FOXBORO – Nobody should be surprised anymore.
Time and time again with its backs up against the wall and no margin for error, the New England Patriots just find ways to win football games in a way that has consistently set them apart from its competitors.
With the Patriots trailing 20-10 in the fourth quarter, some metrics pegged the Jacksonville Jaguars as having as much as an 85% chance of advancing to the Super Bowl in Minnesota in two weeks.
However, Tom Brady and Danny Amendola had other plans, as the two linked up for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to propel the hosts to a thrilling 24-20 victory over the Jaguars to advance to the franchise’s tenth Super Bowl appearance.
If anybody needed another reminder, Amendola is money in the playoffs, as Brady seems to go to him in clutch situations when the game is on the line.
With tight end Rob Gronkowski not able to go after getting hit in the helmet by Jaguars safety Barry Church, it further drew the connection between the longtime teammates, especially on a must-have, third-and-18 conversion in the final frame which was instrumental in cutting the deficit to 20-17.
“The third-and-18 play, basically I think I had a little bit of an option route in the middle of the field and I saw that there was room,” Amendola said. “I had pointed out the line [to gain] before the play snap so I knew where to get to and Tom [Brady] had a laser and it was perfect. The two touchdowns: the first one, the go-ahead touchdown. It’ s a play we’ve worked on—I scored on it a couple of times this year, I think, actually. I have a crosser in the back of the end zone and Tom reads the first whip route on the left to ‘Cookie’ [Brandin Cooks] and then if he doesn’t have it then his eyes come to me in the back. We had it and it was a zone coverage. I obviously didn’t see what happened to Cookie on the first read and then Tommy had a great ball. I knew it was coming right by that ‘backer or safety in the back. It was a great throw.”
This type of scrappy win was what this team has been accustomed to doing, as was evidenced by last year’s come from behind Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s tough, every situation is different, every situation is unique in its own way, the opponent’s been different,” Patriots’ special teams ace Matthew Slater told the Brockton Enterprise. “… For those of us that have been here, we’re able to draw upon, just having confidence in those situations, not panicking, not tidying up, just understanding we have to play this thing out and see what happens.
“We’re down there in the fourth quarter, everybody just looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, we knew this was going to be tough, let’s keep trying to execute, keep believing in our process, believing in one another,'” Slater said. “We were fortunate enough to come out with the win.”
The defense wasn’t the greatest in the first half but came through when the team needed it the most.
“There’s no excuse for what happened in the first half on defense, I don’t know what we were doing, but we figured it out,” Van Noy said. “We played Patriot football, and that’s what it’s all about, that’s what we do.”
The fourth quarter was especially noticeable in the uptick of play, as the Patriots seemed to have a renewed sense of life after Amendola scored his first of two scores.
“The more we are on the field, the more the game goes further, that’s when we are at our best,” Van Noy said. “We feel like we’re the best-conditioned team, we prepare harder than anyone, we practice harder than anyone, so when that fourth quarter comes we know what time it is and we step up.
“We’ve been in those situations all year, each game’s a new animal and we feel like we’re a great team that can tackle any situation,” Van Noy said. “We come together and, since we’ve been in those situations, we know what it takes to win and every play counts, and we ended up getting it done.”