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Patriots' late-game comeback thrills Granite State fans

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

January 21. 2018 8:46PM

Corey Mandigo, left, and Cory O'Hagan, both of Manchester, celebrate at Billy's Sports Bar in Manchester as the Patriots score a touchdown to take the lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars late in the 4th quarter of Sunday's AFC championship game. (DOUG ALDEN/UNION LEADER)



The New England Patriots were down 20-10 early in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s AFC Championship game, but the noise and cheers inside Billy’s Sports Bar and Grill in Manchester were loud enough to be heard in the parking lot.

Seven minutes later — like so many other times through the years — Tom Brady orchestrated a late-game comeback to send the reigning champs back to the Super Bowl with a 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“It was never in doubt, baby,” said Cory O’Hagan of Manchester. “Blake Bortles against TB 12? Come on man.”

With the win, Brady will go to the Super Bowl for the eighth time in his 18-year career, in search of a sixth career championship.

“I wasn’t sure at halftime,” said Patrick Barry of Manchester. “This was the toughest defense they saw all year. But you can’t count Brady out.”

“I was nervous, but they’ve done it too many times before,” said Darren Sager, also of Manchester.

Every television in Billy’s was showing the AFC. Championship game at Gillette Stadium, and every booth and table was filled with fans decked out in Patriots gear.

“The crowd was great,” said Marc Hartley, manager of Billy’s. “You would never have known they were down at the half, listening to them. Hopefully they’ll be back in two weeks for the Super Bowl.”

Tom Buckley of Londonderry said he has been a Patriots fan for more than 30 years.

“I keep asking myself how many times can they do this, pull one out some crazy way at the end?” said Buckley. “How many times can they go to the well? Then they do it again.”

Tony Gundham of Auburn said he didn’t put much stock in a recent story published by “ESPN The Magazine” detailing tension between Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and Brady over the trade of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the role of Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero.

The article suggested the current season may be the last for the trio as a unit.

“I don’t think any of them would walk away from what they have here,” said Gundham. “If it is, I’ll enjoy one more trip to the Super Bowl and see what happens next. We’ve been blessed here as fans.”

pfeely@unionleader.com


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