Final, Patriots 24-20: Ladies and gentlemen, the New England Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl.
Despite trailing for almost the entirety of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, the Patriots rallied for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to take down the upset-minded Jacksonville Jaguars and win 24-20 at Gillette Stadium, punching their ticket to Super Bowl LII.
Danny Amendola scored both of those late touchdowns, capping another superb effort for the veteran wide receiver. He finished with 84 yards on seven catches. Brandin Cooks led the way with six receptions for 100 yards while also drawing multiple pass interference penalties.
The Patriots were forced to play the second half without Rob Gronkowski after the star tight end was knocked out of the game with a concussion. But their offense endured, and their defense held Blake Bortles and the Jaguars to six points after halftime after being gashed in the first half.
Next stop: Minneapolis
Fourth quarter, 1:57, Patriots 24-20: Stephon Gilmore’s fourth-down pass breakup gave the ball back to the Patriots. A first down or two here would ice the game for New England.
Fourth quarter, 2:48, Patriots 24-20: For the first time since the opening minutes of the first quarter, the Patriots have the lead.
Tom Brady found Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown that put New England ahead. Amendola, who has been simply incredible in this second half, made a superb catch.
If the Patriots’ defense holds, New England is headed back to the Super Bowl.
Fourth quarter, 4:58, Jaguars 20-17: Eric Rowe broke up a pass on second down, and Trey Flowers hit Blake Bortles as he threw on third, forcing a huge three-and-out.
A strong punt return by Danny Amendola gave New England the ball at the Jacksonville 30.
Fourth quarter, 5:53, Jaguars 20-17: The Patriots picked up 36 yards on a defensive pass interference penalty on Jalen Ramsey but couldn’t put any points on the board. New England’s defense needs another stop.
Fourth quarter, 6:21, Jaguars 20-17: Stephon Gilmore had a potential interception slip through his hands on second down, but Patrick Chung helped force an incompletion on the next play to force Jacksonville to punt.
Tom Brady takes over at his own 19-yard line.
Fourth quarter, 8:44, Jaguars 20-17: We’re headed to a thrilling finish here at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots finally found the end zone for the first time since the first half, thanks in large part to a 20-yard completion to Danny Amendola on third-and-18 and a 31-yard flea flicker to Phillip Dorsett, of all people.
Amendola, who earned effusive praise from teammates and coaches for his performance last week against Tennessee, capped off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown reception.
Fourth quarter, 12:03, Jaguars 20-10: The best play of the day for the Patriots turned out to be the worst.
Tom Brady took the snap and fired a screen pass to Danny Amendola, who then threw the ball back across the formation to Dion Lewis. Lewis scampered 20 yards downfield, but linebacker Myles Jack caught up to him, stripped the ball and recovered the fumble.
The Patriots’ defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Jaguars possession, but they’ll now have to start at their own 15-yard line after a Brad Nortman punt.
Fourth quarter, 14:52, Jaguars 20-10: The Jaguars drained nearly five minutes off the clock on an 11-play drive that resulted in another Josh Lambo field goal.
Trey Flowers limped off the field during the drive but appears to be OK.
Third quarter, 4:41, Jaguars 17-10: Three-and-out for the Patriots. That was ugly.
Third quarter, 6:04, Jaguars 17-10: Big stop by the Patriots’ defense. Lawrence Guy sacked Blake Bortles on second down, and Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise teamed up to corral T.J. Yeldon on third.
The Patriots will take over with good field position at their own 46-yard line after a 51-yard punt by Brad Nortman.
Third quarter, 7:33, Jaguars 17-10: Brandin Cooks had a potential touchdown catch bounce off his hands, and the Patriots were forced to punt.
That’s a play that could come back to haunt the Patriots.
Third quarter, 10:23, Jaguars 17-10: The Jaguars opened the second half with a 54-yard Josh Lambo field goal after Trey Flowers swatted down a Blake Bortles pass on third down.
Third quarter, 15:00, Jaguars 14-10: No sign of Rob Gronkowski as the Patriots return to the field for the second half. He’s questionable to return with a head injury.
If Gronkowski can’t go, the Patriots would be down to just one tight end, Dwayne Allen. Jacob Hollister is inactive today.
Halftime, Jaguars 14-10: The Patriots are back in this game, but they might be without one of their best offensive players in the second half.
Rob Gronkowski left the field and went straight to the locker room absorbing a hit to the head from Jaguars safety Barry Church.
Church was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, and Brandin Cooks drew a defensive pass interference call on cornerback A.J. Bouye on the next snap. Two plays later, James White plowed his way into the end zone from 1 yard out.
Second quarter, 2:02, Jaguars 14-3: That was a massively important stop for the Patriots.
