Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles played about as good a first half as an NFL playoff quarterback can play. His Jaguars further increased their halftime lead to 20-10 early in the fourth quarter behind two field goals from Josh Lambo. Then, Sunday’s AFC championship game took a different turn.
It was the kind of turn that many New England games have taken when Tom Brady lines up under center with his Patriots trailing in the fourth quarter. Brady guided an eight-play, 85-yard drive that culminated with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola to cut the Jags’ lead to 20-17 with 8:44 to play. The Patriots defense would force Jacksonville to punt and less than six minutes later Brady would hit Amendola again, this time from four yards out, for the game-winner.
Bortles would finish 23-for-36 for 293 yards and one touchdown. He did not throw an interception but was sacked three times. Leonard Fournette ran for 76 yards and a score for the Jags. New England struggled to run the ball against a stout Jacksonville defense. The Patriots finished with just 46 yards on the ground, but Brady completed 26-of-38 passes for 290 yards and the two touchdowns to Amendola.
The victory gave the Patriots their 34th all-time postseason win, which tied them with Green Bay and Dallas for second. Pittsburgh (36) has the most postseason wins. Brady and company now head to the Super Bowl for the 10th time, another record.
In the NFC title game, the Philadelphia Eagles took the football world by surprise and dominated Minnesota in a 38-7 victory. Nick Foles and the Eagles offense were virtually unstoppable piling up 456 total yards. Foles, who took over at quarterback for Carson Wentz late in the regular season, played his best game completing 26-of-33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles run game put up 110 total yards led by Jay Ajayi’s 73.
Foles and Philadelphia shredded what was the NFL’s best defense. On the flip side, the Eagles limited Minnesota’s running game to just 70 yards leaving QB Case Keenum to win the game for the Vikings. Keenum did not come through throwing two costly interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. As if the interceptions weren’t bad enough, Keenum fumbled the ball away once accounting for all three Minnesota turnovers.
It will be Philadelphia’s first trip to the Super Bowl since 2005 when the Eagles faced … New England. The Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX 24-21 which marked the last time a team repeated as Super Bowl champs. New England will have the opportunity to complete the feat again on Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.