A chance for the Jacksonville Jaguars to go to the Super Bowl?
A chance to beat maybe the greatest coach all time, along with the greatest quarterback of all time?
A chance to do it on the road?
Nope. Not this year. Close, but... well, you saw the game.
The New England Patriots worked it down the field on their first drive, aided by a 31-yard catch by Brandin Cooks early in the drive. They got into the red-zone, but were held up by the Jaguars defense, as Dante Fowler Jr. sack Tom Brady on 3rd and goal, forcing them to kick the field goal. Stephen Gostkowski hit a 31-yard field goal, and the Patriots added the first points of the day, giving them a 3-0 lead.
The Jaguars first offensive possession didn’t end how they wanted to, but their second drive set the tone for the first half. Gadget plays to Corey Grant of 20 or more yards helped move the Jaguars down the field, and some nifty play calling left Marcedes Lewis open in the end-zone on a four-yard touchdown pass. Lambo nailed the extra point, and the Jaguars took a 7-3 lead.
The defense went on to force a three and out, and the Jaguars offense got back to work. A couple of completions to Allen Hurns moved them down the field, and a mix of the run and pass allowed them to keep the Patriots on their toes. Leonard Fournette capped off the drive with a four-yard touchdown, and the Jaguars lead was extended to 14-3.
The Jaguars were in position to put points on the board yet again with a 2:30 left in the second quarter. On third down, Bortles completed a pass to Lewis which converted the first down. However, delay of game was called on the play, which proved to be costly. The Jaguars did not covert the third-and-12, and kicked the ball to the Patriots with a 2:01 remaining which is too much time when facing Tom Brady.
Brady marched them down the field, but it was assisted by two big penalties. One on an illegal hit from Barry Church on Rob Gronkowski, and one shaky pass interference call on A.J. Bouye against Brandin Cooks. Both set up James White for a one-yard touchdown run at the end of the half.
The Jaguars came of the second half and put three points on the board, extending the lead to 17-10. And then they added another field goal to begin the fourth quarter.
But a 10-point lead wasn’t enough. Not against the Patriots. Not against Brady. Not in Foxborough.
The Jaguars failed to capitalize on a fumble recovery by Myles Jack, and Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does, and got his team back in the game. on a 3rd and 18 on their own 25-yard line, Brady threw a perfect pass to Danny Amendola, and converted the first down. This play will haunt us all for a long time.
The Patriots turned that into a touchdown pass to Amendola, and lead was cut to 20-17. I was sick. You probably were too.
The offense was just shut down in the second half, and had opportunities to put the Patriots away. They didn’t. They... there are no excuses. They just didn’t. If we have learned anything, it is that you don’t let this team hang around too long.
The Patriots were set up by great field position on their game winning drive, and only had to go 30 yards to score. And they did. Amendola dragged his toes in the back of the end zone for a catch, dragging the joy out of Jaguars fans with him.
The Jaguars had 2:40 left, and all timeouts left with a chance to win the game. They converted two first downs, but ultimately a sack on second down, where Bortles was strip-sacked by James Harrison, killed them.
It took perfect coverage form Stephon Gilmore on the Jaguars’ final offensive play — a heave to Dede Westbrook — to end the season for this Jacksonville team.
The last dagger came on third-and-nine, as the Patriots converted a first down on the ground.
That was it.
Super Bowl hopes vanished.
The season? Done.
This one hurts.
It hurts because they outplayed the Patriots for much of the game. It hurts because Bortles play a good game. It hurts because they were up 10 points in the AFC Championship.
Sure, they could get back to this point, but nothing is a given.
In the days to come, we’ll look back on this season and realize how much fun we had. But for now, this just sucks. It really, really sucks.
I appreciate each and every one of you. You guys made it fun all year long. We just wish we had one more final recap to write.
Go Jaguars. Forever and always.