The New England Patriots appearance in Super Bowl LII marks the 10th for the franchise and the 8th in the Brady-Belichick era. The Pats are heading to Minnesota to face off against the Philadelphia Eagles after coming from behind to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship on Sunday.
The Patriots were heavy favorites to beat Jacksonville until the cut heard around the football world occurred Wednesday. After Tom Brady sliced his right hand at practice, he missed Thursday and was limited on Friday. When news got out, many started picking the Jaguars to win the game. In his press conference Friday, Brady was optimistic about playing on Sunday, answering “ we’ll see.” With a Jaguars pass rush that can hit Brady and a great pass defense, Brady’s hand was up for a fight on Sunday. But the hand was not a factor in the game. Brady finished 26/38 for 290 yards and two TD’s, while Danny “Playoff” Amendola had seven catches for 84 yards and two huge TD’s.
On the first drive, Brady completed all 6 of his passes for 57 yards, leading to a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. But then Jacksonville drove right down the field to score a touchdown and go up 7-3. The next possession stalled for the Patriots, forcing them to punt and give up the ball. That led to a Leonard Fournette touchdown and a 14-3 Jacksonville lead in the second quarter. The Patriots then got the ball with two and half minutes left in the second quarter and were looking for a touchdown to close out a sluggish first half. They did just that with a James White rushing TD with just under a minute left. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of Rob Gronkowski leaving the game due to a concussion.
To start the second half, the Jags got the ball and took it down the field but the Patriots defense held them to a field goal to make it 17-10. But while the Patriots defense tightened up in the second, their offense couldn’t get going and was stopped on its first two drives. Jacksonville once again had a great drive going, but the Pats defense stepped up and held them to yet another field goal to make the score 20-10 with 14:52 left in the fourth.
Just as the Patriots looked to gain momentum, the Jags defense recovered a Dion Lewis fumble on a trick play. But Jacksonville went 3 and out and gave the ball back to Brady and the offense. The Pats suffered a sack and an incompletion, leaving them in a desperate 3rd down and 18. That is when Brady connected with Amendola for the first down, a pivotal point in the game that kept the drive alive and led to a nine-yard yard TD pass from Brady to Amendola. That brought the score to 20-17.
After that, Jacksonville got nothing going and punted it back to the Pats with about four minutes to go in the game. Brady drove them down the field and threw a four yard TD pass to – who else? – Danny Amendola. Amendola just got two feet down in the end zone to secure the score, putting the Patriots up 24-20 with 2:52 left in the game. The Jags drove it down to the Patriots 43-yard line on 4th and 13 and Bortles threw a deep pass down the field, but Stephon Gilmore came soaring through the air and batted it down. The game was over after the Patriots ran out the clock. Brady took the final knee, sending the Patriots off to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years.