In their seventh straight AFC Championship Game appearance, the New England Patriots hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a closely played game, the Patriots ultimately prevailed with a dominant fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for New England, they found themselves in a familiar situation trailing by double digits late in the game. Like the previous three games, the Patriots somehow found a way to steal the victory. This time, like in Super Bowl LI, Danny Amendola found himself playing the role of hero. Amendola caught two touchdowns, including what proved to be the game winning touchdown.
- History – With the win, New England becomes the first team in NFL history to play in 10 Super Bowls. Eight of those Super Bowls have come with Tom Brady at the helm. For a team that was once considered the laughing stock of the league, the 10th Super Bowl appearance puts them right up there with franchises like the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in terms of best NFL franchises of all time.
- Danny Amendola – There are times where Amendola may seem like an after thought in the New England offense. Despite that, there is zero doubt now that when Tom Brady needs a clutch play, he looks Amendola’s way. After grabbing 11 catches last week, Amendola hauled in seven more catches for 84 yards. His two touchdowns lit the spark that New England needed to fuel the comeback. Amendola also added a big punt return to give the Patriots great field position to start the game winning drive.
- Brandin Cooks – After Rob Gronkowski left the game with a concussion, someone on the New England offense had to step up when they needed to move the ball. That man was Cooks. He had six catches for 100 yards in the victory. He also drew two big pass interference calls to help move the ball down the field when the Patriots needed to gain yardage.
- Stephon Gilmore – When he was signed during the offseason, some thought it was a head scratching move due to Malcolm Butler. In crucial moments during this game, Gilmore showed why Bill Belichick targeted him during free agency. The one play that sticks out was on the Jaguars last play of the game. With Blake Bortles facing a fourth and 15, he threw the ball downfield to Dede Westbrook, who had a step on Gilmore. However, Gilmore used his length to reach his arm out and force an incompletion to give the Patriots the ball back.
- Defense – After being gashed early on in the game, Matt Patricia’s unit responded with a strong second half of the game. Jacksonville was held to just two field goals in the final 30 minutes after scoring two touchdowns in the first half. When New England’s offense needed to defense to come up with a stop, the defense rose to the occasion and forced the ball back to the offense.
- Growing Up – After seeming like they were in control for most of the game, the Jaguars ultimately folded in the final moments. However, this could prove to be a learning experience for the young team that they could build on next season. Bortles showed flashes during the game that he could be relied on to make plays. If the Jaguars can rebound from this loss next season, they could be a force to be reckoned with in coming seasons.
While this may sound absurd, the last four times the Patriots have trailed by 10 or more points in the postseason, they have won each game. Last year’s 28-3 Super Bowl comeback may be the greatest comeback all time statically. Despite that, coming from 14-3 behind against the Jaguars could be equally as impressive. In last year’s Super Bowl comeback, Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower were both on the field. Neither player was active for the game against Jacksonville. Rob Gronkowski also left the game with a concussion. Coming back against one of the year’s best defensive units without three of your four or five best players is certainly an impressive feat.