Eagles

Patriots advance to 8th Super Bowl in Brady, Belichick era

Patriots advance to 8th Super Bowl in Brady, Belichick era

BOX SCORE

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Give ‘em a hand: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are heading back to the Super Bowl.

Brady shook off a hand injury and threw a 4-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 Sunday.

Brady, wearing a black bandage on his right hand after needing stitches to close a cut that happened on a play during practice earlier in the week, showed no signs of being hampered.

And, with the game -- and the season -- possibly 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 to Amendola for the Patriots (15-3), who'll play the Eagles in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.

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.

"It's pretty amazing. Just to be on a team that wins these kinds of games, it's just a great accomplishment," Brady said. "I'm just so proud of everyone on our team, we made so many great plays. Defense played so great when they needed to."

Blake Bortles and the Jaguars (12-7) led 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, but couldn't hold against the defending champions. The NFL's second-ranked defense kept Brady and the Patriots at bay for most of the game, but lost linebacker Myles Jack and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus on consecutive plays on New England's winning drive.

"It's a locker room obviously with a lot of pain," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. "I'm sure they're hurting inside. I'm hurting. The players are hurting."

With New England trailing 20-17, Amendola returned a punt 20 yards to put the ball at the Jaguars 30. Brady hit James White for 15 yards, Amendola for 8 and then the quarterback ran up the middle for 2 yards and a first down.

On first-and-goal from the 5, White ran for a yard to set up the go-ahead score from Brady to Amendola.

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.

"Guys are upset," Bortles said. "It's not what anybody expects -- contrary to popular belief. Those guys fully expected to win that game."

The Patriots ran out the clock, with Dion Lewis' 18-yard scamper with 90 seconds remaining sealing the victory. And they played most of the game without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left late in the first half and didn't return.

Brady's hand was the most-scrutinized body part in Boston since his ankle before the 2008 Super Bowl, and Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's right ankle tendon -- the bloody sock -- in the 2004 playoffs.

Brady hurt his right hand during practice earlier in the week.

"Of all the plays, my season wasn't going to end on a handoff in practice," Brady said.

"Mentally, it probably stressed him out a bit," Amendola said. "It's hard to throw a football with stitches in your thumb. Everybody knows how tough he is."

Some Patriots fans were worried, but not Belichick.

"He's a tough guy, we all know that," Belichick said. "But we're not talking about open heart surgery here."

Brady warmed up without a glove on his hand, and he came out throwing. He completed his first six passes 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 4-yard touchdown catch from Bortles .

Leonard Fournette gave Jacksonville a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter with a 4-yard TD run, hushing the crowd at Gillette Stadium.

The Jaguars made some big mistakes just before halftime. Bortles completed a 12-yard pass to Lewis on third-and-7 from the Patriots 44, but Jacksonville was called for delay of game.

That wiped out a first down, and Bortles was sacked by Adam Butler on the next play to force a punt. Jacksonville was called for six penalties that cost the Jaguars 98 yards, while New England was penalized just once.

With just over two minutes left before halftime, New England's offense took over and the fans chanted "Braa-dy! Braa-dy!"

And their quarterback delivered -- with some help from two big 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. Church was called for unnecessary roughness, putting the ball at Jacksonville's 45.

"It was a tough call," Church said, "but you've got to go with what they call."

A.J. Bouye was called for pass interference on the next play. The 32-yard penalty gave the Patriots the ball at the Jaguars 13. After a 12-yard catch by Cooks, White ran it in from the 1 to make it 14-10.

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.

After Jacksonville went three-and-out following Jack's fumble recovery of Lewis, Brady and the Patriots offense came out with a sense of urgency.

They marched 85 yards on eight plays to cut it to a three-point deficit on Amendola's 9-yard TD catch with 8:44 left. Amendola had a 21-yard catch on third-and-18 from the Patriots 25 early in the drive.

"Big play in the game," Brady said. "Ended up being a huge drive for us."

