The New England Patriots are headed to their 10th Super Bowl in franchise history after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars with a wild comeback.
When Myles Jack stripped Dion Lewis of the football with 13:37 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Patriots finally looked to be in deep trouble. Down 20-10, New England hadn’t been able to execute on third down offensively or defensively. Factor in the loss of Rob Gronkowski, and while hope was flickering in the night at Gillette Stadium, it was fading fast.
Then, Tom Brady rose to the forefront. Brady, as he has done innumerable times in his career, led New England back in an AFC Championship Game for the ages. Instead of seeing their dynasty die at the hands of a dominant Jacksonville Jaguars defense, the Patriots summoned up trick plays and toe-tapping touchdown catches to vanquish the upstarts.
In the final 10 minutes, Brady found Danny Amendola for a pair of touchdowns. It was vintage New England, finding a way to make the most of a tough situation, overcoming an opponent that had befuddled it for large chunks of the contest.
Now, the Patriots are onto Super Bowl LII, right where everyone expected them to be before the season began. There was talk of 16-0 before the opening night loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and then discussion of the dynasty’s conclusion after a 2-2 start. Of course, both conversations were premature and short-sighted. The end result was another 13-3 season, an AFC East title, the conference’s top seed, and the eighth Super Bowl appearance of the Brady era.
At some point, Father Time is going to win. New England is going to see the erosion of Brady and the mortality of Gronkowski. This offseason holds a bevy of critical decisions regarding free agents including Malcolm Butler, Nate Solder, Rex Burkhead, Amendola and others.
Still, that is for another day. On this Championship Sunday night, it was the Patriots who continues to show why they are the class of professional sports. Despite being held down by a young, talented team, the champions found a way to get themselves off the deck and into the end zone.
In two weeks, New England will be back on the sport’s ultimate stage, looking for one more win. With it, Brady and Bill Belichick would have a dozen Super Bowl rings between them, a legacy that likely goes unmatched into the future.
The Patriots looked dead when Jack ran off the field, holding the ball high above his head. Less than an hour later, New England was on a victory podium, readying for one more challenge.