The Jacksonville Jaguars entered the AFC Championship with a familiar storyline against them. Like in Pittsburgh, there were plenty of fans that were rooting them on, but the experts were not so sure. It seemed like all the professional analysts were not giving the Jaguars a chance to win on the road in Foxboro against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. After all, Tom Brady entered this game undefeated when playing in the AFC Championship game as the number one seed. With all that was not looking favorable for them, the Jaguars again rallied and were leading for most of the game and were up by ten in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, they were not able to hold on when it mattered the most as the Patriots were able to score 14 in the fourth to win the AFC championship and head to the Super Bowl. The team so many fans love to hate has written another chapter in their lengthy history under the leadership of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. So how did the Patriots end up getting there again?
Well, one thing that helped them is the conservative play-calling of the Jags when they were up by ten and then three points. In the beginning of the game, the Jags were playing with confidence as they were making plays in the passing game offensively and keep the Patriots off-balance. In the fourth quarter though, they begin to run predictable down-and-distance plays. The thinking probably was they could depend on their defense to carry them while the offense just grinds it out with runs by Leonard Fournette. Well, when you continually give chances to a quarterback like Tom Brady, eventually he is going to get you and eventually your defense is going to get tired from going back out there on three-and-outs. Brady was able to make enough plays to help the Patriots win the game and send the Jaguars home for the season. What the Jags learned on Sunday is that when you have the Patriots down, you have to finish them off. The more you let them stay in the game, the bigger the pressure mounts on you because of the experience the Patriots have on their side. The Jags learned a valuable lesson albeit a painful one and the Patriots took advantage of a youthful Jags team that has a ton of players that have never experienced the playoffs.
The Jags inexperience hurt them offensively, but the veteran experience of the Patriots offense hurt the Jags as well. Early on in the game, it seemed the Jags were on everything the Patriots were doing. The Patriots were stuck in the mud and could seemingly get no traction at all. Even with the score before halftime, there was some nervousness but no one was sure how the Patriots were going to get it done offensively at all. Then, the Patriots started to find their matchups. Instead of those matchups being advantageous for them at the running back position, it was the wide receiver position that was the advantage for them. The Jaguars were touted by many as having the best cornerback duo in the NFL with Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye. Well, Sunday it seemed like the Patriots decided to pick on Bouye in the passing game. It started in the first half with Brandin Cooks setting him up and making completions and then when they swapped Ramsey over to Cooks, that’s when Danny Amendola got going. Cooks finished the game with six receptions for 100 yards and Amendola finished the game with seven receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns, including the big one that gave the Patriots the lead late in the fourth. Bouye wasn’t involved in the second touchdown catch for Amendola, but he was there for most of his catches in the game and the Patriots were able to spot that and exploit him all game long.
They may be one of the most hated teams according to fans in the NFL, but the Patriots are one of the smartest teams when it comes to exploiting teams and taking advantage of opportunities. The Patriots did that to the Jaguars and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the most crucial of games. Tom Brady did Tom Brady things, the defense got it together and free-agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore made the best play of his Patriots career to date laying out to knock away a crucial pass. Just like most predicted, the Patriots are back where they were supposed to be and they have a chance to be the champions once again. And what makes this even more special for Tom Brady is he not only has a chance to win a sixth ring, but he has a chance to win that sixth ring in the state where his mom was born. For those that don’t know, Brady’s mom has had some health issues, so we know this one will definitely mean a lot to him. And we know the Patriots will be fighting to make sure it is a happy occasion for their leader.
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