrison and an AMAZING swat from Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots will take over at their own 43.
Patriots 24, Jaguars 20: James Harrison’s first sack of the day was a big one. His strip of Bortles didn’t lead to a turnover, but it forced the Jags into a third-and-19 in the middle of the biggest drive of the game.
Jacksonville will have the entire two-minute warning to figure out how to recover.
Patriots 24, Jaguars 20: Danny Amendola is CARRYING the Patriots. His back-of-the-endzone gymnastics have given New England its first lead since early in the second quarter. He’s got two touchdown catches in the fourth quarter.
Blake Bortles now has 2:48 to lead his team back from a four-point deficit in a hostile environment. This will be the biggest drive of his career.
Patriots 17, Jaguars 20: Myles Jack, the linebacker who has been KILLING the Patriots, was helped off the field with an apparent leg injury.
Patriots 17, Jaguars 20: Jacksonville can’t do much in front of a hyped-up Patriot defense. Pressure helps force a three-and-out, and Danny Amendola’s punt return means New England will only need to go 30 yards for a lead-changing touchdown.
Patriots 17, Jaguars 20: The Pats first play is a deep ball to Cooks, who has Jalen Ramsey dead to rights. The ensuing pass interference call gifts the Pats 36 yards. Fortunately for the Jaguars, Brady can’t do anything with his next three plays, giving the ball back to the visitors.
Patriots 17, Jaguars 20: The Jags ripped off a first down, but their five-play drive chewed up only 2+ minutes before punting the ball back to the Patriots. Tom Brady will get the ball back, down three, at his own 19 yard line, and with 6:21 to play.
Patriots 17, Jaguars 20: Playoff Tom Brady is in full effect. He stepped up to deliver a third-and-18 strike to Danny Amendola that kept a must-score drive alive, then stepped up with a flea flicker of his own — with an assist from a great comeback from Philip Dorsett -- to drive into field goal range.
It was all Amendola from there, as the veteran receiver covered the final 27 yards with two passes that cut the Jacksonville lead to three points. That put some wind back in New England’s sails — but Pittsburgh got similarly close to a comeback last week, to no avail.
Patriots 10, Jaguars 20: New England’s defense came up big following the turnover, forcing a three-and-out and limited the damage from Lewis’s fumble. The Pats will take over at their own 15.
Patriots 10, Jaguars 20: The Patriots executed a rare throwback that looked like a massive gainer — but Myles Jack turned a big play into an opportunity. The Jacksonville linebacker chased down Dion Lewis to force and then recover a fumble that erased a New England drive that had run into field goal range.
Patriots 10, Jaguars 20: The Pats have to make a 10-point comeback in the game’s final quarter. And they’ll have to do it without their top target.
Rob Gronkowski (head) has been downgraded to out. #JAXvsNE— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 21, 2018
Patriots 10, Jaguars 20: Bortles’ dissection of the Patriots continues -- even on broken plays. New England had a third-quarter flea flicker sniffed out, only for the rangy QB to scramble to his right and make an 11-yard completion for a first down.
That blown-up trick play encapsulates the kind of day he’s having, and New England has few answers. A corner blitz, however, forced the Jaguars into a 43-yard field goal attempt, which Lambo coolly drilled to make this a two-possession game.
Third quarter: Patriots 10, Jaguars 17
Patriots 10, Jaguars 17: Three straight plays to Dion Lewis gain eight yards -- and the Patriots punt again. Jacksonville ball at its own nine.
Patriots 10, Jaguars 17: A pair of blitzes forced the Jaguars first three-and-out of the game, and the ensuing punt gave New England the ball back at its own 45-yard line. This is a major opportunity for the Pats — but can they capitalize with Gronkowski sidelined?
Patriots 10, Jaguars 17: It took more than 35 minutes, but the Patriots finally have a third-down conversion. Brady hit Chris Hogan with a 17-yard pass on third-and-6 to keep the Pats first drive of the second half alive. His next ball was a deep route that hit Brandin Cooks right in the hands...and then tumbled to the ground. Two plays later, the Patriots punted away their chance to tie this game up.
Patriots 10, Jaguars 17: Bortles’ completion streak ended at 12, leading to a 54-yard field goal from Josh Lambo to extend the Jaguar lead.
Patriots 10, Jaguars 14: Blake Bortles’ career day continues. His ability to stand tall in the pocket led to another huge third down conversion, hitting TJ Yeldon on third-and-8 and pushing another Jacksonville drive into enemy territory. It was his 12th straight completion on the afternoon.
Patriots 10, Jaguars 14:
#Patriots injury update: Rob Gronkowski (head) is questionable to return.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 21, 2018
Halftime: Patriots 10, Jaguars 14
Patriots 10, Jaguars 14: With 55 seconds left and two time outs, the Jaguars...kneel twice and go into the locker room. Confidence!
Patriots 10, Jaguars 14: The Church penalty was compounded by a 31-yard pass interference call on A.J. Bouye.
Two plays later, James White crashed into the end zone to cut the visitors’ lead to four points. Fortunately for Jacksonville, the Pats left 55 seconds left on the clock -- and now it’s Bortles time.
Patriots 3, Jaguars 14: The Patriots may be without Rob Gronkowski after absorbing a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church.
Church was penalized 15 yards for the play. Gronkowski was walked to the locker room in the aftermath. There’s no word yet on whether he’ll return.
