FOXBORO, Mass. – The play will be remembered. And it will hurt.
It's never accurate to say an NFL game is won or lost on one play, but a play can turn momentum – and that was the case in the Jaguars' 24-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game Sunday.
The play: 21-yard pass from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Danny Amendola that turned a 3rd-and-18 from the Patriots 25 into a first down.
"That play kind of gave them momentum; obviously I would like that play back," said Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson, who was playing after missing Wednesday and Thursday practice and who was in coverage on the play.
Gipson added, "One play will never define me. I am a better player than to give up a 3rd-and-18. That's Tom Brady, a good quarterback. They've got good receivers over there and they are going to make plays. They get paid just like we do. …
"If we could re-run that play 10 times, nine out of 10 times I make that play. If you are out there playing, you have got to make that play."
The Patriots cut the Jaguars' lead to 20-17 with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Amendola four plays later, getting the Patriots back to within one score after the Jaguars spent much of the third quarter pushing a four-point halftime lead to 10 points.
"That hurts; that was a good play," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "We were hoping that the rush gets to him [Brady]. There were times where the rush wasn't able to get to him. …
"We had a shot and that goes back to the point of everyone trying to do a little bit better job. That is how we all feel."
Jaguars defensive safety Barry Church called it "a great play."
"He [Brady] is a great player and he stepped up and made a play," Churchl said. "He got it to Amendola and they were able to drive down and score after that. It was a huge play in the game and our hats go off to them. They are a great team and you can see why."
The Jaguars' offense stagnated after the 3rd-and-18 conversion, managing just one first down on the two drives after Amendola's nine-yard touchdown, and Brady's four-yard touchdown pass to Amendola with 2:48 remaining gave the Patriots their first lead of the second half.
"The margin for error is small," Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "We had our opportunities to add to our lead and we didn't. They executed better when they had to."
Officiating was a major topic in the Jaguars' locker room, with safety Barry Church expressing confusion over being called for unsportsmanlike conduct when he hit Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in the first half. Gronkowski left the game with a head injury, but Church and members of the Jaguars' secondary protested vehemently after the call with Church repeatedly asking the officials why the call had been made. "He's a big dude and I was just trying to dislodge the ball, but I guess they felt it was too high of a hit," Church said, adding that he hoped Gronkowski was healthy and calling the situation "the toughest play in football. If you go low for the knees, you are considered a dirty player and if you go high, they throw the flag at you. It's a bang-bang play and I was just trying to play football. I tried to lead with my shoulder. That guy is humongous. If you wait for him to catch it and bring it down, he might run you over. You have to go with it and try and hit him in the right target zone, but going a 100 miles an hour like that is nearly impossible."
Gipson discussed playing through the foot injury, saying he played despite not being able to run on Friday. "I told the team 'big game, if I am at least 75 percent I am playing,''' he said. "I would never go out there and hurt the team if I was less than 75 percent. I'm not myself today but no excuses, I am out there playing giving everything I've got. It's a severe sprain, it's not broken. I played and it is what it is."
Both of Brady's touchdown passes came in the game's final 10 minutes, and he completed 14 of 21 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. "You never know what play it is in a game that can change it around," Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. "There was a difference on what we did in the first half than in the second half in general. We ran zones and he found openings. When we ran man-to-man he was pretty quiet. Tom did what he does."
The Jaguars made a critical error late in the first half, getting penalized for a delay of game that negated a 12-yard pass to Lewis on 3rd-and-7 from the Patriots 49. The delay call came after a timeout by New England. Marrone said the Jaguars "lost track" of the play clock, with quarterback Blake Bortles adding, I looked up and the clock was running down. Tried to get it snapped and didn't get it off."