JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars were a quarter away from the Super Bowl. Less than that. After Josh Lambo hit a 43-yard field goal to give Jacksonville a 20-10 lead with 14:52 remaining, the team had never been closer to football's biggest game. But the Patriots, led by Tom Brady, scored two touchdowns in the final nine minutes to earn a return to the Super Bowl. Here's how the Jaguars answered the four biggest questions I had entering the game:
Can they get a lead?
After seeing the Patriots drive down and kick a field goal on their opening possession, the Jaguars responded two drives later with a 7 play, 76 yard drive that ended with a Blake Bortles to Marcedes Lewis touchdown pass, then on the following possession, Leonard Fournette capped a 10 play, 77 yard drive to give the Jaguars a 14-3 lead. It was their largest lead of the game. That allowed the Jaguars to play more of their game until the game went down to the wire in the fourth quarter. In fact, Jacksonville didn't trail again until Brady hit Danny Amendola with the go-ahead touchdown with 2:48 remaining to give the Patriots a 24-20 lead.
Will the stage overwhelm them?
If the Jaguars had a case of nerves, it didn't show. No silly penalties early on. No nervous passes for Bortles. Did the two playoff victories help the Jaguars? Probably. But so did their preparation. The Jaguars were a team that looked ready to play mentally and physically. Doug Marrone and his staff deserve a great deal of credit for that.
Can they run the ball?
The Jaguars ran the ball well, although the running game wasn't dominant. Fournette ran 24 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Jaguars gained 101 yards on the ground. They needed a few more runs to be broken in the fourth quarter, but the Patriots defense stiffened.
Is Tom Brady's finger an issue?
Although Brady's finger and hand received plenty of attention, both by the Patriots medical staff and the television cameras, it did not appear to impact the way he threw the ball. In the early stages, the Patriots had Brady working almost exclusively from the shotgun, maybe to protect the hand, but he did take snaps from under center as the game wore on.