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|So many times during the Patriots’ run of success over the past two decades Mason Foster Jersey , the defense was watching as Tom Brady sealed another victory. In Sunday’s 24-20 AFC championship victory over the Jacksonville , the defense got its chance to secure the Patriots’ record 10th Super Bowl appearance.
Jacksonville entered the game with the best red-zone scoring percentage in NFL, scoring touchdowns on 67.9 percent of trips this season (40 on 56 drives). The Jaguars scored touchdowns on both of their red-zone trips in the first half, as quarterback Blake Bortles had his way with short and intermediate routes to pile up first downs.
It added up to a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead, and left Gillette Stadium in stunned silence as New England’s hopes of getting a chance to defend its Super Bowl title seemed to be dwindling.
But Jacksonville got conservative over the final 30 minutes, much like the Atlanta Falcons did with 28-3 lead in last year’s Super Bowl collapse against New England. The Patriots seized on it and the Jaguars’ offense never got closer than the Patriots’ 25 in the second half.
”We put ourselves in position to come back and just keep fighting,” defensive end Tray Flowers said. ”We knew they were going to run the ball, but we kept fighting and it was a fourth-quarter game.”
The most telling example came after the Patriots took their final lead of the game on Danny Amendola’s 4-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
The Jaguars initially went back to their success in the first half , starting the drive with an 8-yard completion from Bortles to Marqise Lee, followed by a 29-yard pass to Dede Westbrook to set Jacksonville up on New England’s 38.
But the Patriots reset, and after an incompletion by Bortles on first down, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and James Harrison got to Bortles for a sack, prying the ball loose. Jaguars tackle Cam Robinson recovered the fumble Gustav Forsling Jersey , but it set up a third-and-19.
New England kept the pressure on Bortles and he could only manage a 4-yard completion to James O’Shaughnessy.
”They had maybe one or two plays that we talk about this time of year,” safety Devin McCourty said. ”Sixteen games, a play or two may have success, but (Patriots defensive coordinator) Matt (Patricia) said it best: It wasn’t a big adjustment that you needed to do; it was just needing to play aggressively.”
With Jacksonville facing fourth-and-15 on its 43, cornerback Stephon Gilmore reached in front of Bortles’ pass to O’Shaughnessy to force a turnover on downs.
It was a special moment for Gilmore, who battled injuries and inconsistent play after signing a five-year, $65 million contract in the offseason.
”It wasn’t the biggest play I’ve made, but it was definitely one of the most important,” he said. ”To come from where I came from last year, and be a part of this great team … I love it and that’s why I decided to come here.”
For Bortles, it was his first loss this season when he didn’t commit a turnover. He was previously 8-0.
”We had a two-minute drive at the end of the game to win the AFC championship, so there’s not a whole lot more you can ask for than that,” Bortles said. ”You’ve got to take advantage of that and find a way to win the game.”
And now the Patriots will have a chance at their sixth Super Bowl trophy Alex Pietrangelo Jersey Kids , which would tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most ever.
McCourty said the defense is invigorated by the opportunity.
”This team is battle-tested,” McCourty said. ”You go through ups and downs. You go through adversity. … We just keep giving ourselves a chance to win, and the hard work pays off.”
Jackie Bradley Jr. drove in two runs, Eduardo Rodriguez struck out six in six innings and the Boston Red Sox beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep.
Rodriguez (10-3) allowed three hits and walked one. Craig Kimbrel worked the ninth for his 26th save in 28 chances, finishing a six-hitter.
The Nationals (42-43) have lost five in a row to fall below .500 this late in the season for the first time since being 60-61 on Aug. 21, 2015. The preseason NL East favorites held a players-only meeting after the game.
A throwing error by Adam Eaton on Bradley’s sacrifice fly and a wild pitch by Ryan Madson (2-4) in the seventh inning contributed to Washington’s 17th loss in 22 games.
Nationals starter Erick Fedde left one batter into the second inning with right shoulder stiffness. Manager Davey Martinez said Fedde was scheduled to have an MRI.
YANKEES 6, BRAVES 2
NEW YORK (AP) – Giancarlo Stanton hit a three-run homer and CC Sabathia pitched six effective innings, leading the Yankees to the victory.
Yankees rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres left in the fifth inning because of tightness in his right hip and was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right hip strain.
