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NFL: Patriots and Eagles to collide in SB LII

A Super Bowl XXXIX rematch.

Never doubt the New England Patriots. Even when things look bleak, they always find a way to win.

The Patriots battled back in the second half to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20. Despite being down at halftime and losing 20-10 entering the final period, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick got the victory. Should we expect anything different?

New England got a field goal on their first drive but was held back by a hyped Jaguars defense for the next two quarters. Blake Bortles led two scoring drives in the first half, which ended in a nice touchdown pass to Marcedes Lewis and a 4-yard run from Leonard Fournette.

The Patriots only got their lone TD of the half on a short James White scamper thanks to two long penalties on their final drive, one of which was a hit that knocked Rob Gronkowski out of the game with a concussion. The other was a questionable pass interference call on Jalen Ramsey.

The Jaguars picked up two field goals from Josh Lambo by the early part of the fourth quarter. They stopped a potential scoring drive via a Myles Jack strip and recovery of Dion Lewis on the next drive. The Patriots defense answered with a stop to give the ball back to an angry Brady.

He marched the Patriots offense down the field in eight plays, finishing the drive with a dart to Danny Amendola. After the teams traded stalled possessions, Brady did it again on a short field set up by a nice punt return from Amendola, who pulled down a circus catch to give the Patriots the lead.

Bortles got the Jaguars into Patriots territory but was strip-sacked by James Harrison shortly thereafter for a large loss of yardage. The Jaguars were forced to try a 4th-and-15 conversion two plays later, which Stephon Gilmore knocked down to give the Patriots the ball back. Lewis converted a clutch third-down attempt to ice the game.

Brady played like his usual self in spite of a hand injury he sustained in practice ahead of the game. He threw for 290 yards on 26 for 38 passing to go along with the two TDs to Amendola, who had 7 catches for 84 yards. Brandin Cooks led the team in receiving with 100 yards on 6 grabs. Lewis ran 9 times for 34 yards and picked up 32 yards on 7 receptions.

The first half looked good for Bortles, but he began reverting back to shakiness during the final stretch. He had 293 yards and the TD to Lewis on 23 for 36 passing. Allen Hurns (6 catches, 80 yards) and Marqise Lee (4 catches, 41 yards) were his primary targets. Fournette was decent, carrying the ball 24 times for 76 yards and the team’s other TD.

It’ll be the eighth Super Bowl appearance for the Patriots this century. A win would tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for most of all time with 6. Can anything stop these guys?

NFL Conference Championship Recap

Eagles 38, Vikings 7

It’s been 58 years since the Philadelphia Eagles won their last championship. If they can play like they did tonight against the Patriots in two weeks, breaking the drought will be extra sweet.

The Eagles dominated the Vikings, winning by a score of 38-7. It was a supreme display of execution from both the players and coaches of Philly. By the middle of the third quarter, the final outcome wasn’t in doubt.

Early on, things actually looked favorably for the Vikings. They moved down the field well on their first drive, which ended in a wide-open touchdown catch for Kyle Rudolph. The Eagles punted after four plays (and two drops from their receivers), giving the Vikings an opportunity to increase their lead.

Then the game swerved in the Eagles favor. Chris Long was able to hit Case Keenum on a third-down throw, sending the ball right to Patrick Robinson, who took it back 50 yards for a pick-six. Rattled, the Vikings went three-and-out, with the Eagles embarking on a 12-play drive which ended in a LeGarrette Blount score early in the second quarter.

The two teams traded punts on their next possessions. Keenum was able to drive the Vikings down inside the Eagles red zone when another turnover struck. Derek Barnett forced a strip-sack that Long recovered, giving the Eagles the ball back and preventing a Vikings score. Nick Foles found Alshon Jeffery on a blown coverage for a 53-yard TD pass six plays later with just over a minute left in the first half.

Just for good measure, the Eagles snuck in a Jake Elliott field goal before halftime after getting the ball back with 29 seconds left. The Vikings found themselves down by 17 at the break and couldn’t recover. No room for miracles this week.

Foles found Torrey Smith on another long TD pass on the first drive of the second half. The Vikings drove down inside the Eagles 10-yard line but couldn’t get it into the end zone, turning the ball over on downs. Another long series for the Eagles ended in a short TD pass from Foles to Jeffery.

The next Vikings drive ended in another failed 4th-down conversion. After an Eagles punt, Keenum would throw another INT, this time in the red zone to Corey Graham (after Ronald Darby bobbled the ball). The Eagles would drain the clock on the following drive to close out the game.

Foles was sharp against the top defense in the league, tossing 352 yards and 3 TDs on 26 for 33 passing. Xavier Rhodes leaving with a toe injury hurt the Vikings secondary in a big way. That’s not to take anything away from Foles though. He looked as good as he did in 2013 under Chip Kelly.

Jeffery’s two scores led all players; he had 5 grabs for 85 yards. Zach Ertz led the team with 8 receptions for 93 yards. Smith finished with 5 catches for 69 yards to go with his TD.

Jay Ajayi ran well, carrying the ball 18 times for 73 yards and adding 3 catches for 26 yards. Blount chipped in with 6 rushes for 21 yards and the TD.

Keenum regressed in a big way this week. He had 271 yards and the TD to Rudolph on 28 for 48 passing, getting harassed by a hungry Eagles pass rush all night. The three turnovers were backbreaking plays that the Vikings couldn’t recover from.

Latavius Murray (6 carries, 18 yards) and Jerick McKinnon (10 carries, 40 yards) couldn’t do much on the ground, though the latter led the team in receiving with 11 catches for 86 yards. Stefon Diggs, last week’s hero, finished with 8 receptions for 70 yards.

The last time the Eagles were in the Super Bowl was in 2005, where the Patriots won by 3. 13 years later, can the Eagles get revenge along with their first ring? Two weeks can’t go by quick enough.

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