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Legendary New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led his team to a pivotal win over the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2017-2018 season. Despite eventually losing the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots’ victory over the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game had lasting consequences for Jacksonville, which is still grappling with its fallout.

In the fourth quarter of the 2017 AFC Championship Game, the Jaguars were on the verge of taking a commanding 17-point lead against the Patriots, with the score standing at 20-10. Desperate for a game-changing play, the Patriots attempted a trick play involving a double-pass from wide receiver Danny Amendola to running back Dion Lewis. However, Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack stripped the ball from Lewis and started sprinting down the sideline unchallenged.

The officials prematurely blew the whistle, stopping Jack’s advance. Although the play was reviewed and ruled a turnover, the early whistle negated any chance for Jack to score, preventing Jacksonville from potentially going up by three scores. The Jaguars were forced into a three-and-out, and the Patriots capitalized by scoring a touchdown, narrowing the lead to 20-17. Another Patriots touchdown sealed their 24-20 win, sending them to the Super Bowl.

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Years later, Tom Brady admitted that the referees made an erroneous call during that pivotal play. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Brady conceded, “Oh no, I don’t think he was down. Oh god, I don’t think we were catching him either,” acknowledging the controversy that has haunted Jacksonville fans.

The referees’ mistake was significant. Typically, officials are instructed to let plays continue, as touchdowns can be reviewed and reversed if necessary. However, once the whistle is blown, the play is dead, eliminating any scoring opportunity for the player.

The aftermath of this loss was profound for the Jaguars. Entering the AFC Championship for the first time in over a decade, Jacksonville had a promising future. Known as “Sacksonville,” the team boasted one of the NFL’s most formidable defenses, led by head coach Doug Marrone. Key players included quarterback Blake Bortles, running back Leonard Fournette, cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, and defensive stars Calais Campbell, Paul Posluszny, Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, and Yannick Ngakoue. The defense alone accounted for 42.5 sacks in 2017.

However, the heartbreaking loss marked the beginning of a decline. The Jaguars failed to match their 2017 success in subsequent seasons, with only one playoff appearance since. It wasn’t until 2022 that the team managed to win more than six games in a season. The 2020 season was particularly dismal, ending with a single victory and the departure of Doug Marrone as head coach.

Now, with Trevor Lawrence emerging as one of the league’s best young quarterbacks and Doug Pederson as head coach, the Jaguars are rebuilding. They made the playoffs in 2022, achieving one of the most remarkable comebacks in NFL history, and have secured nine wins in both the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

Despite this resurgence, the sting of the 2017 AFC Championship Game and the controversial call that may have altered their fate lingers for Jaguars fans, symbolizing one of the most contentious moments in recent NFL history.

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