Aaron Judge and Kyle Higashioka also homered for New York. Higashioka became the ninth player since 1920 whose first three hits were home runs.
Sabathia (6-3) yielded two runs and five hits.
Atlanta starter Julio Teheran (6-6) lasted just five innings, allowing five runs and five hits. He struck out 10 and walked four.
CARDINALS 8, DIAMONDBACKS 4
PHOENIX (AP) – Yadier Molina and Yairo Munoz homered, Miles Mikolas threw six strong innings and St. Louis broke loose late to beat Arizona and take two of three from the first-place Diamondbacks.
Molina’s three-run shot on the first pitch from reliever Fernando Salas highlighted a five-run seventh inning after Arizona had nursed a 2-1 lead through six. Tommy Pham drove in three Cardinals runs with a double and two singles.
The Diamondbacks dropped to 1-5 on their homestand and lead the surging Dodgers by just a half-game in the NL West.
Mikolas (9-3) gave up two runs, seven hits and four walks.
Arizona reliever Yoshihisa Hirano (2-1) had his franchise-record streak of 26 games without allowing a run end when Munoz homered on the first pitch of the seventh. Hirano gave up four runs, one earned Jimmy Vesey Jersey , on three hits in two-thirds of an inning for his first loss since coming to the major leagues from Japan this season.
ASTROS 5, RANGERS 4, 10 INNINGS
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Evan Gattis drove in Jose Altuve with a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, sending AL West-leading Houston to the road win.
Altuve stopped a 0-for-13 slide with a one-out single in the 10th. Chris Martin (1-2) then hit Yuli Gurriel with a pitch before an errant pickoff throw allowed both runners to move up. Gattis followed with a fly ball to right-center.
Gurriel homered, doubled and scored twice as the Astros overcame an early four-run deficit. Collin McHugh (4-0) pitched three scoreless innings, and Ken Giles got three outs for his 12th save.
Texas’ Shin-Soo Choo homered and singled to extend his on-base streak to 44 games, the longest in his career and in the majors this season.
DODGERS 6, PIRATES 4
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Rich Hill earned his first win in three months, Yasmani Grandal and Chris Taylor drove in three runs apiece, and the Dodgers swept the Pirates for the second straight year.
The Dodgers outscored the Pirates 31-8 in the three-game series while winning their fourth in a row overall.
Hill (2-3) allowed two runs in five innings for his first victory since April 1. Kenley Jansen earned a five-out save, his 23rd of the season.
Gregory Polanco hit a two-run homer for Pittsburgh. Clay Holmes (0-1) was charged with four runs in 2 1/3 innings in his first major league start.
CUBS 5, TIGERS 2
CHICAGO (AP) – Javier Baez stole home Darren Helm Jersey , Willson Contreras hit a tiebreaking homer and the Cubs earned their sixth straight victory.
Conditions at Wrigley Field favored the long ball, with a game-time temperature of 92 degrees, a heat index of 102 and the wind blowing out.
David Bote also connected for Chicago. Jose Quintana (7-6) pitched six effective innings in his first win since May 31, and Brandon Morrow got three outs for his 19th save.
Nicholas Castellanos and John Hicks went deep for Detroit, which has dropped 13 of 15. Francisco Liriano (3-5) permitted three runs in six innings.
ATHLETICS 4, PADRES 2
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Stephen Piscotty doubled three times and drove in three runs, powering Oakland to the win.
Khris Davis added an RBI single for the A’s, who have won 14 of 17 to move a season-high nine games over .500.
Lou Trivino (7-1) retired two batters for the win. Blake Treinen pitched the ninth for his 22nd save.
Christian Villanueva hit his 17th home run for San Diego. Jose Castillo (1-2) got the loss.
PHILLIES 4, ORIOLES 1
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Aaron Nola stuck out nine in seven innings, Nick Williams hit a two-run homer and the Phillies beat the Orioles to sweep a two-game interleague series.
Nola (11-2) gave up one run and seven hits to win his fifth straight decision. Victor Arano tossed two innings for his first career save.
Philadelphia pulled within 1 1/2 games of NL East-leading Atlanta and improved 10 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011 season with a franchise-record 102 wins.
Orioles right-hander Yefry Ramirez (0-2) gave up two runs – one earned – and one hit in five innings.
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