The only thing that could have been more shocking than the results of this weekend’s NFL postseason games, the AFC Divisional rounds, would have been the Tennessee Titans defeating the New England Patriots to advance to the AFC Championship this Saturday as the Jacksonville Jaguars did to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.
Pittsburgh, the No. 2 AFC seed behind New England, highly favored to have been playing in the championship this weekend against the Pats, were beaten, shockingly, surprisingly.
Shocking is that Pittsburgh gave up two touchdowns in the first quarter. Surprising is that the Steelers also gave up two touchdowns in the second quarter.
Jacksonville led the Steelers 28-14 at the half, 28-21 at the end of the third, 45-42 to end the game and Pittsburgh’s season, despite a valiant comeback effort consisting of 469 yards and five touchdowns thrown by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, all-pro receiver Antonio Brown’s seven receptions (132 yards, two touchdowns) and Le’Veon Bell’s 155 rushing yards (also two touchdowns).
Jacksonville had also beaten the Steelers in their building earlier in the regular season (Week 5) 30-9.
Jacksonville played and beat the Pats 31-24 during the preseason in August, but they were without quarterback Tom Brady, and without their 6-foot-6 265-pound tight end Rob Gronkowski.
New England, the defending Super Bowl champs, are partipating in their seventh consecutive AFC Championship, 12 overall under Brady. They’ve won five Super Bowls since he took over their QB position in 2001.
New England advances after decisively beating the Tennessee Titans 35-14. Although the Titans scored first, New England led 28-7 at the end of three quarters.
Brady finished 35-of-53 for 337 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“It was a good team win today,” said Brady. “We’re going to need another one next week. I’m looking forward to playing in the championship game.”
Brady refused to discuss anything other than the game and the upcoming game Sunday afternoon, knowing that there were many questions regarding the Patriots having been recently embroiled in controversies involving dissension among Brady, head coach Bill Belicheck and team owner Robert Kraft that required a joint statement to the press from the three that reassured fans and the press of their longstanding loyalty to each other.
“The three of us share a common goal,” the statement read. “We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason, and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years. It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united.”
This season might also be the last season that New England’s offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will be on the sidelines. They’re both strong candidates for head coaching jobs with the New York Giants, the Detroit Lions and the Indianapolis Colts, and possibly with the Titans, who fired their head coach earlier this week.