We're officially at that weird halfway point between the start of Free Agency and the Draft, where moves are still happening, but none of them are major, and attention has been turned more towards the next batch of college hopefuls than who the next free agent bust will be. And since in the grand scheme of things I know jack squat about college football, I'm not even going to try to go into any kind of analysis and fathom a guess as to who the Patriots will be selecting in a few weeks. Instead, let's just keep counting down the 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2012.
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.
#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.
As for number twelve...
12. Julian Edelman's electric punt return TD against the Indianapolis Colts.
While Patriots vs. Colts 2012 didn't have the hype it has had for the past decade now that Peyton Manning has departed to Denver, there was still a lot of excitement surrounding the game. Andrew Luck was proving himself to be every bit the quarterback pundits thought he would be, the Colts were turning a lot of heads, and both teams came into the matchup at 6-3. It was a classic case of young buck vs. old stag, new blood vs. seasoned veteran, Mason "The Line" Dixon vs. Rocky Balboa. The media tried their best to rekindle the Colts/Pats rivalry of old, and while it wasn't quite the same, by the time Gostkowski kicked off there more enough energy at Gillette Stadium than there had been in a long time.
Of course, that energy didn't last all that long. In true 2012 Patriots fashion, the defense immediately allowed a 4 minute, 80 yard drive to start the game and the Colts went up 7-0 off of a Delone Carter 1 yard run. Tommy B was able to answer back with a Rob Gronkowski touchdown, but Indy marched right down the field on their next possession, a 10 play, 84 yard drive that ended with a 14 yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton. As the first quarter came to a close with the Patriots trailing 14-7, Andrew Luck was 6 for 8 with a touchdown and a running game that was moving the ball at will. Patriots fans everywhere were left scratching their heads as to whether Andrew Luck was the real deal or whether he was just the latest beneficiary of the Shaun Hill effect.
As the second quarter opened with a possession that ended with a missed Stephen Gostkowski field goal, the Colts were in prime position to really open the game up; the way Luck was playing and the way the offense was moving the ball, there was little reason to believe that the score wouldn't soon be 21-7. However, the defense forced a quick three and out with three incomplete passes broken up up Dont'a Hightower and Vince Wilfork, and the Colts were forced to punt.
Pat McAfee got a decent but low kick off, booming it 47 yards down to the New England 32, where Julian Edelman was waiting to receive it close to the right sideline. Edelman caught the ball, split three defenders, and broke to the outside. When the punt team caught up with him, he cut back inside before taking it back to the sideline and on to the house. Delone Carter tried to push him out of bounds, but he couldn't get there and Edelman went 68 yards for the score, tying the game at 14. Other than Carter's futile attempt, Edelman wove through the coverage unit and was completely untouched as he raced in for the touchdown.
Not only was this a great play (which you can watch here), but it was a complete momentum changer. Indy had been gaining confidence, moving the ball well, and the game could potentially have gone differently if Edeleman didn't return that punt. That touchdown was the beginning of a 31-3 scoring rout that put to rest any notion that Tom Brady wasn't still top dog in the NFL. New England would go on to win the game in convincing fashion, improve to 7-3, and gather some steam going into two crucial divisional games against the Jets and Dolphins.