Few flags
The Patriots' one penalty against the Jaguars is the fewest called on one team in a playoff game since the 2011 AFC championship -- when the Patriots were called for just one in a win over Baltimore.

Brady's bounce-back
Brady's passer rating during the first three quarters: 87.5. In the fourth quarter, it was 136.3.

Solid Jaguars
Bortles finished 23 of 36 for 293 yards and a touchdown in his first AFC title game. Fournette had 76 yards rushing on 24 carries.

Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

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Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

While many folks are off for Presidents Day, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is hard at work trying to figure out how to replace Frank Reich. 

Pederson is spending his Monday interviewing running backs coach Duce Staley and wide receivers coach Mike Groh for the Eagles' vacant offensive coordinator position, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the news Monday. 

It's possible one or both coaches could take over in some sort of offensive coordinator role. 

Reich left his post as offensive coordinator earlier this month when he accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis. While it might not seem like an OC who doesn't call the plays has a big role, Reich was a good sounding board for Pederson and seemed to be very-well trusted by the head coach. He also helped put the weekly gameplan together. 

It makes sense that the Eagles don't want to go outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator. Pederson trusts Staley and Groh and the chemistry inside the NovaCare Complex was tremendous during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. 

Either way, Pederson is going to oversee the offense and call plays. Staley or Groh, if one or both are promoted, will handle some extra responsibility, but it'll still all be on Pederson. 

While Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011, working his way up from a quality control coach to running backs coach in 2013, Groh is a newcomer. He was added to the staff before the 2017 season to take over for Greg Lewis after the Eagles fired him. Groh did an impressive job last season, particularly with helping transform Nelson Agholor from a bust to one of the team's more explosive weapons. 

LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

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LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

LeGarrette Blount is fresh off of his third Super Bowl title and second in two years with two different teams. 

It sounds like he doesn't really want to go to a third team in three years. 

Blount, 31, played on a one-year deal worth around $1.25 million with the Eagles in 2017, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 14. He made it pretty clear on Sunday that he wouldn't mind coming back to Philly for another run. 

"It's early so we'll see," Blount said on NFL Network. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there. They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys. 

"I can't say enough about Duce (Staley), just for the simple fact for how well I was coached there and how good he helped me understand things. I feel like Duce is one of the best running back coaches, one of the best coaches I've ever had in my entire life. I obviously want to be a part of that for a while, so we'll see how it goes."

Blount began the year as the Eagles' top running back, but lost some of his role once the team traded for former Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi. But Blount still played a significant role in the Eagles' run to winning Super Bowl LII. 

During the season, he was the team's top rusher with 173 carries for 766 yards and two touchdowns. But then in Super Bowl LII, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, helping the Eagles to a 41-33 win over his former team, the Patriots. 

The Eagles are going to bring back Ajayi and second-year player Corey Clement. After that, things get murky. Blount and Darren Sproles (coming off injury) are both set to become free agents. 

Blount wasn't shy about his love for the Eagles during his interview on Sunday. He cited trust and how they handled the Ajayi trade with him as big reasons why. 

"They talked to me throughout the process of it happening," Blount said. "They were like, 'we're trading for Jay Ajayi, we just want to let you know.' Like I said, that's obviously another big thing for me, the honesty in that building and how open they are and how they don't keep any kind of secrets for you. They just tell you how it is. It's a big respect thing. Duce was the first person to reach out the me and be like, 'hey, we traded for Jay Ajayi. I just want to let you know.' Again, man, that's why it's a place that I love and I hope to stay there." 

Late in the six-and-a-half minute video, the crew brought out Clement while Blount was answering a question about the rookie. Blount laughed during the middle of his answer, but then got back on track and praised Clement. The two became very close during the 2017 season. 

After Blount's answer, Clement got to chat with his teammate and said getting to work with Blount was a "tremendous opportunity" and would clearly like to keep the core group together in the running back room next season. 

Obviously, it's not up to Clement, but Blount will play a big role and we already know what he thinks of the Eagles.