Tom Brady and Danny Amendola

David Butler II/USA Today Sports

Patriots 24, Jaguars 20: Tom Brady leads Patriots back to Super Bowl with yet another amazing comeback

John Tomase
January 21, 2018 - 7:09 pm

His hand stitched shut and his confidence only restored in the 24 hours before Sunday's AFC title game, Tom Brady wasn't going to be fazed by a 10-point deficit against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He had overcome more dire circumstances in his last two Super Bowls. The 10-point fourth quarter comeback against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 felt historic until he overcame 28-3 against the Falcons last year.

And so when the Jaguars kicked a field goal early in the fourth quarter to take a 20-10 lead, all eyes turned to No. 12. The question wasn't if he could lead a comeback, but exactly how he'd pull off the inevitable.

A half hour later, we had our answer: a picture-perfect tippy-toe touchdown to Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone with just over two minutes remaining to give the Patriots their only lead of the game and send them somewhere incredibly familiar.

For the second straight year and eighth time since his arrival on the scene in 2001, Brady and the Pats are headed back to the Super Bowl. They got there with a 24-20 victory over the surprisingly feisty Jaguars, who gave them all they could handle for three quarters, knocking the Patriots on their heels with two early touchdowns, and knocking out tight end Rob Gronkowski with a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit that landed Brady's favorite weapon in the league's concussion protocol after just one catch.

None of it mattered. Brady shook off any soreness to stand tall in the face of Jacksonville's vaunted pass rush. He completed 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards and two scores. He was sacked three times and absorbed a number of other punishing hits, but none of it stopped him from leading the Patriots to 14 points in the fourth quarter.

With Gronkowski sidelined, wide receiver Brandin Cooks was immense, catching six passes for 100 yards and drawing a pair of critical pass interference penalties. Amendola might've been even better, catching seven passes for 84 yards and both of Brady's TDs.

The Patriots needed all of it, because much-maligned Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles delivered one of the best games of his career, completing 23 of 36 passes for 293 yards and a TD. He also didn't throw an interception for just the ninth time all season; the Jags had won the previous eight.

After the Patriots opened with a field goal, Bortles found tight end Marcedes Lewis for a 4-yard TD to cap a seven-play, 76-yard drive. The Jags then went 77 yards in 10 plays, capped with Leonard Fournette's 4-yard run that made it 14-3 and left Foxboro Stadium stunned.

The Patriots punted on three straight drives before scoring their patented just-before-the-half touchdown to slice the lead to 14-3. In truth, they didn't do much except let the Jags commit penalties. Safety Barry Church knocked out Gronkowski with a devastating hit on a pass deep down the right side, earning 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

On the very next play, Cooks was ridden out of bounds by cornerback A.J. Bouye for a 32-yard pass interference that set the Patriots up at the 13 before James White dove into the end zone from a yard out.

The Patriots went punt-punt-fumble on their first three drives of the second half before Brady made one of his best throws of the game, drilling a ball to Amendola for 21 yards on third-and-18. A 23-yarder to Philip Dorsett set up the Patriots at the Jacksonville 23, where Brady hit Amendola for 14 yards and then a 9-yard TD to draw the Patriots within 24-20.

All that remained was the comeback, and after a Jacksonville three-and-out, Amendola's 20-yard punt return set them up at the Jacksonville 30. Five plays later, Brady hit Amendola from four yards out with 2:48 left to win it and send the Patriots back to the promised land.

The Patriots are now 22-1 in the playoffs when scoring more than 21 points under Bill Belichick.