Eagles will need to beat mighty Patriots to claim first Super Bowl
Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl appearance since 2005 will see them face Brady and co
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter of the AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Photo: CJ Gunther/EPA
Philadelphia Eagles 38 Minnesota Vikings 7
Maybe it’s time for Philly to forget Carson Wentz. Nick Foles may well be good enough to win the Eagles their first Super Bowl.
Foles was on fire on Sunday night against the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. Philly made big play after big play on both sides of the ball in a stunning 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC championship.
Next up after their most-lopsided playoff victory: the Eagles’ first Super Bowl appearance since 2005, against the team that beat them then, AFC champion New England.
Foles replaced the injured Wentz in Game 13 and finished off a rise from last place to first in the NFC East. There were plenty of doubters entering the playoffs, but the former starter in Philadelphia under another regime has been brilliant. His best work might have come against Minnesota and their vaunted defense that was torn apart in every manner. Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise, escapability and moxie in going 26 for 33.
In doing so helped greatly by the Eagles’ domination on defense and a spectacular weaving 50-yard interception return TD by Patrick Robinson Foles ruined the Vikings’ hopes of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium
Instead, the Eagles will seek their first Super Bowl crown in Minnesota on 4 February; their last championship came in 1960.
Minnesota made it look easy at the outset, driving 75 yards on nine plays, each of which gained yardage. The payoff was a 25-yard throw from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph well behind linebacker Najee Goode as Philadelphia’s defense looked confused on the play.
That didn’t happen again for Philly.
Defensive end Chris Long had a huge hand in Robinson’s 50-yard interception return. Long burst in from the left side and got his arm on Keenum to disrupt the throw for Adam Thielen. The ball went directly to Robinson, who sped down the left side, then made a sharp cut to the right and got a superb block from Ronald Darby to reach the end zone.
Inspired, Philly’s D forced a three-and-out, the Foles led the Eagles on a 12-play, 75-yard masterpiece of a drive. LeGarrette Blount showed all his power and escapability on an 11-yard surge up the middle for a 14-7 lead.
Turnovers, something Minnesota rarely committed with an NFC-low 14 during the season, hurt again and not only ended a solid drive, but set up more Philly points. On third down from the Eagles 15, Keenum was blindsided by rookie Derek Barnett, and the ball bounced directly to Long. It was only the second strip-sack the Vikings have been victimised by all season.
A blown coverage another rarity for Minnesota on third-and-10 allowed Alshon Jeffery to get wide open for a 53-yard TD, and Philadelphia tacked on Elliott’s 38-yard field goal to make it 24-3 at halftime.
New England Patriots 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 20
In the earlier game, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots booked their place in the Super Bowl.
Brady shook off a hand injury and threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining , rallying the Patriots to a 24-20 comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship on Sunday.
Brady, wearing a black bandage on his right hand after hurting it during practice earlier in the week, showed no signs of being hampered. And, with the game and possibly the season on the line, the Patriots star came up big again.
“I’ve had a lot worse,” Brady said. “I didn’t know that on Wednesday. It was a crazy injury. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday was a little scary. Then I started getting some confidence and today we did just enough to win.”
Brady finished 26 of 38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots, who will play the winner of Sunday night’s game between Minnesota and Philadelphia. It’s the eighth Super Bowl appearance for Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who have won five times including last year’s 34-28 overtime rally against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Jaguars led 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold against the defending champions. Jacksonville looking to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history had one more shot, but Bortles’ throw on fourth-and-15 to Dede Westbrook was knocked away by Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots then ran out the clock, with Dion Lewis’ 18-yard scamper with 90 seconds remaining sealing the victory. And they did it mostly without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left the game late in the first half and didn’t return.
Brady had come out for warm-ups without a glove on his hand, and he came out throwing. He completed his first six passes including a 20-yarder to Amendola on fourth-and-one from the Jaguars 30 for 57 yards to march the Patriots down the field. The drive stalled when Brady was sacked by Dante Fowler Jr, and New England settled for Stephen Gostkowski’s 31-yard field goal.
A wide-open Marcedes Lewis gave the Jaguars a 7-3 lead 45 seconds into the second quarter with a four-yard touchdown catch from Blake Bortles, who completed all five of his passes for 66 yards on an impressive and efficient seven-play, 76-yard drive. Leonard Fournette gave Jacksonville a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter, hushing the crowd at Gillette Stadium.
The Jaguars made some big mistakes that hurt them just before halftime. Bortles completed a 12-yard pass to Lewis on third-and-seven from the Patriots 44, but Jacksonville were called for delay of game after New England called a timeout.
That wiped out a first down, and Bortles was sacked by Adam Butler on the next play to force a punt.
With just over two minutes left before halftime, New England’s offense took over and the fans chanted “Bra-dy! Bra-dy!”
And their quarterback delivered with some help from the Jaguars on two long penalties. On first-and-10 from the Patriots 40, Brady threw a long pass for Gronkowski, who was injured when he got popped by Barry Church just as the ball was arriving. Church was called for unnecessary roughness, putting the ball at Jacksonville’s 45.
AJ Bouye was called for pass interference on the next play on an incomplete throw for Brandin Cooks. The 32-yard penalty put the ball at the Jaguars 13. After a 12-yard catch by Cooks, James White ran it in from the one to make it 14-10 with 55 seconds left.
Josh Lambo gave Jacksonville a 17-10 lead 4:37 into the third quarter with a 54-yard field goal. He added a 43-yarder 8 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it a 10-point game.
But Brady & Co were just getting started. – Guardian service