Third-and-18 will haunt Jaguars for next seven months

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Every offseason there are plays and moments that get rehashed over and over again throughout the offseason, especially if they happened in the playoffs.

Players and coaches play the useless "what-if" game, wondering how things would have turned out had they done something differently. Fans do the same thing, and it can become overwhelming.

That's what the Jacksonville Jaguars are facing over the next seven months thanks to third-and-18 in the AFC Championship Game.

The Jaguars' defense, which finished No. 1 in pass defense and No. 2 in scoring, sacks and takeaways during the regular season, allowed the New England Patriots to convert on a third-and-18 play from their own 25-yard line with about 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Tom Brady hit Danny Amendola in the middle of the field for 21 yards. The Patriots went on to score a touchdown on that drive to cut the Jaguars' lead to 20-17 and eventually won 24-20. There were a lot of key plays in the game, but that was the most critical.

Here's what makes it more painful: The Jaguars defense had faced third-and-18 or longer 12 other times and had allowed the opponent to convert the first down just once -- and that was because defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was penalized for roughing the passer in Week 1.

"That hurts," 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. When he has time back there with those receivers and everyone, then they are able to do that."

NFL offenses, by the way, converted on third-and-18 or longer only 5.4 percent of the time during the 2017 regular season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Brady-to-Amendola conversion will haunt safety Tashaun Gipson maybe more than any other player. Brady looked to his left, which caused linebacker Myles Jack to slide toward the sideline. That opened the middle of the field and Gipson got too deep and was unable to come up and keep Amendola from making the catch.

The play gained 21 yards.

"That play kind of gave them [the Patriots] momentum," said Gipson, who made the tackle on Amendola. "Obviously, I would like to have that play back. I am a better player than to give up a third-and-18. Obviously, I am a better player than that.

"... Nine times out of 10 I like myself to make that play. Unfortunately, it worked out that way and they got the third-and-18. 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."

Had the Jaguars forced a punt, they would have had good field position and could have gotten a chance to at least kick a field goal to take a 13-point lead.

That might have been enough to eventually send the Jaguars to Super Bowl LII. Instead, it's seven months of replaying third-and-18 over and over and over again.

"No, I'm not [over the loss]," cornerback A.J. Bouye said. "But I've got to deal with it. It's only going to motivate me to, you know, go harder and motivate our team. I already see the hunger."