AFC Championship: Three takeaways from Patriots' win over Jaguars

Oleh Ron Clements 22 Januari 2018 126
AFC Championship: Three takeaways from Patriots' win over Jaguars

Never count Tom Brady out.

Trailing early in Sunday's AFC championship game, Brady rallied the Patriots for a 24-20 win over the Jaguars to send the defending champions back to the Super Bowl. 

Reports of Brady's injured right hand were largely exaggerated as the five-time Super Bowl champion completed 26 of his 38 pass attempts for 290 yards and two touchdowns.

The game-winning score was a 4-yard pass to Danny Amendola, who made an acrobatic catch in the back of the end zone with 2:48 remaining in the game.

Amendola was a huge reason the Patriots clinched a spot to their 10th Super Bowl — eighth under head coach Bill Belichick. After New England tight end Rob Gronkowski was knocked from the game late in the first half with a concussion, Amendola became Brady's go-to target. 

Amendola finished with seven catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. His first score was set up after Amendola caught a 21-yard pass on third-and-18 midway early in the fourth quarter. 

Once the Patriots had the lead, the defense took over and prevented the Jaguars from reaching their first-ever Super Bowl. 

Three takeaways from the Patriots' win over the Jaguars

1. Penalties hurt the Jaguars — While a couple penalties were questionable, the Jaguars were penalized six times for 98 yards. The Patriots, meanwhile, had just one 10-yard penalty.  

Jaguars penalties before halftime led to New England's first touchdown. One penalty was an unnecessary roughness call against Barry Church after he made helmet-to-helmet contact with Gronkowski, who was forced into the concussion protocol.

Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye was hit with a questionable pass interference call on the next play to set up James White's 1-yard plunge into the end zone. 

2. Bill Belichick is a master at halftime adjustments — Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and his coaching staff had a perfect game plan in place. It was working, too, as the Jaguars jumped out to a 14-3 lead. The Jaguars held a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter as Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles played one of the best games of his career.

Bortles was 23 of 36 for 293 yards and a touchdown as the Jaguars lost for the first time without turning the ball over. Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett called a mixture of runs and short passes that loosened up the Patriots defense to give Bortles opportunities to push the ball downfield. The use of play-action passes allowed Bortles to gain confidence with every throw, even as the Jaguars got unlikely contributions from players like running back Corey Grant and wide receiver Keelan Cole. 

Grant's speed gave New England fits early. He had two catches for 44 yards, the second of which set up a 4-yard pass from Bortles to tight end Marcedes Lewis.

But it was a different story in the second half as the Patriots made adjustments and kept the Jaguars out of the end zone. 

"We said whatever it takes," Brady told CBS Sports. "That was a great second half."

3. Jaguars were unable to capitalize on New England mistakes — The Patriots don't make many mistakes, but when they do, their opponents have to capitalize on them. Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack, who had to be helped off the field with a left leg injury three plays before Amendola's game-winning touchdown, forced a turnover with an incredible individual effort.

After the Patriots ran a trick play with a lateral from Brady to Amendola, who then threw across the field to running back Dion Lewis, Jack tracked down Lewis and ripped the ball from him early in the fourth quarter at the Patriots 45-yard line. 

The Jaguars held a 20-10 lead at the time and could have put the game out of reach. Instead, they had a three-and-out and the Patriots scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession. 

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Ron Clements

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