The Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2012: Number 1

Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

The Countdown wraps up with the single most memorable moment of the 2012 Patriots season.

This is it. It all comes down to today. It has been a long, grueling, and fun process counting down the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2012, but we're finally able to see the light the end of the tunnel.

Unlike a lot of the moments that have come before it, I can imagine most of you knew what was going to occupy the one spot all the way back in February when I first started this list. It doesn't take a genius to know that some moments simply tower above all the others, and the Number One Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2012 is no exception. And since we all know what's coming, there's no sense in trying to build up any sense of suspense.

But first, a quick look back at the list:

#20. The Patriots surprise everyone, sign Jeff Demps.
#19. The Patriots move up in the draft, select Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower in the first round.
#18. Jerod Mayo comes up with a huge 3rd down sack on Ryan Tannehill, holding the Dolphins to a field goal.
#17. Devin McCourty picks off Ryan Fitzpatrick in the end zone to seal the game vs. the Buffalo Bills.
#16. A diving catch in the end zone shows off Brandon Lloyd's athleticism as well as his pearly whites.
#15. Brandon Spikes’ forced fumble of Willis McGahee to seal the game against the Broncos.
#14. New England engineers an 7-plus minute drive to close out the Dolphins and clinch the AFC East.
#13. Baltimore Beats New England 31-30 in a disastrous weekend of replacement reffing.
#12. Julian Edelman's electric punt return TD against the Indianapolis Colts.
#11. New England's 28 point comeback against the San Francisco 49ers.
#10. Rob Ninkovich forces a Mark Sanchez fumble to seal the game against the Jets in overtime.
#9. Dual 100 yard days for Ridley and Bolden, dual 100 yard days for Welker and Gronk against the Buffalo Bills.
#8. Tom Brady's playaction pass to Brandon Lloyd against the Texans, the rout is on.
# 7. A Danny Woodhead fumble becomes a Brandon Lloyd touchdown, courtesy of J.J. Watt
# 6. Shane Vereen’s over-the-shoulder touchdown catch against the Texans to ice the game in the playoffs.
# 5. Aqib Talib's pick six in his Patriots debut.
#4. Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower team up for a strip sack/fumble return for a touchdown in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
# 3. Three Patriots touchdowns in 52 seconds against the New York Jets on Thanksgiving night.
# 2. Rob Gronkowski's "changing of the guard" spike against the St. Louis Rams in London, England.

And now, without further ado, the number one most memorable moment of 2012:

1. The buttfumble.

Once in every generation, a play comes along that defies logic. A play so ridiculous, so absurd, so amazing, that you need to watch it a few dozen times just to be sure it actually happened. A play that will be immortalized forever in the annals of football history as the ultimate examples of the unpredictability and excitement of this wonderful sport. Plays like these are so incredible, they are given lofty, majestic titles by which they will be known for the rest of time. All you have to do is speak the magic words, and instantly the entire play becomes crystal clear in all of our minds. The Immaculate Reception. The Drive. The Catch. The Music City Miracle. The Miracle at the Meadowlands.

The Buttfumble.

This play needs no introduction or buildup; it stands alone just fine on its own merits. Plus, I already went into detail regarding this game in my Number 3 Patriots Moment, so I won't be repeating myself here. The buttfumble represents the second of the three touchdowns the Patriots scored in the span of 52 seconds, and the one for which that game will most be remembered. All I'll do before we get into it is reiterate that Jets were hosting the Patriots on Thanksgiving night, a time slot that the Jets owner specifically requested the NFL schedule in order to give his team more exposure, in what would become the highest rated Thursday Night Football Game to date. The Patriots came into town expecting a close, hard fought match, and as it would turn out, the only thing close about this one was the first quarter and the proximity of a certain quarterback's face to a certain lineman's patoot.

After going scoreless for the first 15 minutes of the game, New England opened the 2nd quarter with a quick Brady-to-Welker strike to put them on the board for the first time. Shortly after, New England scored an 83 yard Brady-to-Vereen touchdown after stuffing the Jets on 4th and 1 to get the ball back and take a two score lead. It was absolutely essential for Mark Sanchez to engineer a scoring drive on the ensuing possession in order to regain some lost momentum and avoid potentially going down three touchdowns. Starting from his own 20, he was able to find Clyde Gates in the flat for a quick 1st down. Not a bad start.

Unfortunately for Sanchez, in absolutely every sense of the word, he was about to meet a bad end.

On 1st and 10 from the Jets 31, Sanchez placed his offense in a 2TE Power I formation with utility player Joe McKnight lined up as a receiver to his right. New England, anticipating the run, came out in a heavy 4-3 package with Aqib Talib alone against McKnight and Steve Gregory cheating up towards the left side of the line to supplement Jermaine Cunningham's rush. Sanchez snapped the ball and turned to make the handoff for what was supposed to be a counter run to the left, but running back Shonn Greene was nowhere to be found. Sensing the busted play, Sanchez quickly turned around and took the ball himself in hopes of salvaging the play with a slide or a short run for a few yards.

