Throwback Thursday: 1996 AFC Championship Game

Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe celebrate the Patriots' AFC Championship Game victory of Jacksonville
The Patriots face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday at Gillette Stadium, so what better time to revisit the 1996 AFC Championship Game between the two teams.

Let's look back at what was.

Coming off a dominant 28-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round, the Patriots were looking to punch their ticket to Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers, who had won earlier in the day against the Carolina Panthers.

The Patriots got on the board first when Jaguars punter Bryan Barker was tackled by Larry Whigam after a high snap, setting New England up at the Jacksonville four-yard line. Star running back Curtis Martin would punch the ball into the end zone for a touchdown a few plays later.

After the teams traded a few scoreless possessions each, Drew Bledsoe was driving the Patriots down the field and looked to set up another score, but in classic Bledsoe fashion, he threw and interception to Aaron Beasley at the Jaguars' eight-yard line.

The Jaguars finally got on the board in the second quarter when kicker Mike Hollis connected on a 32-yard field goal, and then the Patriots answered right back with a field goal of their own, making the score 10-3. The Patriots would get another field goal in the closing minutes of the second half after a brilliant 68-yard drive by Bledsoe and Co.

The second half opened with the Jaguars threatening to cut into the New England lead. Quarterback Mark Brunell had the Jags at the Pats' 31-yard line, but was stuffed on a 4th and 1, giving the Patriots the ball. It would be for naught, as Bledsoe fumbled a few plays later and the Jaguars capitalized, kicking another field goal to make the score 13-6.

That would turn out to be the last time Jacksonville scored that day.

The Patriots were in position to put the game away midway through the fourth quarter, but a missed Adam Vinatieri field goal put Jacksonville in a great spot to tie the game. The Patriots were going to need a big play to keep the Jaguars at bay, and they got it. Defensive back Willie Clay intercepted Brunell in the end zone to preserve the lead, but the Patriots couldn't take advantage of the turnover.

With 2:36 left, the Jags had yet another chance to tie the game, but they wound up failing yet again.

Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest holding up the AFC Conference Championship trophy
James Stewart fumbled the football on the very first play of the drive, and old friend Otis Smith recovered the ball and took it 47 yards for what would be the icing on the cake.

An iconic moment in Patriots' history, they'd win this game 20-6 and did indeed move on to the Super Bowl against the Packers. The Pats lost that game 35-21.

The 1996 conference title was the first one under the direction of Robert Kraft. It was also one of the most iconic Patriots wins for then-head coach Bill Parcells.

Bledsoe finished the AFC title game going 20-of-33 for 178 and a pick, Curtis Martin ran for 59 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries while also catching three passes for 18 yards. Terry Glenn led all receivers with five receptions for 33 yards.

This would not be the only time the Pats and Jaguars squared off in the playoffs, as the clubs met in 2005 and 2007, both Patriots victories.

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