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The Jaguars and Vikings' dominant defenses—and strong storylines—met cruel fates on Championship Sunday

By Jacob Feldman
January 22, 2018

Fans in Philadelphia and New England are celebrating (like, really celebrating) today. The MMQB will be writing plenty about those two teams over the next two weeks, so let me address the rest of you this morning: We're sorry.

Over the last week, storylines hardened into assumption. There was Jacksonville, which—if only it could muster an early lead—could outlast the Patriots like Tom Coughlin's fabled Giants teams. And there were the Vikings, those long-doomed but now-destined promised purple people, with a Cinderella under center and a date with destiny in the form of a home Super Bowl. Yadda yadda yadda.

The first half in Foxborough actually went according to the teal team's script, as the Jaguars held New England to 137 yards. Up 20-10 in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars were pulling off the storybook upset . . . until they weren't. Tom Brady carved up the Jacksonville pass defense on an eight-play, 85-yard drive that culminated with Danny Amendola in the end zone. (Asked about his much discussed hand injury afterward, Brady said: "I think it kind of sounds arrogant to say, 'Oh, yeah, it bothered me,' when you have a pretty good game. So I won't say it.") A few minutes later, Brady found Amendola again to put the home team ahead for good, 24-20. The Jags were unable to stop the comeback as a supposedly physical run game could not manage a single rushing first down in the second half. As for the vaunted defense, it finished with a respectable but far from legendary three sacks and one turnover while surrendering a touchdown on three of the Patriots' four red-zone trips.

In game No. 2, Nick Foles quelled the narrative that he is Philadelphia's Achilles heel with an astonishing 26-of-33, 352-yard, three-touchdown performance, putting up 38 points against what had been the league's top scoring defense. "I haven’t had time to really comprehend what is going on," Foles said afterward.​ Case Keenum could not keep up. Minnesota turned the ball over three times, went 0-for-3 in the red zone, and now returns home—just not the way it planned. 

But don't take my word for it. Jenny Vrentas was in Foxborough to cover the Patriots' all-hands-on-deck performance, while Conor Orr reported from Philadelphia on Foles' shining moment. And, of course, there is Peter King's column.

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HOT READS

LATER TODAY: Andy Benoit previews Eagles-Patriots ... Jenny Vrentas and Conor Orr have more from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania ... and more. Stay tuned.


PRESS COVERAGE

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1. The next coach of the Tennessee Titans, Mike Vrabel, is expected to meet the media today at the team's headquarters. Vrabel was previously the defensive coordinator in Houston, but is best known for his eight-year run as a Patriots linebacker. As a defensive coach, Vrabel's pick of offensive coordinator to guide Marcus Mariota will be crucial. He's reportedly considering a former Chip Kelly assistant. 

2. Fresh off his stint as Raiders head coach, Jack Del Rio could soon be in charge of the Giants defense.

3. Bengals owner and president Mike Brown sat down with the local paper to discuss keeping Marvin Lewis. Among the notable takeaways, he said: "We bounced back at the end of the year. We beat two teams that were in playoff runs. We beat them in games that were important for them where they gave their best shot and I was impressed how we rebounded. That played into what was in my mind when I had to make a final call."

4. "To get up whenever you want to get up and to go to bed whenever you want to go bed, and not get in bed by 9, get up at 5," said recently retired Bruce Arians. "Not have to go the Senior Bowl. I don’t have any plans other than when’s my next tee time." Doesn't that sound nice?

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5. H. Wayne Huizenga is "the single most influential team owner in [Miami] history," writes Greg Cote. And with the former Dolphins, Panthers, and Marlins owner now in failing health, Cote argues that he deserves gratitude rather than scorn.​

6. Terrell Owens went after Dez Bryant as well as the current Cowboys coaches, writing, "Dez has turned ppl on Dez. Some of it is on him but more on Jason Garrett & the OC who are responsible for putting Dez in the position to win. That means have him run routes to his strengths." Bryant seemed to respond cryptically on Instagram—of course—with an all-text post that read, "Favor ain't fair."

7. Before Sunday's game, ESPN ran a great story on how Rob Gronkowski has helped a young Patriots fan (also named Rob) dealing with a severe epilepsy syndrome.

8. Vic Fangio was lighthearted when explaining his decision to return to the Bears as defensive coordinator under new coach Matt Nagy

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.


THE KICKER

Let's kick off Super Bowl commercial season with news that Kirk Cousins and a fake Donald Trump will be co-starring in an ad for gas fireplaces.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

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