NFL Football’s version of the Final Four came and went last week and while the victors were not so surprising, the final scores were.
Trailing early in Sunday’s AFC championship game, Tom Brady rallied the heavily favored New England Patriots for a 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars to send the defending champions back to the Super Bowl.
The Pats will square off against the Philadelphia Eagles who rolled to a 38-7 victory in Sunday’s NFC championship game. The NFC matchup was supposed to be a close defensive battle primarily due to both teams using long time backup quarterbacks. The Eagles made short work of the Vikings as they shot out to an early lead behind the arm of Nick Foles.
Speaking of anatomy, reports of Brady’s injured right hand were largely exaggerated as the five-time Super Bowl champion completed 26 of his 38 pass attempts for 290 yards and two touchdowns. His last completion was the game-winning four-yard pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining in the game. Due to Rob Gronkowski being knocked out of the game in the second quarter due to a concussion, Amendola became Brady’s go-to target. He finished with seven catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
New England fans will tell you that their team played an error-free game while being called for just one penalty for 10 yards during the contest. Jacksonville fans, while watching their team be penalized six times for 98 yards that the referees (and the NFL) wanted New England to win.
Adding fuel to that way of thinking were two videos that went viral after the game. The first one was of a referee smiling after the Patriots scoring a touchdown. The second one was a referee going out of his way after the game to chase Brady down and congratulate the quarterback. I must admit, both were not good looks for the NFL.
Conspiracy theories aside, the Jaguars jumped out to a 14-3 lead and led 20-10 in the fourth quarter. But Jacksonville, despite quarterback Blake Bortles finishing with 293 passing yards while completing 23 of 36 passes, chose to play conservative late and that played right into Brady’s hands who once again orchestrated a comeback victory.
There was not a comeback story with Minnesota. The Vikings had NFL’s best defense all season. It disappeared early against the Eagles and it was Philly’s defense that came up big by forcing three Minnesota turnovers.
While the Vikings failed to become the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl inside their home stadium, the Eagles will have the same opponent they did in their last Super Bowl when Tom Brady and the Patriots won Super Bowl 39.
Foles just picked apart the Vikings defense, both with short and long passes. The long-time backup threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns while completing 26 of his 33 pass attempts. The 456 yards and 38 points put up by the Eagles were the most given up by the Vikings defense all season, by far.
I had the Vikings in this one so I am not quite sure what to think about the Eagles chances against New England. It is not easy to pick against the Pats since they are truly the only dynasty remaining in professional sports. But I will tell you what the Eagles need to do when I preview the Super Bowl next week.