|Posted by Radatz on January 21, 2018 at 9:40 PM|
We had one conference game that projected as a possible rout, another that looked like a dead heat. And we got that, but with the wrong games. Jacksonville pushed NE much like Atlanta had in last year's Super Bowl. Philadelphia rolled over a Minnesota team that was clearly not final four material.
NE 24 JAX 20:
Are these guys going to do this every year? I had their epitaph ready for 3 1/2 quarters with the name 'Coughlin' engraved somewhere or other. They came out flat. They were being pushed around. Gronkowski went down on a headhunter hit and went AWOL. They were playing a team that looked impenetrable on defense and unstoppable on offense. They were down 10 in the 4th. Sound vaguely familiar?
All eyes were on Brady's hand. There was nothing visibly wrong with Brady. It was everybody else. Receivers weren't getting open. Backs weren't running well (NE finished with 46 yards on the ground). Cooks was missing what seemed doable catches (though he was clearly interfered with on one and did finish with 100 yards). But McDaniels seemed to have nothing in his playbook that could keep Brady from desperately throwing long into double coverage.
It was all Jacksonville. When they scored the first 10 points of the 2nd half, the last coming on a FG to open the 4th quarter, it seemed over. Any momentum NE may have acquired with a late TD drive (costing them Gronkowski) in the first half had evaporated. And though NE had no margin for errors, they made them anyway. On the first of several desperate drives they ran an absurdly successful double-crossfield-lateral play that ended with Dion Lewis racing deep into JAX-land only to be stripped of the ball. With 13:37 they remained down 10 and the Jags had the ball again... in good field position. But the defense, mangled all afternoon, held. On the next drive they converted 3rd-and-18 on a pass to Amendola (who else?). A 31-yarder to Dorsett and a couple more to Amendola and it was 20-17.
The NE defense held. After 3 succesive punts, two by the Jags, NE had the ball with just under 5 to go. This time they took advantage of a short punt and ran it back to the Jag 30. Field goal range. But 2:10 later they scored on a brilliant catch by (again) Amendola to take their first lead since 3-0. But lots of time was left. Jacksonville got its bearings back and drove too easily downfield as the spectre of Coughlin rose again. But not this time. Finally they stalled and were forced into a 4th-and-14. Bortles tossed a perfect lob into the red zone with a clear path to pay dirt that was swatted away by Gilmore on a leaping last-ditch play. Then it was a matter of forcing JAX to use their 3 time outs. With 3rd and 9 beckoning, they seemed to cross up the Jags by not throwing. An end run by Lewis absolved him of his earlier fumble, gaining a first down and effectively ending the game.
The Jags were better even than advertised. Bortles was anything but a liability. Fournette was formidable, ankle or no ankle. But when New England became desperate Saxonville became mortal again just as Atlanta had last year.
And so NE goes to its astounding 8th Super Bowl in the last 17 years. Think about it. They will --- for a day or so.
PHI 38 MIN 7:
Case Keenum was foisted into starting by injuries, and he made the most of it. By contrast, Nick Foles was grabbed by Philly as a backup, and why not? He'd set records for Kelly's one-trick collegiate offense, then gotten dumped when defenses adjusted and Kelly didn't. Both defenses were supposed to be good, both offenses questionable.
Ah, but Foles has been settling in for a shorter time and he's working his way back to tip top form. It's hard to believe Wentz could have looked any better in this game. Meanwhile, Schwartz' defense made not just Keenum but the rest of the Minnesota offense look mediocre to lousy. In truth, it's something they'd been during the season many times but no one noticed because the defense played so well.
Not this day. Philly moved the ball at will with Foles the most obvious agent. Minnesota looked formidable for a while at the start but Schwartz adjusted. Minnesota not only failed to adjust, they literally gave up in the second half. This was simply an illusion, not title fabric.
And so Philly goes to Minnesota. But it won't be this sad cast of Vikings they see across the ball as we get a rather fantastic 'rematch' of the 2005 Colonial Bowl... fantastic in that one overhyped QB of that era has long been Chunky Souped into obscurity. He's 41 years old, by the way. His foe, Tom Brady, is 40. McNabb must be wondering by now what exactly he came up against way back when --- if his impenetrable ego allows it.
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