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Patriots heading to SB LII after victory over Jaguars

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As the clock wound down and Tom Brady found himself in the middle of another celebration, Tom Coughlin glanced at a television monitor and watched. He, nearly alone in the Jacksonville Jaguars organization, knows the singular feeling of toppling Goliath. As the Jaguars’ braintrust waited for an elevator near the conveniently placed television, they all had received a fresh reminder of how very rare those moments are for Patriots opponents.

Nike Patriots #12 Tom Brady White Super Bowl LII Men's Stitched NFL Elite Drift Fashion Jersey
Nike Patriots #12 Tom Brady White LII Men’s Stitched NFL Elite Drift Fashion Jersey

The absences are overcome, the deficits are erased and the confetti falls again. It is as much of a rhythm as the Patriots’ up-tempo offense, as reliable as Brady’s presence itself. Nobody ever seriously expected Brady to miss the AFC Championship Game after a practice injury, and nobody ever really thought the game was over, even when the Patriots trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter. The Patriots, with a 24-20 comeback victory over the Jaguars, are going to the eighth Super Bowl of the Brady and Bill Belichick era, with the astounding possibility that they will win their third title in four years for the second time in Brady’s career.

It’s understandable if Patriots fatigue is setting in anywhere south and west of Connecticut.

What should not take over is Brady weariness. He has the chance to become the first player to win six Super Bowls. The Patriots have mounted unlikelier title runs — the first one, in 2001, when Brady was a novice, stands out — but this one, if it is completed in two weeks in Minneapolis, will stand out for weirdness . It has been constructed entirely without Julian Edelman, around whom so much of the offense operates, and with a defense that had to be fixed on the fly after the first month. It had to reach the final stop without Brady’s most devastating weapon, Rob Gronkowski, who did not play in the second half Sunday after suffering a head injury on a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the first half. And a bum hand was on the wheel. The Patriots essentially MacGyvered their way through the AFC title match.

Much like Super Bowl LI, the Patriots were clearly outclassed by a younger, physical, more athletic squad through three quarters. Following a familiar pattern, however, they were forced to compensate with Brady’s brilliance, a stifling fourth-quarter defense, questionable coaching decisions on the opposing sideline and a series of clutch plays mixed with favorable calls. The Jaguars paid dearly for a delay-of-game penalty late in the second quarter, accrued 68 yards in pass interference penalties attempting to cover Brandin Cooks and got caught playing with Brady’s fourth-quarter fire when their own play-calling regressed to an overly conservative approach. After orchestrating a practically perfect game plan through three quarters, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Blake Bortles managed just three fourth-quarter punts and a turnover on downs with the Super Bowl on the horizon.

The final outcome will end up overshadowing Hackett’s brilliant management of Bortles over the previous seven quarters versus the AFC’s super powers in Pittsburgh and New England best jerseys in nfl. For the second straight week, Hackett eliminated the opposing pass rush, provided Bortles with easy, low-risk throws and allowed his embattled passer to find a comfortable rhythm. Making sound decisions and converting an impressive array of third downs in a ball-control attack, Bortles tied a career-high with 12 consecutive completions in the heart of the afternoon. By halftime, he had completed 13 of 15 throws for 155 yards, one score and a gaudy 131.9 passer rating. Until that fateful final frame, it was fair to make the claim that Bortles had finally lived up to his No. 3 overall draft-pick pedigree, producing the best game of his career on the biggest stage the franchise has seen to date.

For all of the pre-game scrutiny over the daunting prospect of containing the unguardable Rob Gronkowski, the All-Pro tight end hauled in just one pass for 21 yards before safety ’s helmet-to-helmet blow sent him to the locker room late in the second quarter. Although Church’s penalty helped the Patriots find the end zone in the halftime two-minute drill, Gronkowski was lost for the remainder of the game with a head injury. As valuable as any non-quarterback in football, his status will be one to monitor leading up to Super Bowl LII.

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Nike Patriots #87 Rob Gronkowski Navy Blue Team Color Super Bowl LII Men’s Stitched NFL Elite Drift Fashion Jersey

“Danny’s such a good football player,” Belichick said, per ESPN. “When you look up ‘good football player’ in the dictionary, his picture is right there beside it.”

Sunday’s heroics came against a stout Jaguars defense staring down a Patriots attack missing Gronkowski and star wideout Julien Edelman. Tom Brady, meanwhile, played through the game with a nasty row of stitches on his throwing hand.

None of it seemed to matter, with Amendola putting on a show during a dominant fourth quarter for the Patriots. His first touchdown, a 9-yard dart from Brady, served as a turning-point score that cut Jacksonville’s lead to 20-17 with just under nine minutes to play.

Amendola’s second touchdown — a 4-yard, toe-tapping thing of beauty in the back of the end zone — secured the game for New England, now venturing on to an unbelievable eighth Super Bowl appearance under Belichick and Brady .

With 18 catches over two playoff games, he deserves a better nickname than “Danny Playoff Amendola,” a clunky moniker crafted by Gronkowski. The Patriots arguably wouldn’t have beaten the Falcons in the Super Bowl without Amendola’s heroics — or taken care of business on Sunday.

Quite a resume for an ever-reliable player the Patriots have asked to take a pay cut three years running.