FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Sunday marked the 24th anniversary of Robert Kraft’s purchase of the Patriots. The team rewarded him with his ninth Super Bowl berth.
“This team, having Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] go out and having [Danny] Amendola step up like that,” Kraft said. “Dion Lewis made that great run at the end of the game after he had the only turnover in the game. Just mental toughness is great.”
That summed up some of the adversity the Patriots faced. But New England caught some breaks, too, especially on its last drive before halftime. It was a key drive because the Patriots already were trailing 14-3 and letting the game slip away.
Gronkowski went to catch a long pass down the sideline and took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church. Gronkowski looked wobbly as he walked off the field and headed straight for the locker room.
“He’s a big dude, and I was just trying to dislodge the ball, but I guess they felt it was too high of a hit,” said Church, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness. “I hope he’s all right.
“It’s the toughest play in football. If you go low for the knees, you are considered a dirty player. And if you go high, they throw a flag at you. It’s a bang-bang play. I tried to lead with my shoulder.”
Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye drew a questionable pass interference flag the next play, covering Brandon Cooks. That cost the Jaguars an additional 32 yards.
Tom Brady followed with a 12-yard pass to Cooks, and then James White scored on a 1-yard run.
“We hadn’t moved the ball very well the whole half,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “To be able to make it a 14-10 game … we came in at halftime with a good level of confidence.”
The Jaguars actually got the ball after a touchback with 55 seconds remaining in the first half, but coach Doug Marrone opted to have Blake Bortles take a knee twice to end the half.
“We had to make some adjustments going into halftime,” Marrone said. “Wanted to make sure we got that done knowing we were going in getting the ball back [to start the third quarter].”
Josh Lambo kicked field goals of 54 and 43 yards, stretching Jacksonville’s lead to 20-10 before Brady and Amendola brought New England back to win.
“We did not make enough plays to keep the lead,” Marrone said. “We had an opportunity at the end of the game to win it, and we did not do that.
“Obviously, we are in a lot of pain, a lot of hurt inside. I am hurting, the coaches are hurting, the players obviously are hurting. I am sure our fans are hurting.”