FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Not Done Yet.

That’s the motto of the New England Patriots this season. Three simple words, yet they mean so much. Players and coaches take them to heart.

The Patriots proved it again on Sunday, rallying in the fourth quarter for a 24-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium in the AFC championship game.

The Patriots will defend their NFL championship against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis. It will be New England’s 10th Super Bowl appearance – an NFL record.

The Patriots are never done. Or they never think they are. A year ago we watched them rally from a 28-3 deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI.

On Sunday, we watched them stumble to a 20-10 deficit early in the fourth quarter against a younger, fiercely competitive Jacksonville team.

The Patriots had done nothing offensively for three quarters against the Jaguars, other than a penalty-aided touchdown drive that gave them life just before halftime.

But they weren’t done yet.

For the 54th time in his career, Tom Brady – playing with his right thumb wrapped to protect a deep cut he suffered in practice last week – rallied the Patriots to a victory in the fourth quarter, throwing two touchdown passes to Danny Amendola. The defense, knocked around in the first half, suddenly rose up and slowed the Jaguars down.

“It showed the type of guys we have on this team, fighters, people who never give up,” said safety Duron Harmon. “When you’ve got that type of camaraderie on a team, it allows you to get through tough situations like today, being down 10 … but nobody panicking. We just continued fighting and eventually the ball will bounce our way.”

It’s a mindset, said Harmon. Mental toughness.

It’s a trait the Patriots have always seemed to possess. They began this season with two wins and two losses, the defense horribly horrific. Maybe this team isn’t good enough, many fans wondered. But in the locker room, no one ever thought that. They knew the season was a work in progress.

Not Done Yet.

“We earned this,” said linebacker Marquis Flowers, acquired in a trade from Cincinnati in August. “We all just kept the faith and worked hard. This is what we worked for – a chance to play in this game right here. It was hard tonight. It was another hard game. But we’ve been there before. We’re a team. We’re a family. We stuck through it all.”

“You keep showing up at work every day,” said Brady, in the press conference room that serves as the Patriots’ primary meeting room. “We sit in these chairs and Coach (Bill) Belichick gets up here and demands a lot out of us and tries to get the most out of us every day. It’s not always great but you’re just trying to get better and better.”

In the first half, Jacksonville made this a miserable game for anyone wearing the home blue jersey. They attacked Brady, took away the running game and knocked Rob Gronkowski out of the game with a head injury.

But the Patriots didn’t shirk from the challenge. If anything, this team thrives on challenges.

“It’s the work you put in, the situations Coach Belichick puts us in, the type of practice settings we have, the weight room,” said Harmon. “The whole atmosphere in this building is to always put pressure on the players so when it comes to the game, pressure is easy. We’ve already been through it.

“I just think Coach Belichick does a great job of literally always putting the pressure on us so that when we get in pressure situations we can always come out and we can play our best football, when a lot of teams don’t play their best football in pressure situations.”

The Patriots have become the benchmark in this NFL, a dynasty in an era that promotes competitive balance. No one team is supposed to have the type of success the Patriots have established in the salary-cap era. Yet, here they are again, in the Super Bowl for the eighth time in 17 years. They will be going for their third championship in four years – much as they did in the beginning of Brady’s career.

Now 40, he was asked if he ever thought that he would begin his career with three titles in four years and then have the chance to do it again at the end.

“It would have been crazy to think that,” he said. “I could never have imagined getting the kind of team achievements we’ve done, we have. I don’t think anyone will ever take them for granted. It’s been an amazing time for all of us.”

And they’re Not Done Yet.


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