The New England Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20 to win the Lamar Hunt Trophy as the AFC Champions and will go on to play in Super Bowl LII against the winner of this evening’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings.
This is what we learned from this game.
Tom Brady doesn’t need a thumb to win
Brady completed 26 of 38 (68.4%) for 290 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions for a passer rating of 108.4. The Patriots also picked up 68 yards of defensive pass interference, so Brady could’ve had an even gaudier performance against the best pass defense in the NFL. Brady was accurate and decisive all day and other than some drops by his receivers, he was rock solid.
The Jaguars did an outstanding job of limiting the New England passing attack as five of his completions went for three or fewer yards, but Brady and the offense found a way to step up and move down the field when it mattered most.
No Rob Gronkowski? Hello Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola.
Gronkowski left the game before the half with a head injury after catching just 1 pass for 21 yards. Dwayne Allen wasn’t targeted all night and Jacob Hollister wasn’t even active.
No problem. Brandin Cooks collected 6 catches for 100 yards and 68 of those defensive pass interference penalties were in his direction. Danny Amendola grabbed 7 receptions for 84 yards and added in 20 yards passing; Amendola’s punt return to the Jaguars own 30-yard line set up the Patriots game-winning touchdown, too.
In a game where the Jaguars pass defense wasn’t allowing much space for the receivers, both Cooks and Amendola delivered.
Running wasn’t working
Before Dion Lewis scampered 18 yards to ice the game, he combined with Rex Burkhead and James White combined for 25 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. That’s pretty pitiful, especially against a questionable run defense like the Jaguars.
Lewis, White, and Burkhead combined for 54 receiving yards on 10 catches and 14 targets, so the running backs gained 79 yards and a touchdown on 26 touch opportunities (carries and targets).
They did just enough for the Patriots to win, but they’ll need to be much more productive in the Super Bowl.
Stephon Gilmore has been worth every penny
Gilmore: This is the reason why I came (here). pic.twitter.com/b1LRGYuHAB— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) January 21, 2018
According to Pro Football Focus, Gilmore allowed 3 catches for 48 yards on 5 targets, with 29 of those yards coming on a single catch by Dede Westbrook. Gilmore also had the crucial fourth down pass break-up to give the ball back to the offense to ice the game.
Gilmore has been a special player for the Patriots over the second half of the season and his high level of play should be accepted as the new normal. He’s an elite cornerback and he’s locking down his side of the field.
Special teams stepped up in the second half
Jacksonville scored just 6 points in the second half thanks to some incredible field position play by Ryan Allen, Stephen Gostkowski, and the Patriots coverage units.
Allen pinned the Jaguars inside their own 10-yard line on all three of his second half punts. Gostkowski knocked back two touch backs and his only returnable kick set the Jaguars up on their own 16-yard line.
In a game where every single yard mattered, the New England special teams unit really deserves a lot of credit for stopping the Jaguars offense in the second half.
Bill Belichick wants nothing to do with the Lamar Hunt Trophy
Bill Belichick’s utter contempt for the AFC Championship trophy remains legendary pic.twitter.com/9TDv96qxde— Jason Schwartz (@JasonSchwartz) January 21, 2018
Bahahahahahahahaha SEE YOU IN MINNESOTA!