Sunday, December 24, 2006

The CLINCH That Stole Christmas

The New England Patriots played like their playoff lives depended on the outcome of their Christmas Eve match-up with the Jaguars—and, in fact, it did. Even though much of the fan base assumed they were a shoe-in for the post-season, the harsh reality was that this very inconsistent squad was up against two tough road games, while the Jets played two relative cream-puffs. The J-E-T-S winning the division? Unthinkable.

So, Tom Brady took the situation into his own hands. The two-time Super Bowl MVP engineered a bevy of long marches—mostly via short passes—on the way to a division-clinching 24-21 victory over Jacksonville. Brady hit 10 different receivers, going 28-for-39 for 249 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers.

Rookie David Thomas (of the Texas Longhorns) caught his first NFL TD on a precise laser from Brady—while shining throughout the contest. Of course, Troy Brown made several big "under the radar" grabs—but you knew that. Laurence Maroney scampered for a scintillating 27-yard TD run that reminded us all of his unlimited potential down the road.

This was a game that could have easily been lost—but this time, while the stalwart defense showed up as always, the offense did as well. Hello, playoffs.

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