Gronkowski (87) concussed
Rob Gronkowski (87) before impact
Eagles Coach Doug Pederson
New England is reigning Super Bowl Champion
FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady capped a game-winning drive with a 4-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining to send the New England Patriots back to the Super Bowl with a 24-20 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.
Brady, who was questionable for the game with a right hand injury, showed no ill effects and completed 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns, including the big one on the Pats’ five-play, 30-yard drive in the final minutes.
Jacksonville faced a fourth-and-15 after driving to the Patriots’ 43-yard-line, but Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles’ deep toss down the sideline to Dede Westbrook was broken up by Stephon Gilmore in a game-saving defensive play.
Amendola finished with seven catches for 84 yards and two scores for the Patriots, who extended their own NFL record with an unprecedented 10th trip to the Super Bowl.
Last year, New England erased a 28-3 deficit against Atlanta to beat the Falcons 34-28 and claim their fifth championship.
New England faces the winner of Sunday night’s NFC Championship Game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII on Sunday, Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Bortles threw for 293 yards (23-of-36) and a touchdown and Leonard Fournette rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to lead the Jaguars.
Jacksonville was playing in its third-ever AFC title game and its first since 1999.
Josh Lambo’s 54-yard field goal at 10:23 of the third quarter and another from 43 yards at 14:52 of the fourth bumped Jacksonville’s lead to 20-10.
Brady led New England down the field quickly and hit Amendola for a 9-yard touchdown with 8:44 to go to bring the Pats within three.
Bortles marched the Jaguars down the field 76 yards and found a wide-open Marcedes Lewis for a 4-yard touchdown pass at 14:15 of the second quarter, making it 7-3.
With 7:06 to play in the quarter, Fournette’s 4-yard rushing score capped a 77-yard drive to extend Jacksonville’s lead to 14-3.
Rob Gronkowski’s 21-yard catch on the second play of ensuing drive moved him past Dallas Clark into first place on the NFL’s all-time postseason receiving yardage list for a tight end.
Minutes later, Gronkowski left the game with a head injury after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church at the Jacksonville 40-yard line with 1:23 remaining before halftime.
Although Gronkowski was deemed questionable to return, he never did.
Church was flagged for unnecessary roughness, helping to set up a 1-yard TD run by James White three plays later to bring the Patriots within four at the break.
New England led 3-0 after one quarter.
–Field Level Media
Nick Foles tossed three touchdown passes, and the Eagles scored 38 unanswered points en route to a 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
LeGarrette Blount rushed for a touchdown, the Philadelphia defense forced two turnovers, and the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2004 season, when they lost the title to the New England Patriots.
The Eagles will face the Patriots once again with a chance at a Super Bowl championship, this time on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.
Despite being the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, the Eagles were home underdogs both last week against the Atlanta Falcons and Sunday against the Vikings.
“I don’t think many people had us in the Super Bowl before the season started,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “When the injuries started piling up, people didn’t have us there. When (quarterback) Carson Wentz got injured? Doubt anyone had us penciled in. We made it. We’re a team in every way. It feels so great, man.”
The Eagles will aim for the first Super Bowl title in franchise history. Before falling to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, they lost to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV following the 1980 season.
The Vikings, meanwhile, dropped their sixth consecutive NFC Championship Game appearance.
Minnesota had been in search of its first trip to the Super Bowl since the 1976 season.
“I’m going to take this feeling, bottle it up and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Vikings quarterback Case Keenum said.
Foles connected on a 41-yard touchdown with Torrey Smith on a flea flicker on the first drive of the third quarter as the Eagles extended their lead to 31-7.
Alshon Jeffery caught made his second touchdown catch of the game, a 5-yarder from Foles, with 14:10 left in the fourth for a 38-7 lead. The Eagles moved 92 yards in 12 plays, and the outcome was sealed.
“I’m excited to be going for a Super Bowl with this group of guys,” Blount said. “I love this team. My teammates are the greatest. We stick together through everything and rally around each other. We have one more to go.”
The game didn’t start perfectly for the Eagles. Minnesota moved effectively on its opening drive, going 75 yards on nine plays, culminating with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Kyle Rudolph with 10:14 left in the first quarter.