Right around this time, Vince Wilfork was matched up in single coverage against guard Brandon Moore. From the opening snap, Wilfork began steadily pushing Moore back, closing down Greene's initial running lane and slowly collapsing the integrity of the entire offensive line. As fate would have it, Wilfork got one last big push on Moore at almost the exact moment that Sanchez was making his run up the gut. Just as Sanchez appeared to be beginning his slide, he had what can only be described as a close encounter of the turd kind, slamming facemask first into the ample posterior of his lineman. Whether it was from the impact, shock, or sheer embarrassment, that rumpy collision was enough to knock the ball loose, where it rolled right into Gregory's arms. Gregory picked the ball up, strolled effortlessly into the end zone, and the Patriots were suddenly up 20-0. Al Michaels and Chris Collinsowrth, who were calling the game, sat in stunned disbelief as they watched the replay and confirmed that Sanchez had in fact slammed his facemas(s)k into his lineman's butt, causing a fumble and a defensive touchdown.

Based on the absurdity of this play, I might have ranked the buttfumble number one on this list even if it didn't come against the Patriots; watching Mark Sanchez plow face first into his lineman's behind was one of the purest joys I have ever felt as a Pats fan. However, since it did come against the Patriots, and it came against them on national television during my absolute favorite day of the year, the buttfumble takes the one slot and it isn't even close. Honestly, that is the kind of play that defines an entire career; when Sanchez retires gets cut by the Jets and eventually finds himself out of football, whenever that may be, his primary legacy to the National Football League will be being on the business end of an ass as his team gets absolutely obliterated in front of the entire country. To be honest, that's the kind of play that would define almost any quarterback's career; had Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, or Johnny Unitas buttfumbled their way into the history books, the play would most certainly be playing on loop as the Hall of Fame Committee cast their ballots. Obviously, quarterbacks of that caliber have the on-field awareness to avoid giant butts that may or may not impede one's progress, so there's no way it would have happened to them. Sanchez, on the other hand...well, I think I've hammered this home enough.

Maybe he panicked. Maybe he didn't see Moore coming. Maybe he thought he had more room than he did. Maybe he likes big butts and he can not lie. Whatever the reason, Sanchez buttfumbled, Gregory picked it up, the Patriots scored, and then the Patriots scored again on the ensuing kickoff. Pats 49, Jets 19.

Buttfumble.

Now, to be fair, this fallacy of a play isn't entirely Sanchez's fault. Part of the blame certainly has to go to Patriots MVP Shonn Greene, who was clearly as lost as Sanchez's dignity was about to be back there. It's very clear from the replay that Sanchez was expecting a run up the left A gap, as evidenced by fullback Lex Hilliard's blocking path as well as the push the offensive line got. Greene, however, seemed to be expecting a toss play to the left, and while part of that miscommuication does fall on Sanchez, when 10 men on the field think it's one play and Greene thinks it's another, he should definitely be held accountable. Part of the blame should also go to Brandon Moore, who got utterly dominated by Vince Wilfork so thoroughly that he was tossed literally ass-backwards into his quarterback. Along those lines, credit to Big Vince for being such a disruptive force on that play. It's easy to put all of the aonus on Sanchez here, but the truth is that there were other players who were also responsible for this debacle.

But you know what - who cares? Sanchez collided face-first with some dude's ass and coughed up the ball. There were dozens of other places he could have slid on that busted play, but he somehow managed to find the one crease in the line that definitely wouldn't result in positive yards. And honestly, where his facemask ended up aside, the least he could have done was hold onto the damn football.

Buttfumble. Go ahead, try to say it out loud without smiling. Can't do it, can you?

To watch the buttfumble, click here.

To see an interesting cartoonist's take on the buttfumble, click here.

To see the buttfumble frozen in time as an image, click here.

To see the exact moment when Mark Sanchez's head slammed into Brandon Moore's rump as a endlessly repeating gif file, click here.

To see the buttfumble accompanied by some amusing sound effects, click here.

To watch the buttfumble as a 1920s era silent film, click here.

To hear the buttfumble accompanied by the Benny Hill theme song, click here.

To listen to some foreign fans who don't quite understand football watch the buttfumble on TV, click here.

To hear the buttfumble as scored by Tchaikovsky, click here.

To hear what Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks of the buttfumble, click here.

To hear the play called by WWE personality JR, click here.

To watch some NFL coaches react to the buttfumble, click here.

To watch the buttfumble as the highlight in a 2012 Jets Blooper Reel, also accompanied by the Benny Hill theme song, click here.

To see the buttfumble immortalized on ESPN's Not Top 10 Worst of the Worst 2012, click here.

To see the Buttfumble take its place as the 22-time Worst of the Worst Champ, click here.

And with that, my Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2012 series comes to a close, just in time for the 2013 season to begin. I hope you have all enjoyed it, and I hope I didn't leave anything out.

I also hope that when I do this again next offseason, my number one moment will reflect certain events that happen this coming February.

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