Ryan L. Fox
On September 1, 2018, the New England Patriots began their quest to defend their Super Bowl Title and to repeat as champions. Now on January 21, 2018, they were one game away from going to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Super Bowl LII. Coming into Foxborough were the young, red hot Jacksonville Jaguars looking to shock the world with an upset of New England for their first Super Bowl trip in franchise history. However despite Jacksonville's best efforts, QB Tom Brady would not be denied his 8th Super Bowl appearance.
The Patriots got the ball to start the game off. Starting from their own 25, QB Tom Brady drove his team down the field. This also included a 39-yard pass to WR Brandin Cooks down to the Jacksonville 39. The Patriots got all the way down to the Jacksonville 10. However the Jaguars forced the Patriots back on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down as they had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski for the early 3-0.
The two teams then exchanged punts with another, as the Jaguars got the ball back at their 24-yard line and proceeded to drive down the field. They were able to get down to the New England 28 as the first quarter ended. When the second quarter began, QB Blake Bortles found RB Corey Grant for a quick pass for 24-yards down to the New England 4. From there, Bortles found TE Mercedes Lewis for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Kicker Josh Lambo added the extra points as the Jaguars took the early 7-3 lead.
After forcing a Patriots punt, the Jaguars got the ball back at their own 23. They were able to gouge the Patriots defense with pass plays of 15-yards and a 27-yards as well as runs of 13-yards and 12-yards. The Jaguars then got down to the New England 4 as RB Leonard Fournette bulldozed his way (and through Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy) into the end zone. Lambo added the extra point and the Jaguars extended their lead to 14-3.
Looking to try to prevent the game from getting out of hand, the Patriots tried to muster an offensive drive. However the Jaguars defense smothered them, including DE Dante Fowler getting his second sack on Brady on 3rd and 10 from the New England 32. Punter Ryan Allen then had to boot the ball away as Jacksonville got the ball back at their own 25.
At first it seemed that all momentum had shifted to the Jaguars as they were able to move the ball. Luck also seemed to shift in favor of the Jaguars too as on 3rd and 8 on the same drive, Bortles was able to find WR Keelan Cole for a 26-yard pass to the New England 47. However a couple of costly penalties (including a delay of game that wiped out a first down pass) forced the Jaguars to punt.
The Patriots got the ball back on their 15 with around 2:02 left in the half. From there, Brady drove his team down the field. Along the way they were aided by 47 yards due to penalties from the Jaguars defense before getting down to Jaguars 1. From there, RB James White bowled over into the end zone. Gostkowski added the extra point as it was 14-10 in favor of the visitors.
However on that drive, all of Patriots nation’s blood went cold. On 1st and 10 from the New England 40, TE Rob Gronkowski suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit by Jaguars S Barry Church, which drew a 15-yard penalty. Gronk got up slowly as he seemed to stumble when he walked. The All-Pro Tight End was admitted into the NFL concussion protocol and then later on, was ruled out for the rest of the game.
The Jaguars got the ball to start the second half and it seemed like they did miss a beat. Bortles and Fournette guided the offense down the field to the New England 36. However on 3rd and 4, Bortles pass to WR Marquis Lewis was batted away by Patriots DE Trey Flowers. The Jaguars had to settle for a 54-yard Lambo field goal to go up 17-10 with 10:28 left in third quarter.
That ended up being the only score of the quarter from both teams. From then on, both team kept exchanging punts with one another. The Patriots defense got a much needed stop on one of Jacksonville’s possessions but the Patriots offense could not muster any sort of drive themselves and were forced to punt each time.
The Jaguars got the ball back with 4:41 left in the third quarter and began another methodical drive down the field. This also included a random flea-flicker on 1st and 10 on the Jacksonville 34 for 15 yards. The Jaguars got down to the New England 25 where that’s where the quarter ended. The fourth quarter opened up with an incomplete Bortles pass followed up by Lambo 43-yard field goal to go up 20-10.
The Patriots opened up their first possession of the fourth quarter as they seemed to be ready to strike quickly. After an 18-yard pass from Brady to Cooks, the Patriots had a first down at their 45-yard line. Then the Patriots offense went into their back of tricks as Brady tossed the ball to WR Danny Amendola, who then threw the ball to RB Dion Lewis. Lewis got down to the Jacksonville 33 by LB Myles Jack, only to have the ball stripped by Jack. Replays showed that Jack indeed successfully stripped the ball and the Jaguars were awarded the ball on their own 33. Unfortunately the Jaguars couldn’t convert off the turnover and were forced to punt.
When the Patriots got the ball back on their own 15, Brady came out throwing. He first found Cooks for 18-yards to the New England 33. Then he found Amendola for a 21-yard pass on 3rd and 18 to keep the drive alive. Brady followed that up with a 31-yard pass to WR Phillip Dorsett down to the Jacksonville 23. Afterwards, Brady targeted Amendola 3 times as Amendola caught the ball 2 times for 23 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass. Gostkowski booted the extra point through as the Patriots cut into the Jaguars lead, 20-17 with under 9 minutes left in the game.
