FOXBORO – Amen to Amendola.
The New England Patriots needed every bit of the nine-year pro in the come from behind, 24-20 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship.
Amendola caught two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter that ignited the New England offense, including a toe-tapping grab in the back of the end zone that gave the team its first lead since the first quarter in which Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 31-yard field goal to go up 3-0.
The slot receiver continued his reputation of stepping up in clutch moments, especially when All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski had to be taken out of the game in the second quarter following a helmet-to-helmet hit by Jaguars’ safety Barry Church.
It was just another example of how clutch the Patriots are, where no deficit seems to be insurmountable.
However, the first half was not pretty for the hosts, as Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles was picking his opponent apart, as the defense was biting on the play-action, which allowed tight end Marcedes Lewis to be free for an easy score, giving the visitors a 7-3 lead to generate the momentum in the first half.
It did not take Jacksonville much time to pick up where it left off, as it scored on the next drive after running back Leonard Fournette plowed his way for a score to go up 14-3.
At this point, the defending Super Bowl champions had received a rude awakening, as they were getting punched in the mouth on their home field.
Desperately needing to put points on the board before halftime, the Patriots marched down the field on a six-play, 85-yard drive that resulted in a James White one-yard score to cut the deficit to 14-10 at the break.
Receiving the ball to start the third quarter, Jacksonville enhanced its lead to 17-10 after kicker Josh Lambo hit a big-boy boot of 54-yards.
Lambo was just getting started, as he hit another 43-yard kick to start the final frame, giving the jaguars a 20-10 lead.
It was the last points Jacksonville scored, as the Patriots defense stepped up when it needed to the most, forcing the team that nobody thought would make it this far to punt on its next three drives before a turnover on downs sealed the teams’ eighth overall trip to the Super Bowl.
With the backs against their wall, Tom Brady turned to who he could trust the most in Amendola, as a crossing route from nine-yards out propelled the game into a field goal difference at 20-17 with 11:45 to play.