Tom Brady and the New England Patriots produced a stirring comeback to reach the Super Bowl for a 10th time with a 24-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game.
Jacksonville, having stunningly knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional round, dominated an absorbing contest at Gillette Stadium for long periods and led 14-3 at one point in the first half.
The Jaguars held a 20-10 advantage in the fourth quarter and, with tight end Rob Gronkowski out with a concussion, Jacksonville appeared in prime position to pull off a staggering upset.
But the 40-year-old Brady, whose condition throughout the week had been the subject of much speculation after injuring his hand in practice, led the Patriots all the way back, producing a recovery akin to the 25-point turnaround he pulled off in Super Bowl LI.
First he capped an eight-play drive with a nine-yard strike to Danny Amendola and, after a quick three-and-out and short Jacksonville punt that was returned well into Jaguars territory by Amendola, the same receiver produced a magnificent catch at the back of the endzone to complete a remarkable revival.
Brady completed all six of his passes on the Patriots' opening drive, but they were restricted to a 31-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal after a third-down sack from Dante Fowler.
But from then on Jacksonville took control, quarterback Blake Bortles leading touchdown drives that were finished off by a four-yard pass to Marcedes Lewis and a four-yard run by Leonard Fournette.
Hope for New England came as running back Dion Lewis crossed for a score following a contentious pass interference penalty on A.J. Bouye on the drive that saw Gronkowski concussed on a hit from Barry Church.
A pair of second-half Josh Lambo field goals nudged Jacksonville further ahead and, when Myles Jack forced and recovered a Lewis fumble, the Jaguars would have been forgiven for thinking their job was almost done.
Jacksonville could not capitalise on that turnover and then allowed Brady to convert on third-and-18 with a 21-yard throw to Amendola, who cut the gap to seven before a leaping acrobatic grab put the Patriots in the lead for good.
The Jaguars still had time to respond but a fourth-down pass from Bortles to Dede Westbrook was brilliantly broken up by Stephon Gilmore, with Lewis then converting a key third down for New England that allowed them to run out the clock and put Brady a win away from becoming the first player to win six Super Bowl titles.
22 de febrero 2018
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