WASHINGTON DC, USA – Defending champion New England reached the Super Bowl for the 3rd time in 4 seasons on Sunday, January 21, edging Jacksonville 24-20 to book an NFL championship showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tom Brady's two 4th-quarter touchdown passes rallied the Patriots into Super Bowl 52 against an Eagles squad that humbled the NFL's top-rated defensive unit in routing Minnesota 38-7.
The Patriots boosted their record of Super Bowl trips to 10 and they could match Pittsburgh's record 6 Super Bowl triumphs on Sunday, February 4 at Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"It's pretty crazy," Brady said. "It's pretty amazing to be on a team that wins these kind of games. It's so great."
Nick Foles, who took over as Philadelphia's quarterback last month after an injury to Carson Wentz, completed 26-of-33 passes for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns as the underdog Eagles humbled the Vikings.
"This moment, it's unbelievable. It's humbling," Foles said. "The team was amazing. I'm a little speechless. It's amazing soaking this all in. We all believe in each other. Everyone was against us. We came in here and came out with an amazing victory."
It will be a rematch of Super Bowl 39 from 2005, when Brady threw two touchdown passes and the Patriots won 24-21 for their 3rd title in 4 seasons, the same run they could complete in two weeks.
"Now we have to go to Minnesota and finish the job," said Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
The Eagles, whose two Super Bowl defeats also include 1981, last won a title in 1960 before the Super Bowl era began.
The Vikings, who have not played in the Super Bowl since 1977, squandered a chance to become the first team to reach a Super Bowl in its home stadium. NFL teams based in domed stadiums fell to 0-13 in outdoor conference championship contests.
5-time Super Bowl champion Brady, who needed stitches for a right hand injury suffered Wednesday in practice, lost his favorite target, tight end Rob Gronkowski, to a second-quarter concussion.
But the 40-year-old quarterback showed why he has become an NFL legend, completing 26-of-38 passes for 290 yards, 138 of them in the 4th quarter.
"We said whatever it takes," Brady said. "That was a great second half. Just so proud of our team. Amazing."
Unkindest cut of all
Brady finally addressed the Wednesday cut to his throwing hand that become a major pre-game concern.
"It was just a pretty good cut. I dealt with it the best I could," Brady said.
"I've had a lot worse. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were a little scary. I gained some confidence on Saturday and we did just enough to win."
New England pulled within 20-17 on Brady's 9-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 8:44 remaining and the Patriots surged again when Amendola returned a punt 20 yards to the Jaguars' 30-yard line.
Brady zipped a pass to a diving Amendola that had fans chanting "Bra-dy, Bra-dy" and 3 plays later connected at the back of the end zone with a high-leaping Amendola, whose acrobatic tiptoe landing while falling ensured a 4-yard touchdown reception and a 24-20 Patriots lead with 2:48 to play.
"It means a lot. We worked so hard for this," said Amendola, who caught seven passes for 84 yards. "We're excited for the opportunity."
New England's Stephon Gilmore batted down a 4th-down pass to halt the last Jaguars' drive and Dion Lewis ran for a clinching first down that enabled the Patriots to run out the clock.
"We've got a lot of guys that fight and never give up, that know how to play situational football," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I'm really proud of these guys."
Foles shines, Eagles soar
At Philadelphia, Foles picked apart the NFL's top defensive side while Eagles defenders humbled Minnesota.
Case Keenum's 25-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph 4:46 into the game put the Vikings ahead, but Patrick Robinson returned an intercepted Keenum pass 50 yards for a touchdown to equalize at 7-7.
LeGarrette Blount ran 11 yards for a Philadelphia touchdown 83 seconds into the second quarter and Philadelphia led to the end.
Foles followed with touchdown passes of 53 and 5 yards to Alshon Jeffery and a 41-yard scoring strike to Torrey Smith and Jake Elliott kicked a 38-yard field goal. – Rappler.com