The Patriots defense then forced another Jacksonville punt as they got the ball back on their own 19 with 6:21 left in the game. After a 36-yard pass interference on the Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey put the ball on the Jaguars 45, giving them excellent field position. However Brady ended up throwing three straight incomplete passes as the Patriots were forced to punt.
After getting forcing another Jacksonville punt, the Patriots got the ball on the Jaguars 30 after a 20-yard punt return by Amendola. From there, the Patriots offense drove all the way down to the Jaguars 5. Two plays later, Brady found Amendola in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. Gostkowski booted the extra point through as the Patriots regained the lead 24-20 with 2:48 left in the game.
The Jaguars got the ball on their own 25 yard line and proceeded to make one last desperate attempt to win the game. At first it seemed like they could pass all over the Patriots defense as they got down to the New England 38. However they were pushed back to the New England 47 as Bortles was sacked by LBs Kyle Van Noy and James Harrison. On 4th and 15, Bortles pass to D Westbrook was broken up by CB Stephon Gilmore, giving the ball back to the Patriots.
At first glance, the Jaguars look to hold the Patriots and force a punt for one last attempt. However an 18-yard run by Lewis on 3rd and 9 gave his team that crucial first down to be able to run out the clock. From there, Brady kneeled the ball three times as the New England Patriots were back on their way to the Super Bowl.
Top Patriot Performers
QB Tom Brady: 26-for-38 for 290 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT for QB rating of 108.4
RB Dion Lewis: 9 carries for 34 yards and 1 fumble lost, 7 catches for 32 yards
WR Danny Amendola: 1-for-1 for 20 yards, 7 catches for 84 yards and 2 TDs
WR Brandin Cooks: 6 catches for 100 yards
K Stephen Gostkowski: 1-for-1 on FG, 3-for-3 0on XP for a total of 6 points
DE Lawrence Guy.: 6 tackles (4 solo, 2 assists), 1.0 sacks
DE Trey Flowers: 9 tackles (5 solo, 4 assists)
LB Kyle Van Noy: 11 tackles (6 solo, 5 assists), 1.0 sacks
CB Stephon Gilmore: 5 tackles (5 solo, 0 assists), 1 pass deflected
Hold onto your Bud Light folks. This AFC Championship victory for the Patriots was filled with milestones.
First, this was the 14th Conference title game appearance for the Patriots. This ties them 3rd all-time with the Dallas Cowboys with only the Pittsburgh Steelers (16) and the San Francisco 49ers (15) ahead of them. This was also their 7th-straight conference title game appearance, which continues to extend their record streak. Also this was head coach Bill Belichick’s 12th conference championship game and as well as his 38th playoff appearance, which continue to extend his record.
The 31-yard field by Gostkowski was the 24th consecutive postseason game where he scored a point. This times him with former Philadelphia Eagles & San Francisco 49ers K David Akers for 2nd all-time with only legendary Patriots and current Indianapolis Colts Kicker Adam Vinateri ahead of them (30). That was also Gostkowski’s 32nd career postseason field goal, which ties him with HoFer Kicker Gary Anderson for 3rd all-time.
Then in the second quarter, Gronkowski’s 21-yard catch (his only catch of the game) gave him 856 career postseason receiving yards. That puts him ahead of former Colts TE Dallas Clark (847) for most all-time by a tight end.
Brady’s ‘game-winning’ touchdown to Amendola in the fourth quarter was his 22nd career postseason game with 2 touchdown passes or more, extending his NFL record.
Now get ready for the barrage.
This victory was the Patriots’ 34th postseason win, tying them with both the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys for 2nd most all-time behind the Steelers (36). Their trip to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LIII will be their 10th appearance, which continues to extend their all-time NFL record.
Also this will be both Belichick and Brady’s 8th Super Bowl appearance, both continuing to extend their own NFL records in each of their respective categories (Super Bowl appearances for an NFL head coach & Super Bowl appearances for an NFL player)
A Gronky Situation
Unfortunately with the victory in the AFC Championship comes a very tricky situation. In the second quarter, TE Rob Gronkowski was hit via helmet-to-helmet by Jaguars S Barry Church. After going through the NFL concussion protocol, Gronk was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a concussion.
This is still a very tricky situation for the Patriots. Given with Rob Gronkowski’s injury history, there could be a possibility that the All-Pro tight end might not play in Super Bowl LII. Granted the Patriots won Super Bowl LI without Gronk but they also had WR Julian Edelman playing.
Although there is a two-week layoff from the Championship games and the Super Bowl, one can only wonder if the concussion that Gronk suffered could put him out for that game.
Fox Fist Bump
Everybody on the Patriots team gets a Fox Fist Bump. You just faced the best (if not one of the best) defenses in the NFL this season as well as came back from a 14-point deficit to win in your own house to go to the Super Bowl, which you will arguably win hands down.
Turd in the Punch Bowl
No turds this week. Seriously, they’re going to the Super Bowl. The only ones who would nitpick this victory would be people like Michael Felger.
Play of the Game
We’re Going to Minneapolis!!!
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