Patriots 3, Jaguars 14: Keelan Cole, the undrafted free agent who emerged as one of the league’s top rookie targets this fall, bailed out the Jags on third-and-9 with a doozy of an over-the-shoulder catch that roasted Malcolm Butler in the process. That turned a potential three-and-out into another trip to NE territory.
A pair of penalties would ultimately doom the Jags, as Adam Butler’s coverage sack forced a Jacksonville punt and gave New England one more chance to score before halftime.
Patriots 3, Jaguars 14: Tom Brady was able to dig the Pats out of its own red zone, but the swarming Jacksonville pass rush proved too tough to overcome, sacking him on third-and-10 and forcing a punt. New England’s comeback will have to wait.
Patriots 3, Jaguars 14: The Patriots have no answer for Blake Bortles. The embattled quarterback has taken advantage of his windows, wrecking his opponent with a combination of screen plays and wide-open looks downfield. He completed eight straight passes before giving way to a Leonard Fournette-led running game. Fournette churned into the end zone from four yards out to push the underdogs’ lead to double-digits — and put the Patriots in trouble.
Patriots 3, Jaguars 7: New England’s insistence on stopping the run bit them as Bortles finished off a 76-yard drive with a touchdown pass to a wide-open Marcedes Lewis. It was Lewis’s first postseason TD catch in his 12-year career.
The Patriots struggled to cover Jacksonville’s receivers downfield — and weren’t especially damaging on the ground either. The Jags averaged nearly 11 yards per play on that scoring drive. That’s bad news...and this might be even worse:
The last three times the Patriots trailed at any point in an AFC Championship game, they went on to lose (2013 & 2015 to Broncos, 2012 to Ravens)— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 21, 2018
First quarter: Patriots 3, Jaguars 0
Patriots 3, Jaguars 0: The Jaguars second drive was more successful, as a screen and run-heavy attack gashed the Patriots’ front seven and pushed the team into field goal position as time ran out on the first quarter.
Patriots 3, Jaguars 0: Jacksonville dinked-and-dunked its way near midfield, but Blake Bortles was unable to connect on a pair of mid-range passes on second and third down, forcing the Jags to punt after a promising start.
Patriots 3, Jaguars 0: The Pats drove from their own 25 into Jacksonville territory, but their drive seemed to stall out at the 31. That led New England to go for it on 4th-and-2, which resulted in a 21-yard wheel-route completion to Danny Amendola.
Brady rolled that momentum into two-straight negative-yard screen passes before taking a sack on third-and-goal, forcing a 31-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
Pregame: It took approximately 30 seconds before Tom Brady and Jalen Ramsey began jawing at each other.
Before the game
You can’t give the Jacksonville Jaguars bonus opportunities — not in 2018. That’s exactly what sunk the Pittsburgh Steelers last week as Doug Marrone’s team took four turnovers — two on downs, one interception, and one fumble — and turned them into 28 points and more than 55 minutes of complete control at Heinz Field.
On Sunday, they’ll have to replicate that success against a team that turned the ball over fewer times than all but one other team in the NFL. The New England Patriots excel by limiting mistakes; they committed just three turnovers at home this season. That means Blake Bortles and an offense that exploded for 38 points last week (the Jags added seven more on a fumble return for a touchdown) will have to be just as volatile when they head to Gillette Stadium Sunday.
New England is streaking toward its third Super Bowl appearance in four years. The Patriots have won 12 of their last 13 games after a shaky 2-2 start that raised questions about the team’s defense. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, whose days with the club may be numbered after reports swirled that he’d become the Lions’ latest head coach once his postseason comes to an end, answered those questions by allowing fewer points over the last 13 weeks of the season (14.0) than any other team in the NFL. That strength shined through last week against the Titans, who scored only seven points in the game’s first 58 minutes before adding a garbage-time touchdown as time wound down.
That could lead to a defensive struggle in Foxborough. The heart of the Jaguars resurgence has been a punishing defense that ranks third in the league in total defense, second in sacks, and first in passing defense. They’ll be tested by Brady, the probable 2017 MVP who keeps chugging along at 40 years of age.
Jacksonville knocked off one Hall of Fame quarterback last week. If it can do it again, it’ll push a tortured franchise to its first Super Bowl.
- The Jaguars beat the Steelers for the same reason they can beat the Patriots: They’re pissed
- Meanwhile, the biggest emotion Bill Belichick could muster in last week’s rout was complete disinterest.
- The defense helped, but it was an explosion from the Jacksonville offense that spoiled a Patriots-Steelers rematch in the AFC title game.
Ben Roethlisberger has struggled against the Jaguars historically, and that looked like it was going to be the case again when he started the game with an interception thrown to Myles Jack and a fumble that was returned by Telvin Smith for a touchdown. But he finished the game with five touchdowns — a much better showing than his zero touchdowns and five interceptions against the Jaguars in October.
Still, the Jaguars held off Pittsburgh’s second-half surge and put the game away with 61-yard and 75-yard touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.
- If the Jags want to upset the Patriots, they should probably figure out how to stop this one play Belichick keeps borrowing from Kansas City.
The Patriots changed the formation ever so slightly to hide the play, but it worked all the same. And in fact, it’s not the only time the Patriots have run the play this season.
- The hatin’-ass Jaguars got called for taunting on a fumble return for a touchdown, and it was totally worth it.
A report from ESPN’s Seth Wickersham says that tensions between the team’s twin icons, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady, have festered to the point that the situation might just be untenable going forward.
In the middle of it is Robert Kraft, the team’s owner, who inserted himself into the fray in a meeting with Belichick this season that ended with Kraft instructing his head coach to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.