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Thumbs up: Patriots advance to Super Bowl with stirring comeback

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown with Danny Amendola #80 in the fourth quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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The thumb was clearly an issue. And then they lost Rob Gronklowski. And the Jaguars played an incredible game.

And none of that ended up mattering.

The Patriots came back for an incredible 24-20 win over the Jaguars to advance to Super Bowl LII, a trip that might be among their most memorable for what they’ve overcome.

It wasn’t just that quarterback Tom Brady was dealing with an injury that was obviously on his mind (every time he went down he made sure not to land on the thumb which was injured in practice Wednesday).

Brady was running out of people to throw to as well, but he found just enough Danny Amendola at just the right time.

With Rob Gronkowski out with a concussion and Julian Edelman out with a preseason ACL tear, the Patriots didn’t have many people left.

But Brady found Amedola for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to ruin what had been a near-perfect upset bid by the Jaguars. Brady finished the game 26-of-38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns.

Quarterback Blake Bortles played a smart, safe game, but wasn’t able to make the plays the Jaguars needed late. He finished 23-of-36 for 293 yards and a touchdown, and that was nearly enough. But his fourth-and-15 attempt was broken up by Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and the Patriots were able to run out the clock thanks to a third-down conversion by Patriots running back Dion Lewis.

For Brady and coach Bill Belichick, it’s their eighth trip to the Super Bowl, as they try to win a sixth title and tie the Steelers for most in league history. Either the Eagles or the Vikings will stand in the way of that.

And if the game is close late, no one will like either team’s chances against the Patriots because of the guy with the thumb.