Black Quarterback: 2018 Conference Championship Review
By Brandon Simmons
The New England Patriots went into Sunday’s AFC Championship game with a potential hand injury on their quarterback’s throwing hand and facing a number one pass defense in the Jacksonville Jaguars; yet still, they are rolling into Minnesota to their 9th Super Bowl and a possible 6th ring for quarterback Tom Brady. It wasn’t the dominant Patriots performance of old; rather it was the comeback expertise of this new era of New England.
The first half saw New England get washed early. The Jaguars jumped out to a 14-3 lead as they were able to run the ball and get quarterback Blake Bortles’ arm going on a few screen passes. But that score seemed to spark something in the Patriots defense. After one drive where they had to punt, New England got the ball back before the 2 minute warning Brady drives down the field to set up running back James White for a 1 yard touchdown. One of the key moments, came at the beginning of the 3rd quarter when the Patriots forced the Jaguars to punt on their first drive of the 2nd half. However, New England struggled to get points in the 3rd, but they still persisted on taking away the run from Jacksonville and applying the pressure on Bortles to win the game. The 4th quarter arrives and the ice begins to seep into Brady’s blood. He’s down by 10 and does not have tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left before the end of the first half with a concussion and was ruled out. The Jaguars recover a fumble from Patriots running back Dion Lewis but go 3 and out. New England comes back and Brady leads them to a touchdown with wide receiver Danny Amendola, including a 3rd and 18 conversion. After a couple of 3 and outs between the two teams, Brady gets the ball back on the Jaguar’s 30, and drives the team in for an Amendola 4 yard touchdown to win the game at 24-20.
It’s hard to imagine saying the Jaguars lost the game, but that is exactly what happened. They had a legitimate chance to win this game, when they kicked the field goal at the start of the 4th quarter, but Brady and Belichick are just too good of a of a combo for too long. Th Patriots would sometimes manipulate routes to have the Jaguars linebackers cover the wide receivers, which gave up quite a few big plays. On the flipside of that, the Jaguars offense blew opportunities to produce any extra touchdowns to put the game away. Yes, the field goals extended the lead but you need more than 2 touchdowns to even beat – much less compete with – a 40-year-old Brady. The New England defense did a great job in the 2nd half of taking away the run from Jacksonville and preventing them from going to the screen passes that gave them so many yards in the first half.
At the end of the day, the Patriots have a coach and quarterback on their team that has just been doing this for too long. When you watch these playoff games, there’s probably at least 10 slides of the telecasts of all the records that Brady holds in his postseason career. It’s going to take a lot more than a superior defense to beat a quarterback like Tom Brady and a team like the New England Patriots, and the jaguars just did not have that today. Bortles probably played one of the better games in his career, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the guy who’s just had another ordinary playoff win in his career.
Eagles Flying Higher than Expected
It’s very easy to point out the dominance of the Philadelphia Eagles on their NFC championship win over the Minnesota Vikings, since the Vikings were nowhere to be found after the early parts of the first quarter. Minnesota jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their opening drive, but Philadelphia responded with 38 straight points. It started with a pick 6 by Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson that tied the game at 7. The next couple of offensive possessions for the Eagles, running back Jay LaGarette Blount ran for an 11 yard touchdown. Next possession, quarterback Nick Foles threw a 53 yard touchdown to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to go up 21-7, then finish the half with a field goal to go up 24-7. Philly would score 2 more touchdowns to complete their 38-7 win.
This was a completely different Vikings team from last week. Minnesota appeared competitive early, but the Philadelphia defense just seemed to be too much. The pressure they employed got to Vikings quarterback Case Keenum enough times to disrupt a lot of his throws as well as take away the run game that Minnesota probably never really had.
The Eagles might’ve played one of their strongest games of the season and it came at just the right time. Philly finished the regular season with a lot of uncertainty, in relation to the quarterback position, but Foles has stepped up big time in these two playoff games. Sure, he used to be a starter for the eagles, but that was a different time and under a different coaching staff. He has returned to a new opportunity where he is excelling at the challenge of taking this squad to a Super Bowl win.
Better than Expected
The stage is set for Super Bowl XLII between the Philadelphia Eagles and
New England Patriots. Last time these two teams met in a Super Bowl, the Eagles had wide receiver Terell Owens and quarterback Donovan McNabb leading the way. Of course, the Patriots had Brady and Belichick on their side but it was still a close affair won by New England. The Patriots have never won a Super Bowl in a deciding fashion. All the margin of victories have been relatively under 7 points; the same can be said for the losses. Maybe it’s because teams really bring it to the Patriots, which can be expected of Philadelphia. The Eagles have a strong defense such as the Jaguars but they have a slightly better quarterback as well. This means it’s less likely that the Eagles will stall drives and give up good field position. They just might challenge that Patriots secondary down the field and make a game out of this.
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