Another Sunday is in the books and we now know exactly what two teams will be participating in the Super Bowl. The AFC Championship game was one for the ages while the NFC Championship’s outcome seemed to be determined halfway through the game. Nonetheless, these two games summed up the entire NFL season thus far: fun and completely unpredictable.
New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Final Score: 24-20, Patriots.
What went right: Lots went right in this game for both teams. Before the game, if you were to tell me Blake Bortles would complete 23 of 36 passes for 293 yards and a touchdown, I wouldn’t believe you. Yes, Bortles played a very solid divisional round, but let’s be honest: lots of his stats came in the fourth quarter and he struggled the majority of the Tennessee game. The Jaguars had a winning formula in place (run the ball and don’t ask Bortles to do too much), but it ended up biting them in the grand scheme. More on that later. Holding the Patriots to 10 points through three quarters is a testament to this Jacksonville defense. Amazing play by AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.
New England didn’t play that great of a game through three quarters. Jacksonville had the majority of the momentum and it looked like Tom Brady wasn’t going to be able to bring his team back. We all know how that one ended. Saving his best football for the last quarter of the game (two TD passes), Brady showed everyone that his hand is in no way a hindrance to his play. Tom Terrific is still Tom Terrific. Also, Danny Amendola and Stephon Gilmore both stepped up in the fourth quarter after failing to make any plays earlier in the game. Championship teams have championship players that step up in big moments, and this game was the epitome of that.
What went wrong: Instead of keeping the pressure on New England by trying to score some points before the half, the Jaguars elected to take their 14-10 lead into halftime. Jacksonville completely shut down in the fourth quarter. There were downs where the ball could have been snapped later. Play calls were way too predictable. Blake Bortles’ weaknesses were exposed. The defense gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. What I said earlier about championship-caliber players making big plays when they matter, Jacksonville was the opposite. Penalties also killed the team.
For New England, the offense just wasn’t clicking in the first half. Tom Brady was practically on his own once Rob Gronkowski went down due to a concussion. Dion Lewis (34 yards) was the Patriots’ leading rusher. That’s pathetic. That’s about it for what went wrong with the Pats. Everything that went wrong was fixed in the fourth quarter, so there’s not too much to complain about.
Final Thoughts: What a game. Jacksonville will be back here. I’m not sure if it will be with Blake Bortles at quarterback, but they’ll be back. Perhaps with Eli Manning or Alex Smith? New England should also be back, assuming Tom Brady/Bill Belichick return next season. Overall, New England’s championship pedigree came through when the team needed it most. Jacksonville is still developing that trait.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Final Score: 38-7, Eagles.
What went right: Almost everything went right for the Eagles. Nick Foles had one of the best performances of his career (352 yards, 3 TD) on the biggest stage he’s been on so far. The team rushed for over 100 yards. The defense picked off Case Keenum twice. Overall, it was a dominant performance by the Eagles and many things went in their favor.
For the Vikings, about the only thing that went right was the team going up early 7-0 on a Case Keenum touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph. That’s that.
What went wrong: Nothing significant to note for the Eagles. Moving on.
Minnesota shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions. Case Keenum was under constant pressure and threw two ugly interceptions, one of which that was returned for a touchdown. A top-two defense in the league gave up 38 points to… Nick Foles. It can’t get much worse than that for a team many picked to get to the Super Bowl when the playoffs began. Props to the Vikings for a great season, but everything collapsed at once in this game. Would the outcome have been any different with someone other than Keenum at QB? I don’t think so.
Final Thoughts: I haven’t been giving the Eagles enough credit this season. I waited for them to lose during the regular season and I’ve been waiting for them to lose this postseason. Nothing can stop this team (although the Patriots will likely be able to come Super Bowl time). I also haven’t given Nick Foles enough credit. After a shaky start in last week’s Divisional Round, he ended the game on fire and took home the W. This week, he was on point the entire game and made throws I had no clue he was capable of making. Minnesota has a lot to figure out QB-wise this offseason and the Eagles should be in the same position next year: competing for the NFC title.
That’s all I’ve got. If you guys have any thoughts, let me know! I’d love to chat with you. Reach out to me on Facebook (The Best Foote Forward) or on Twitter (@TheBestFooteFWD). Thanks for reading!