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Patriots Advance to Super Bowl LII After Defeating the Jaguars in AFC Championship

Photo Courtesy of James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
Written by Marin Murphy

The New England Patriots took on the Jacksonville Jaguars at Foxboro Stadium in the AFC Championship on Sunday.  Just days before the game, Tom Brady was listed as questionable because of a hand injury suffered during practice.

However, Brady played the whole game, and the Jaguars tested him aggressively from the beginning. They used their outstanding defense to hold the Patriots to only one field goal during the first quarter.  Although the field goal gave the Patriots the lead, the Jaguars responded in the second quarter with two touchdowns.

Blake Bortles threw the first touchdown of the game to tight end Marcedes Lewis for a 4-yard pass, giving Jacksonville their first lead, 7-3. The second touchdown of the game was also scored by Jacksonville.  Bortles handed the ball off to running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed the ball into the end zone from the 4-yard line.  The final touchdown of the second quarter was scored by the Patriots running back, James White.  He ran the ball one yard into the end zone, bringing the score to 14-10 Jaguars at halftime.

Just before halftime, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a head injury, which did not allow him to return to the game.  He endured a head-to-head collision with Jacksonville’s safety, Barry Church.

After Church slammed into Gronkowski to break up a throw from Brady, he was flagged for unnecessary roughness.  This was a major loss for the Patriots, but Gronkowski’s absence forced Brady to throw to players other than the stud tight end.

The only scoring play of the third quarter was a field goal by the Jaguars, bringing the score to 17-10.  Jacksonville’s defense was relentless.  Each time Brady was sacked or felt pressure, he held his hand in an increasingly fragile way.

The scoreboard became even more threatening to the Patriots in the fourth quarter when the Jaguars kicked another field goal, bringing the score to 20-10 with the Jaguars in the lead.

However, the seemingly unbeatable duo of Bill Belichick and Brady somehow found a way, with Brady throwing a 9-yard pass to Danny Amendola for a touchdown.  The score now stood at 20-17.  With only two minutes and 48 seconds remaining on the clock, Amendola caught his second touchdown pass, a spectacular 4-yarder from Brady. This brought the game to a final score of 24-20, giving the Patriots the 2018 AFC Championship title once again.

A common analysis of the game is that the referees favored the Patriots over the Jaguars.  The Patriots only had one flag thrown against them during the game, while the Jaguars had six flags thrown against them.

One of the referees was spotted congratulating Brady after the win, which added to the suspicion that the referees may have been exercising bias while calling the game.

However, an in-depth review of the penalties shows that Jacksonville had three penalties before the ball was snapped, one clear interference call, and helmet-to-helmet on Gronkowski. That leaves only one interference call in question. That alone did not impact the game enough to support a bias claim.

Super Bowl LII will take place in Minnesota on February 4.  The Patriots will take on the Philadelphia Eagles, who beat the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC Championship.  The Eagles are another team with outstanding defense, similar to the Jaguars.  Throw in Justin Timberlake performing at halftime, and it should be another exciting game to watch!

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Marin Murphy