The Jacksonville Jaguars are back in the playoffs after a five-year absence and host the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday after clinching the AFC South title last weekend. The last time the Jags were in the playoffs, they nearly shocked the world, as Blake Bortles nearly outdid Tom Brady in January 2018. In fact, the Jaguars were well on their way to a victory in the AFC Championship Game, and then came the dreaded whistle.
That whistle changed everything for the visiting Jags, who held a 20-10 lead against the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter in a game they dominated for three quarters. From that point, Brady and the Patriots scored 14 unanswered points and earned a questionable Super Bowl berth.
The Jacksonville Jaguars deserved better in the 2017 season
The Patriots entered the AFC title game against the Jaguars as a 7.5-point favorite. It was expected Brady and the Pats would return to yet another Super Bowl, but the Jaguars had other plans.
In the 2017 season, the Jags showed they could win with offense or defense, and that became abundantly clear in the postseason. Jacksonville opened with an ugly 10-7 home victory over the Buffalo Bills before outscoring the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road, 45-42. Next up, the Patriots.
It had been 10 years since the Jaguars reached the postseason, and they got off to a shaky start in the biggest game in franchise history, trailing New England 3-0 after the first quarter. Bortles then hit tight end Marcedes Lewis with a 4-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter. A Leonard Fournette touchdown helped the Jags build a 14-3 lead with 7:06 left in the half, but running back James White scored with less than a minute to go, cutting New England’s deficit to 14-10 at the break.
Josh Lambo kicked a field goal for the only score of the third quarter, and his 43-yard boot eight seconds into the fourth quarter extended the visitors’ lead to 20-10.
In what might have been the biggest play of the game, Myles Jack then stripped the ball from running back Dion Lewis and recovered it. As he got up and headed in for a touchdown, the whistle blew. From there, it was downhill for the Jags.
The Jaguars look for a repeat of their last playoff run — sort of
Jack picked up the ball and headed for what seemed to be an easy touchdown return, but the whistle signaled the play dead, signaling he was down by contact, a highly debatable call. The Jaguars maintained possession of the ball but led by 10 instead of what could have been a 27-10 lead had Jack been able to return the fumble for a score.
On the ensuing possession, the Jaguars went three-and-out.
While the whistle proved costly, it was a defensive lapse that ultimately did in the Jaguars. With 10:49 to go, the Patriots faced third-and-18 from their own 25, trailing by 10. The Jaguars had hounded Brady all game to the tune of three sacks and countless pressures. Brady avoided a rush and hit wide receiver Danny Amendola for a 21-yard gain to keep the drive alive.
Four plays later, Amendola scored on a 9-yard pass with 8:44 to go. Brady hooked up with Amendola again with 2:48 remaining to the game’s final score in a 24-20 Patriots win.
Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson admitted early in the 2018 season that he believed the pass rush was getting Brady on the third-and-18 play, and he let up a bit.
“That is just one of them things where you got relaxed,” said Gipson, per Boston.com. “I am not going to lie to you. I told myself I would never answer this question again. But that play right there, I would be lying if I said that didn’t keep me up all offseason. Got lax.”
Ultimately, the Jaguars couldn’t stop Brady when it counted, but it all started with a whistle.