The New England Patriots are heading to their second straight Super Bowl, and third in four years, after rallying from a ten point fourth quarter deficit and defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20. Let’s take a look at three studs and the three duds from the AFC championship game.
#3 Down: Third Down Offense
For all the good the Patriots offense did in the fourth quarter, the offense was only 3-for-12 on third downs on the afternoon. A large chunk of it can be attributed to tight end Rob Gronkowski being forced out of the game due to a dirty hit by Jaguars safety, Barry Church.
However, Belichick and Brady will not be happy in the film room knowing that will not cut it most games.
#3 Up: EDGE Trey Flowers & WR Brandin Cooks
I could not leave Brandin Cooks off my list. Boy, did he step up big time. Minus a crucial drop off a terrific pass by Brady, Cooks did his job in beating the Jaguars cover-3 defense. Six receptions on eight targets and 100 yards after a dismal effort against the Titans, and Cooks showed the world what he is capable of.
Trey Flowers has truly developed into one of the better all around defensive linemen in the league. He had a game-high four quarterback hits, nine total tackles, a pass defended and a couple other pressure. He has been the Patriots defensive MVP this year.
#2 Down: CB Eric Rowe
Rowe had a crucial pass defended in the fourth quarter, but was getting shredded early in the game, especially when he was matched up against Jaguars wideout Allen Hurns.
Give Jags head coach Doug Marrone credit. He attacked the Patriots at their weak spots, their third cornerback and using their change-of-pace running back in the passing game.
#2 Up: WR Danny Amendola
One of the clutchest (is that a word?) Patriots of all-time, Danny Amendola shows up in a big spot, time and time again. Seven receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns, including the amazing game-winning toe tap touchdown along the back of the end zone, something the Patriots practice so often.
Playoff performances like these is why I take Amendola over so many Patriots wideouts that have been here including Wes Welker or Randy Moss, and it’s a big reason why the Patriots have cracked through their Super Bowl drought. Tough, clutch players like ‘Dola and Edelman. Give me those types of players over the aforementioned receivers, who did not show up when it mattered most.
#1 Down: RB Dion Lewis
I thought if the Patriots were to get in a rock fight, they would rely on Lewis and his ability to make plays out of thin air. Well, Lewis was the beneficiary of a well-designed trick play, but was loose with the football and fumbled it in a crucial time. Luckily, it did not cost the Patriots the game, but this was a game to forget for the normally dynamic Lewis.
#1 Up: QB Tom Brady
Yet again, Brady just adds to his resume. However many stitches he needed after a cut on his throwing hand, Brady was all-time Brady, especially in the fourth quarter, when the Patriots needed him most.
It was almost a repeat of the prior two Super Bowls the Patriots have played in, against a similar type of defense. Brady was thrown off early, but once he found a rhythm and started finding the open man, TB12 found another way to win, after yet another fourth-quarter deficit. Time to start considering Brady not only the greatest football player of all time, but perhaps the greatest athlete of all time.