It's almost time to start heavily ramping up our pre-draft coverage here at Pats Pulpit, as we're just over three weeks out from Draft Day and a definitive answer to the question "which Rutgers players will the Patriots select this year?" However, we still have some time for what can only be described as "filler articles," so lets knock off another of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2013.
The list so far:
20. The New England Patriots sign .
19. and help the Patriots lock up a sloppy home opener against the .
18. and depart for Denver and jail, respectively.
17. makes a huge one-handed TD grab just before halftime against the .
16. The Patriots lose in OT to the Jets, courtesy of an interesting new rule.
Today's selection is unique in that it represents the first running play on the countdown, as well as that it comes from one of the more unheralded positions in the entire game.
15. James Develin bowls over the entire Texans defensive line for a rushing touchdown.
When the 8-3 Patriots traveled to Houston to face the 2-9 Texans on December 1st for a Week 13 matchup, both teams were trending in markedly different directions. New England had just come off a monster overtime win the week before, whereas the Texans had just lost their ninth straight game in an absolute offensive shootout to the Jacksonville Jaguars to the tune of 13-6. Case Keenum clearly wasn't the answer at quarterback, Ben Tate and Dennis Johnson had just combined for 75 yards rushing on 14 attempts in place of the injured Arian Foster, and Houston's once vaunted defense allowed Chad Henne and the Jags offsense to rack up 333 total net yards en route to victory. New England, on the other hand, had once again proven their resiliency, mental toughness, and championship effort with a 34-31 win over the Denver Broncos. Everything pointed to this game being a blowout.
However, everyone who said that this game wouldn't be close was forgetting two things. One, no team makes bad quarterbacks look like All-Stars quite like the New England Patriots. And two, the 2013 New England just plain couldn't stop the run.
While the Patriots would go on to win 34-31, there wasn't really a whole lot to like about the game - particularly the first half. New England's first two series consisted of a three and out and a Jonathan Joseph interception. Tommy B had some accuracy issues early, felt hurried in the pocket, and missed a few open receivers. Houston ran the ball at will, with Ben Tate rushing for 102 yards and 3 TDs, averaging over four yards a carry. The New England defense once again couldn't get off the field on third down. