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Postgame Comment: New England 31, Jacksonville 20

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On to the AFC Title Game
Patriots, 17-0; *Jaguars, 12-6

On to the AFC Championship.

Your New England Patriots beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in a physical game in which both offenses sustained multiple extensive drives to wear down the opposing defenses and really put on a show for NFL fans everywhere.

The teams slugged it out blow for blow, score for score, like a pair of champion heavyweight boxers. The Patriots defense finally held Jacksonville to a field goal, and the writing was on the wall.

Both quarterbacks were stellar for the most part. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was masterful. Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard was fantastic for the better part of three quarters, incompletions you didn't need your thumb to count. But for Brady's magnificence, Garrard's performance would have been something to behold. Until the 4th quarter.

That, my friends, is the difference between Brady and other quarterbacks. Has been for years. When the game is on the line, Brady far more often than not makes the plays. Other quarterbacks become merely mortal.

Otherwise, the Patriots hold the vaunted Jaguar running game to just 80 yards, 14 of those Garrard's. Fred Taylor finished with just 47 yards on 13 carries (3.6 avg), and Maurice Jones-Drew had just 19 yards on 6 carries (3.2 average).

Meanwhile, New England running back Laurence Maroney piled up 122 yards on 22 carries (5.5 avg) and punched in a key touchdown. "The Patriots just pad Brady's stats. The Patriots only throw the ball. Tom Brady just forces the ball to Randy Moss.

Right. About those guys.

Tom Brady finished 26 of 28 (92.9 percent) for 262 yards, 3 touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 141.4.

Moss had 1 catch. One. For 14 yards.

And, diametrically opposed to the hater religion, he didn't take plays off. He did his job. He was the perfect teammate. Brady didn't force a single ball toward him.

The experts didn't see it coming. You've been reading it here for weeks.

Brady did what Brady's done for 7 years: Throw to the open receiver and win a game.

Here are some more stats:

Rushing

  • Kevin Faulk: 4 carries, 9 yards
  • Brady: 2 carries, 1 yard
  • Wes Welker: 1 carry, 13 yards
Receiving
  • Welker: 9 catches, 54 yards, TD
  • Faulk: 5 catches, 36 yards
  • Donté Stallworth: 3 catches, 68
  • Jabar Gaffney: 3 catches, 26 yards
  • Maroney: 2 catches, 40 yards
  • Ben Watson: 2 catches, 12 yards, 2 TD
  • Kyle Brady: 1 catch, 12 yards
Defense
  • Randall Gay: 6 solo tackles, 1 assist, forced fumble
  • James Sanders: 6 solo, 2 assists
  • Junior Seau: 5 solo, 5 assists
  • Vince Wilfork: 5 solo
  • Rodney Harrison: 4 solo, 3 assists, INT
  • Ty Warren: 3 solo, 2 assists, sack, forced fumble
  • Ricahrd Seymour: 3 solo, 1 assist
  • Asante Samuel: 3 solo, 1 assist
Team Stats
  • Time of Possession: Patriots 32:20, Jaguars 27:40
  • Penalties: Patriots, 6 for 74 yards; Jaguars, 5 for 42 yards
  • First downs: Patriots 24, Jaguars 22
  • 3rd Downs: Patriots, 6 of 10; Jaguars, 4 of 10
  • 4th Downs: Patriots, 1 of 1; Jaguars, 2 of 3
  • Red Zone: Patriots, 4 of 6; Jaguars, 2 of 3
  • Goal-to-Go: Patriots, 3 of 3; Jaguars, 2 of 3
Both coaching staffs designed brilliant game plans. Jacksonville came in knowing they would throw more, and it turned out they would need to. Fortunately, the Patriots executed Belichick's staff's plan better. And the staff called a brilliant game, right from the opening screen to Maroney.

More Records, Even in the Playoffs

Brady's 92.9 (92.86, really) percent completion percentage is a new NFL record, beating Vinny Testaverde's 21 of 23 game (91.30) for Cleveland on Dec. 26, 1993.

Update [2008-1-13 9:10:49 by tommasse]: Belichick was the Browns coach. Like Brady-Bledsoe, he replaced the popular Bernie Kosar to some backlash. The former playoff passing percentage record was held by Phil Simms in Super Bowl XXI (22 of 25, 88.0). Belichick was the Giants' defensive coordinator.

Rodney Harrison, who hurt his team with a poor penalty early in the 4th quarter with the game on the line, intercepted David Garrard with under 4 minutes left in the game. The interception was Harrison's 7th in 7 post-season games with the Patriots making him the all-time franchise post-season leader.

It was also the fourth straight playoff game in which Harrison has had an interception, tying a league record.

Meanwhile, Ben Watson tied a franchise mark with two touchdown receptions in a playoff game, done first by Stanley Morgan 21 years and 8 days ago.

Officiating Notes

No, I don't think the Jaguars first touchdown would have been overturned. It was close, but there wasn't indisputable evidence to overturn it. It was a good decision not to challenge, though the Patriots finished the half with two timeouts left in the cache.

I think the officials were clearly targeting New England for unnecessary roughness penalties. For what reason, I have no idea. Most of the plays looked clean. Harrison's late hit was obvious, but Phil Simms completely blew it when he said it was "spearing." He should check read the definition some time.

Otherwise, Jacksonville hit late several times, especially when the outcome was inevitable, but the officials called none of them. Welker was obviously facemasked. The people I was watching the game with and I called it on the live play. Even Jim Nantz and Simms saw it. And it was clear as day in the wide open on the replay.

There was also one of those offensive lineman plowing into the pile at the end of the play that they loved to call on New England, and another offensive lineman hitting long after the whistle. None of them called. I bet some compulsive gamblers are upset, because those penalties meant the difference between one team covering.

* Beaten by best team ever in playoffs.