“You have to give those guys credit,” Keenum said of the Eagles’ defense. “This was the best front we’ve faced this year.”
The Eagles tied the game at 7 when defensive end Chris Long hit Keenum leading to a Patrick Robinson interception. Robinson returned the pick 50 yards for a score with 6:26 remaining in the first.
When Blount rumbled through the middle for an 11-yard touchdown run with 13:37 remaining in the second, the Eagles went ahead 14-7. The drive covered 75 yards in 12 plays.
The Vikings looked to tie the game — or at least kick a field goal — late in the first half, but Keenum was sacked by Derek Barnett on third-and-5 from the Philadelphia 16. Long recovered the fumble.
Foles proved his mettle on the ensuing possession as he tossed a spectacular 53-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery on third-and-10, giving the Eagles a 21-7 lead with 1:09 remaining in the half. Foles was able to move around long enough to be able to deliver the deep pass.
After the defense did its job, the Eagles didn’t run out the clock. They quickly moved down the field and Jake Elliott booted a 38-yard field as time expired for a 24-7 lead at halftime.
Foles wound up 26 of 33 for 352 yards. Tight end Zach Ertz led the Eagles with eight receptions for 93 yards, while Jeffery had five catches for 85 yards. Jay Ajayi paced the Philadelphia ground game with 73 yards on 18 carries.
Keenum finished 28 of 48 for 271 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions. Running back Jerick McKinnon had 11 receptions for 86 yards and added 10 carries for 40 yards.
–Field Level Media
The Philadelphia Eagles attempt to hold serve at home despite being tagged as underdogs for the second consecutive contest on Sunday as they host the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. The top-seeded Eagles benefited from a late defensive stand to fend off Atlanta last week while the second-seeded Vikings scored an improbable last-second touchdown to stun New Orleans.
Case Keenum (career-high 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and 98.3 passer rating) took a light-hearted approach upon addressing the media on Wednesday, three days after connecting with Stefon Diggs on a 61-yard scoring strike to complete the “Minneapolis Miracle” in a 29-24 triumph over the Saints. “I know this is what you guys all predicted: A (Nick) Foles vs. Keenum NFC Championship Game,” he said, referencing the unlikely matchup pitting himself against a quarterback who is one year removed from seriously considering retirement. “It’s been a crazy journey,” the 28-year-old Foles, who was acquired with Keenum by the then-St. Louis Rams on the same day (March 10, 2015) before ultimately returning to Philadelphia in a backup role, told reporters. Foles has endured an uneven ride while filling in for the injured Carson Wentz, but he completed 23-of-30 passes for 246 yards in a 15-10 win over the Falcons.
TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Vikings -3. O/U: 39
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (14-3): Diggs overcame a slow start to finish with six catches for 137 yards and a touchdown against the Saints, giving him 28 receptions and four scores in his last five games. Fellow wideout Adam Thielen (team-leading 91 catches, 1,276 yards), who finished with six receptions versus New Orleans for the third time in five contests, returned to practice on Thursday after being plagued by a lower-back injury. Latavius Murray rushed for a touchdown last week to increase his total to 22 since 2016 (including playoff games) as he heads into a tilt against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense.
ABOUT THE EAGLES (14-3): Jay Ajayi stumbled out of the blocks with a fumble on his first carry last week before finishing with 54 yards rushing and 44 receiving on three catches. The 24-year-old clearly has become Philadelphia’s top option out of the backfield following an in-season trade with Miami, but the terrain could be tough against Minnesota’s top-ranked overall defense. Alshon Jeffery, who saw all four of his catches result in first downs last week, had a team-best nine touchdown receptions this season and has scored seven times in nine career games versus the Vikings.
1. Minnesota is bidding to snap a string of five straight losses in the NFC Championship Game and advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since Super Bowl XI.
2. Philadelphia lost its last NFC title game appearance against Arizona in the 2008 season, although it emerged victorious the last time it hosted the contest (27-10 win over Atlanta, 2004 season).
3. The home team has won the last eight conference championship games.