The feeling felt all too familiar for Patriots fans. Fourth quarter, down 10, a crushing playoff defeat staring New England in the face. But after nearly 60 minutes of superb football by the Jacksonville Jaguars nearly knocked off the defending champs, Tom Brady transformed back into the same playoff monster that simply cannot be killed.
Taking the field with an ominous-looking black bandage still protecting the back of his throwing hand, Brady picked the Jaguars defense apart on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to give the Patriots a 24-20 lead that they would keep to win the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro on Sunday. Brady on the two drives went 8-for-10 for 120 yards and two TD passes, both to Danny Amendola. And now, the Patriots are on to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII, thanks to yet another legendary achievement for the 40-year-old Brady.
The second TD to Amendola was particularly eye-popping, as No. 80 reeled in a catch at the back of the end zone and barely touched the toes of both feet in bounds. Brady gave the receiver credit for stepping up with his latest big-time playoff game and showing great coordination on his second score.
“[Amendola’s] got great hands and a great sense about where he’s at on the field,” said Brady. “He’s made so many big plays for us, and this was huge. I have no doubt that we don’t win [without him]. It was an incredible play.”
Amendola lauded Brady for his unparalleled mental toughness in overcoming a freak mid-week injury – and instilling his teammates with the belief that they could, like so many times before, engineer another memorable playoff comeback.
“Everybody knows how tough he is. Everybody knows he’s our leader,” said Amendola of Brady. “It’s a testament to his career, his personality, the man he is. And not only is he the best player in our locker room, but he gets everybody else to play well and step their game up and that’s why he’s the best.”
Brady himself remarked that it “sounds kind of arrogant” to suggest that the injury affected him in any way, avoiding any talk of his performance becoming known as the “stitches game.” Head coach Bill Belichick also downplayed the Brady’s injury and its impact on the game, in hilariously deadpan fashion.
“I mean, look, Tom did a great job and he’s a tough guy. We all know that, alright? But, we’re not talking about open-heart surgery here,” said Belichick.
Brady now has 11 career fourth-quarter game-winning drives in the playoffs, which is five more than any other player in the Super Bowl era, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Safe to say that the stitches on his throwing hand were a non-factor in his latest magical postseason performance.
Yet again, No. 12 proved that no fourth-quarter lead is safe against him. That if you’re on the other side of the field, you know you have to keep scoring because you know he will. Brady now has a chance to have the ultimate bookend to his career and win three out of four Super Bowls on the back nine of his career after starting it the same way on the front.
The Jaguars gave one of the best efforts by an opposing team in recent memory at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs, but their near-best still wasn’t enough to hold Brady down. Their 20-10 lead certainly felt insurmountable at times. But after last year’s comeback against the Falcons, there’s little reason to truly doubt Brady and the Patriots before the clock hits zero.
Even if Brady cannot close the deal in his eighth Super Bowl appearance, he can still say he authored yet another unforgettable chapter in the most storied quarterback career in NFL history. In Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, it could be time to write one more.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Note: This was updated with accurate statistical information.