It's Friday, February is officially over, Tommy B is a Patriot until he's 40 - it's been a good week. Time to celebrate! And what better way to celebrate with continuing the 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2012?
Well, I can think of a lot of ways. But at 11 AM on a weekday while everyone is at work? We could all do a lot worse.
To quickly recap, here is the list so far:
#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.
Now it's time to keep the party going with what I think is the #18 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2012.
#18. Jerod Mayo comes up with a huge 3rd down sack on Ryan Tannehill, holding the Dolphins to a field goal.
New England's first meeting with the Dolphins in 2012 came on December 2nd, very late in the season. And once again, the Patriots came into Miami knowing that a win would wrap up the AFC East. In what was a sloppy first half for both teams, New England was able to jump out to a 17-10 lead at the half off of a botched Brandon Fields punt that led to a Stevan Ridley touchdown and a quick screen pass to Wes Welker. Once the second half started, though, New England had a hard time generating any offense whatsoever, scoring no points in the third quarter and managing only a field goal early in the fourth.
With the Patriots holding onto a 20-10 lead in a game that was surprisingly close, the Dolphins were once again driving downfield with frustrating efficiency. They had managed to work their way down to New England's 13 yard line on a drive that started at their own 20 and saw huge gains by Brian Hartline, Reggie Bush, and a massive Pass Interference call on Aqib Talib that kept a drive alive. After a short pass to Charles Clay to give the Dolphins a 2nd and 4 at the 7, Ryan Tannehill lined up in shotgun and fired a quick pass over the middle to Brian Hartline, which fell incomplete.
On 3rd and 4 from the Patriots 7, Tannehil once again came out in shotgun with Reggie Bush lined up to the weak side. Mayo's assignment was to spy Bush in coverage, but when he noticed that Bush was staying in to help block Trevor Scott off the edge, it allowed him to barrel through the gap on a delay blitz that absolutely slammed Tannehill for an 8 yard loss and a 4th down. It was a textbook hit that rattled Tannehill, held the Dolphins to a field goal, and allowed New England to go on to win the game 23-16.
Four main things caused me to put this sack at number 18 on the list. First, and most obviously, it was an absolutely monster hit and a phenomenal sack. I'd be amazed if that hit wasn't on Mayo's career highlight reel when he finally hangs up his cleats in 30 or 40 years. Secondly, it held the Dolphins to a field goal, which then allowed the Patriots to engineer a textbook drive that leaned heavily on the run, took over seven minutes off the clock, and allowed the Patriots to take a two score lead via a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. Fourth, with the win over the Dolphins, the Patriots wrapped up the AFC East once again and were able to start focusing on securing a bye. And fourth, that game represented one of Tommy B's least efficient games of the year; throwing for a very Sanchez-esque 238 yards with only one touchdown and a pick. Despite Brady's mediocre day, The Pats D stepped up when it needed to and the run game came through in style; it gave me, and many others in Patriots Nation, hope that the defense could come up big when it mattered most, and that New England was now finally capable of closing out games on the ground instead of being forced to throw it while protecting a lead late and needing to keep that clock moving.