This is getting ridiculous. Another Comeback For The Ages. If the New England Patriots keep this up, they’re going to run out of ages.
In the AFC Championship on Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars completely outplayed the Patriots in the first three quarters and led, 20-10, two plays into the fourth. What transpired next was, well, stunning. Quarterback Tom Brady, he with the banged up, stitched up right thumb, found his groove and threw two touchdown passes to Danny Amendola. The Pats defense, somnolent for three quarters, awoke and stuffed Jags running back Leonard Fournette, harried quarterback Blake Bortles and knocked down passes left sideline and right. None was bigger than Stephon Gilmore’s acrobatic deflection on a fourth-and-15 deep ball in the waning moments.
When Dion Lewis ripped off an 18-yard sideline run on third-and-9 with 1:38 to play for a first down, Patriots Nation, led by the jubilant – yes jubilant – Bill Belichick, began celebrating their 24-20 triumph, another comeback for the ages. Their prize? The Lamar Hunt Trophy and a ticket to Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4. It will be their eighth Super Bowl of the Kraft-Belichick-Brady Dynasty.
As was the case in every other New England Comeback For The Ages, Brady was the star. He weathered hits, hurries and sacks and finished 26 of 38 for 290 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. So much for slowing down at 40, huh?
As always, Brady had help. On this Sunday afternoon, nobody did it better than the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Amendola: 7 catches for 84 yards; 2 touchdowns in the fourth quarter; a great drive-sustaining catch over the middle for 21 yards on a third-and-18 in the fourth quarter; a nine-yard catch and run for a TD to complete an 85-yard march and cut Jacksonville’s lead to 20-17; a 20-yard punt return, and the highlight play of the post-season, a leaping grab of a perfect Brady pass at the back of the end zone to the left of the goal post. Not only did Amendola catch the ball with nary a bobble, he also planted his toes, right then left, Baryshnikov-like, in bounds before his momentum carried him out of bounds.
Dramatic? I’ll say. Surprising? No way. If Brady isn’t the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, he certainly is the clutchest. Sunday’s rally was the eighth in the post-season for Belichick, Brady and the Patriots. Eighth! Let’s review.
A year ago, the Patriots, completely outplayed in the first half of Super Bowl LI, trailed the Atlanta Falcons, 28-3, in the third quarter. As every New England fan remembers, the Patriots rallied and won in overtime, 34-28. James White scored three touchdowns, his third the game winner.
In Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, Seattle took a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter. Brady directed two scoring drives for a 28-24 lead, but the Seahawks roared back to the Patriots 1-yard line with 26 seconds to play. With Marshawn Lynch all but certain to run for the go-ahead TD, the Seahawks inexplicably passed. The rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted and saved the day.
Earlier that post-season, Baltimore had a 28-14 lead in the third. Brady passed to Rob Gronkowski and Amendola for TDs, and Brandon LaFell (remember him?) caught the game winner.
In the AFC Championship game in 2012, the Ravens led 20-16 after three quarters. Brady won it with a quarterback sneak in the fourth.
In the 2007 playoffs, San Diego led, 21-13, midway through the fourth quarter. New England tied the game on a Brady to Reche Caldwell pass and won it on Stephen Gostkowski’s field goal with about a minute to play.
In Super Bowl XXXVII, Carolina led 22-21 with about 7 minutes to play. The Patriots scored and opted for a two-point conversion for a 29-22 advantage. Carolina tied the score, and Adam Vinatieri won it for New England with a 41-yard field goal.
The comebacks started in 2002. Oakland held a 13-3 lead after three quarters of a division playoff. A Brady run and two Vinatieri field goals sealed the deal for a 16-13 triumph.