It's been a while since I posted a Top 20 Patriots Moment of 2012, as it has been a fairly active couple of weeks around Patriots Nation. Most of our attention as of late has been on the 2013 Draft and the new crop of rookies that we're all hoping will be able to step in, catch some passes, sack some quarterbacks, and shut up everyone asking "why the hell did Bill Belichick draft Duron Harmon in the 3rd?" But since the initial Draft Dust has settled, much like the remnants of the bottom of a Cheetos bag when I turn it upside down in hopes of getting those last few delicious crumbs, I thought it would be a good time to get back to my countdown. We're officially into the single digits at this point, meaning that every moment from here on out was either spectacular, exceptionally meaningful, or a true indicator of just how powerful this 2012 Patriots team was. Today we take a look at some plays that fall squarely into the latter category, but first, a quick recap of 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.
#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.
And now, the Number 9 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2012:
9. Dual 100 yard days for Ridley and Bolden, dual 100 yard days for Welker and Gronk against the Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots were so dominant in this game and the score was so lopsided - a 52-28 beatdown - that it's easy to forget that the Bills actually had a commanding lead at one point. When Buffalo went up 21-7 in the third quarter, there was plenty of reason to worry. However, once the New England offense got rolling, there was simply no stopping them. Tommy B led the offense to six straight touchdowns, which included 35 unanswered points, as the Patriots reminded everyone who still runs the AFC East. Rob Gronkowksi finished the day with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Wes Welker finished the day with 9 catches for 129 yards. And while both of these numbers are pretty par for the course for Welker and Gronk, it isn't too often that New England finds itself with two 100 yard rushers in a single game. In fact, the Patriots hadn't accomplished that feat in over 30 years. Stevan Ridley rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and Brandon Bolden had a whopping 137 yard day on 16 carries, including a touchdown run which saw him absolutely bowl over Stephon Gilmore.
Usually when a team is down two scores heading into the middle of the third quarter, it's time to abandon the run and start slinging it in hopes of catching up. However, the Patriots stuck to their guns, ran the ball consistently, and allowed the two backs to grind out the tough yards that completely opened up the passing game. New England's 45 2nd half points were the most scored in franchise history, and good enough for 4th highest in NFL history. Their 45 second half points were also good for the most points scored by a team trailing at halftime since 1950, and the Patriots became only the second team in NFL history (the 2008 Packers being the other) to have dual 100 yard receivers and rushers.
No, there weren't any spectacular runs, nor were there any plays from Welker or Gronk that we don't see out of them every week. Of each respective player's 100+ yard days, no one particular play stands out (unlike our #16 Top Moment, which also came during this game). But when your offense is running so smoothly that you are able to put up 580 yards, and 476 of those yards coming from only four players, you're damn right this makes it into the Top 10. This game also shut up a lot of the critics who seemed to be of the opinion that the 2-2 Patriots, who had just suffered a ridiculous loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, were sputtering and unbalanced on offense, and it went a long way towards putting our collective minds at ease. There wasn't much to dislike about this game when all was said and done; the defense stiffened up and forced turnovers, the passing game worked to perfection, and for the first time since Corey Dillon left, Patriots fans had a reason to feel confident in the running game.