Adam Butler sacked Blake Bortles on third down, forcing Jacksonville to punt and giving Tom Brady a chance to put some points on the board before halftime.
The Jaguars appeared to pick up a first down on the previous play, but it was wiped away thanks to a delay of game penalty.
Second quarter, 5:26, Jaguars 14-3: The Patriots’ latest drive took 1:40 off the clock. New England moved the chains with a 21-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski but was forced to punt after Dante Fowler sacked Tom Brady on third down.
The Patriots are 0-for-5 on third down so far today.
Second quarter, 7:06, Jaguars 14-3: Well, this was unexpected.
The Jaguars now have sliced through the Patriots’ defense on consecutive drives, with each resulting in a touchdown.
Running backs Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant all had gains of 12-plus yards on Jacksonville’s latest drive, which Fournette capped with a 4-yard touchdown plunge. Blake Bortles also hit Allen Hurns for 27 yards.
Making matters worse, safety Patrick Chung was slow to get up after Fournette’s touchdown. This has been a nightmare afternoon thus far for New England’s defense.
Second quarter, 13:13, Jaguars 7-3: Three-and-out for the Patriots.
Second quarter, 14:15, Jaguars 7-3: That was a very impressive drive by the Jaguars, who took their first lead of the day on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Blake Bortles to Marcedes Lewis.
Lewis was wide open on the play, just as running back Corey Grant was on a 24-yard catch-and-run that set up the Jacksonville score. Grant, who rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown when these teams met in the preseason, also turned a screen pass into a 20-yard gain earlier in the drive.
First quarter, 2:51, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots picked up a first down on a deep comeback route by Brandin Cooks but gained just 9 yards on their next three plays, resulting in Ryan Allen’s first punt of the game.
First quarter, 5:01, Patriots 3-0: The Jaguars picked up two first downs on their first possession of the afternoon, but back-to-back pass breakups by Kyle Van Noy and Malcolm Butler on second and third down forced a punt.
T.J. Yeldon had a step on Van Noy on a wheel route, but Blake Bortles, who had Trey Flowers in his face, underthrew him, allowing the linebacker to catch up and get his hand on the ball.
First quarter, 9:21, Patriots 3-0: Yeah, Tom Brady’s hand looks just fine.
Brady was a perfect 6-for-6 for 57 yards on the game’s opening drive, including a 31-yard strike to Brandin Cooks and a 20-yarder to Danny Amendola on fourth-and-2.
When targeting Amendola on third or fourth down in the last two games, Brady is a perfect 6-for-6 with six first downs.
The Patriots advanced to the Jaguars’ 10-yard line but couldn’t reach the end zone. A third-down sack by Dante Fowler brought the field-goal unit out, and Stephen Gostkowski booted one through from 31 yards out to open the scoring.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Jaguars won the opening coin toss and chose to defer. It’ll be Patriots ball first as we get underway here in Foxboro.
2:20 p.m.: Tom Brady has taken the field. He’s not wearing a glove on his injured throwing hand, just a bit of tape.
Brady also appeared to have some words for outspoken Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey after he reached Jacksonville’s end of the field.
1:56 p.m.: Additional details have surfaced regarding Tom Brady’s hand injury, which reportedly required 10 stitches to repair.
1:35 p.m.: Today’s Patriots inactives are as follows:
— With LaAdrian Waddle (knee) out, Cameron Fleming will start at right tackle.
— Alan Branch is a healthy scratch for the second consecutive week. He was listed as questionable with a knee injury but said this week he felt well enough to play.
— Phillip Dorsett gets the nod over Kenny Britt for the second straight week.
— Jacob Hollister is inactive for the first time since Week 1. He, Branch, Britt, Bernard Reedy and David Harris are healthy scratches.
— Cornerback Johnson Bademosi and offensive tackle Cole Croston also are back in the lineup after being inactive last week against the Tennessee Titans. Croston, who has played just nine snaps in his NFL career, is the Patriots’ third tackle today.
— Tom Brady and Rex Burkhead both are active.
10 a.m. ET: Good morning from Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars will square off this afternoon in the AFC Championship Game.
All eyes leading up to the game will be on the right hand of Tom Brady, which the Patriots quarterback injured in practice this week. Brady is expected to start as New England seeks its second consecutive Super Bowl appearance, but it remains to be seen how much his injury will affect him, if at all.
Running back Rex Burkhead, who reportedly caused Brady’s injury, also is expected to play today after sitting out the past three games with a knee injury, according to multiple reports. Fellow running back Mike Gillislee (knee) will remain sidelined.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET, but be sure to check back throughout the day for full pregame coverage.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images