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Another Fourth-Quarter Comeback, and the Patriots Are Headed to Super Bowl 52

New England trailed Jacksonville by two possessions with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, but as we all know, no lead is safe with Tom Brady—even an injured Tom Brady—at quarterback. The Patriots are headed to Super Bowl LII.

During a television timeout in the third quarter on Sunday, a trailer for the new Tom Brady documentary, “Tom vs. Time,” ran on CBS’s broadcast.

The film, which will air on Facebook, began filming soon after Brady led the Paatriots’ come-from-behind victory in Super Bowl LI; Brady has started to realize that he wants to spread his wings off the field. Some of that freedom—the goings on at the TB12 center, especially—has created friction, causing fans and media alike to wonder how long the Patriots’ dynasty can be sustained. 

The answer is that this Patriots’ dynasty can last as long as Tom Brady wants it to. In another magical postseason, the greatest quarterback of all time led another fourth-quarter comeback that continues to test our perception of how successful a quarterback his age can be. In New England’s 24–20 win against Jacksonville, the 40-year-old put together a classic fourth-quarter performance against the best defense he had seen all year to get to his eighth career Super Bowl.

If Brady’s hand bothered him at all Sunday—dealing with both a thumb cut and a ligament sprain according to The MMQB’s Albert Breer—his face nor his play showed it, and after the game Brady admitted to CBS that “Wednesday, Thursday [and] Friday were a little scary.” The New England QB was deadly accurate all day long, far more accurate than his 26-of-38 stat line would indicate. He took snaps from shotgun and under center, threw to his backs behind the line of scrimmage and aired it out plenty.

However the Patriots got off to an extremely slow start offensively against the Jaguars, not scoring their first touchdown until late in the second quarter. Jacksonville was forced to punt to New England with more than two minutes remaining in the half after a delay of game penalty wiped out a first down.

Brady’s downfield passing attack heated up after the two-minute warning by looking for Rob Gronkowski deep down the numbers. Gronk dropped the pass just before Barry Church’s helmet met the tight end’s helmet. Church was rightly flagged (but what’s a defender who leads with his shoulder and makes incidental contact with his helmet to the opponent’s helmet supposed to do?) and the Patriots got 15 yards. Gronkowski would leave the game and enter the concussion protocol.

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On the next play, Brady looked deep for Brandin Cooks, who was being suffocated by A.J. Bouye. Bouye was handsy but the coverage was excellent, forcing Cooks out of the field of play as Brady’s chunk fell short. But the officials viewed great coverage as defensive pass interference (as did former quarterback Tony Romo in the booth) and New England got the ball at the Jacksonville 13, where the home team would score two plays later.

The Jaguars came out of halftime ready to win their first-ever conference title, scoring field goals in two of their first three second-half series while the Pats went punt-punt-fumble.But Brady seemed to only get better as the game went on. The QB went 9-for-12 for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone, the same quarter in which RB Dion Lewis fumbled while driving into Jags’ territory.

Brady led fourth-quarter touchdown drives of 85 and 30 yards, needing less than six minutes combined to perform his surgery on Jacksonville. But this was hardly a collapse similar to Atlanta’s for Jacksonville.

The Jaguars, armed with a Coughlin discipline and good fortunes (finally) in free agency and the draft, surprised no one with their showing Sunday following last week’s win against Pittsburgh. They rushed for more than 100 yards, didn’t turn the ball over and allowed just three third-down conversions on 12 Patriot tries.

Bortles—a punching bag all season long by scribes, opponents and an NBC sitcom alike—played one of his best games of the year. Rather than relying totally on his defense, Bortles took Nathaniel Hackett’s aggressive game plan and threw 36 times for 293 yards. He targeted 11 different pass-catchers and hit 10 of them in the biggest game of his life. There’s not much more you can ask of a Jaguars team facing football’s greatest dynasty.

Now the Patriots head to Minneapolis looking to repeat at champs again in the franchise’s 10th overall Super Bowl appearance, Robert Kraft’s ninth as an owner and Belichick and Brady’s eighth together.

Who wants to bet against them?