AFC Championship recap
This NFL postseason has been one of the most interesting in a long time. Prior to the NFL postseason, the NFL regular season was just as interesting. It looked like the NFC was the most competitive all year and the AFC was…not great. Did you know that between the 12 postseason teams, from last year to this year, eight new teams were competing to ultimately raise the Lombardi trophy this season? I haven’t even watched the Super Bowl yet and I can tell you that the best game in this postseason had to be the AFC Championship game. This game had to be one of the most thrilling games ever in an AFC Championship game because it went down to the wire.
This game was played between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots. The New England Patriots were coming off a 13-3 regular season and facing off in their seventh consecutive AFC Championship game (which is an NFL record). Coming off of a blowout win against the Tennessee Titans, the Patriots were favored by nine points to be the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jacksonville Jaguars have been one of the most exciting teams this season. They can play that “disrespect card” on any team. We saw that against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let’s just say that the Jaguars beat the Steelers on the road, in a shootout 45-42. Blake Bortles (Jaguars Quarterback) had been playing an excellent postseason, not recording a giveaway in the first two postseason games. The Jaguars-Patriots matchup was destined to be a great game.
From the opening kickoff, the Patriots were going to do what they did best: march down the field to get an opening possession score. They did, making the score 3-0. Next, the game took a different turn. In the second quarter, the Jaguars took control of the game, scoring 14 unanswered points. Things were not looking good for the Patriots and it was about to get worse. Towards the end of the first half, Tom Brady threw a seam route intended for Rob Gronkowski. Rob Gronkowski laid out for the catch, and Barry Church nailed him right in the head. Even though that hit drew a 15-yard penalty, Rob Gronkowski left the game with a concussion and would not return. On the flip side, the Patriots scored their first touchdown on that drive, thanks to a pass interference call on AJ Bouye. At halftime, the score was 14-10, Jaguars.
Things were not looking good for the Patriots due to the fact that one of their best receiving threats was knocked out of the game. However, for any Patriots fan or fan of the NFL in general, we’ve seen this story play out all too well. The Patriots play for 60 minutes, and by the way, the Patriots have two GOATs on their sideline: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. In the fourth quarter, the Patriots were down 20-10. The turning point of the game had to be the 3rd & 18 conversion between Tom Brady and Danny Amendola. Danny Amendola has a reputation of being clutch in playoff games, especially in the last two Super Bowl wins for the Patriots. So, of course, they’re going to go to him in certain situations. Oh my goodness, he delivered.
He had seven receptions for 84 yards and caught both of Tom Brady’s touchdown passes in the second half. His second receiving touchdown was a thing of beauty. He made a miraculous catch in the back of the end zone and Gillette Stadium went nuts. However, there were still two minutes and 48 seconds left on the clock and the Jaguars had all three timeouts, as well as the two-minute warning. On that final possession for the Jaguars, the two key players on that drive that ultimately decided the game were James Harrison and Stephon Gilmore. James Harrison had a key strip-sack that forced a third and 19. Then, Gillette Stadium went really nuts when Stephon Gilmore broke up a pass from Blake Bortles to Dede Westbrook on fourth down and 14. On the final drive, the Jaguars still had a chance to get the ball back and win the game because they had all three timeouts. On third down and nine, that all went out the window when Dion Lewis broke out a huge run to ultimately ice the game. Patriot Nation was in jubilation because they were going back to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row and their 10th overall. Blake Bortles played admirably in the loss, going 23-36 for 293 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. Tom Brady went 26-38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Out of this game, everyone learned three things: The Jaguars are going to wreak havoc in the NFL in the future and maybe win a couple Super Bowls. Also, Tom Brady is the GOAT with his 54th game-winning or game-tying drive in his career. Finally, you can never, ever count out the Patriots. This AFC championship game is going to be remembered for a long time.
Shawn Yeboah, a first year, studies biomedical engineering. He is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.