After an upset win in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars headed to New England with one more mountain to climb to the Super Bowl. In order to beat the Patriots, they would have needed to play flawless, aggressive football for four quarters. The Jaguars got off to another hot start in New England, leading 14-3 with the ball and driving to extend the lead with QB Blake Bortles, who was 13 of 15 for 155 yards and a touchdown at the time. After a New England timeout before third down with just over two minutes left in the half, the Jaguars inexplicably took a delay of game penalty, wiping out a first down late in the second half. Jacksonville eventually punted, and predictably New England marched down the field for a touchdown making it 14-10, absolutely crushing momentum.
Marrone made a controversial decision here, as the Jaguars got the ball back with 55 seconds left and two timeouts. Instead of trying to get points, the Jaguars took a knee and went into the locker room. When asked after the game, Marrone said ““we had to make some adjustments going into halftime” The Jaguars also received the ball to start the second half. I can understand the reasoning to take a knee, however opportunities against Brady aren’t unlimited, and there was plenty of time to get into field goal range, especially with how well Bortles was playing at the time.
The Jaguars were eventually able to extend their lead to 20-10 after two Josh Lambo field goals, but they got extremely conservative, including a switch from man to zone coverage in the second half on defense. Some Jaguars players said it allowed the Patriots to exploit their defense, according to Steve Wyche, NFL Network reporter, on twitter.
After an incredible fumble recovery by Miles Jack early in the 4th quarter, the Jaguars had a chance to put the game away. Instead, they went three and out and the Patriots went back down the field for a touchdown to make it 20-17. After both teams exchanged consecutive punts from there, the Jags found themselves again with a 1st down from their own 10 with a chance to seal it. Another three and out for the Jaguars led to the inevitable, as Brady did what he does best, hitting Amendola in the endzone leading the Patriots to a touchdown and the lead at 24-20.
The Jaguars still had one last chance, as Bortles hit Dede Westbrook for a 30 yard completion to set up first down in Patriots territory with just over 2 minutes to go. After an incomplete pass on first down, the Jaguars had a free timeout looming with the two minute warning. On second and 10 the Jaguars had a great opportunity to run the ball with Fournette to set up an easier third down. They decided to pass, Bortles was sacked and fumbled the football which Jacksonville recovered, setting up 3rd and 18. They eventually turned it over on downs after a heave downfield was knocked away by Stephon Gilmore on 4th and 15.
The Jaguars did a remarkable job this year, going from a 3-13 team in 2016 to the AFC Championship game. They were a fun story and talked a lot, but when it came down to crunch time they played simply not to lose. They took their foot of the gas. They played hoping the clock would run out. Against Brady, you simply cannot do that. This will be tough to get over, as the Jaguars let this one get away.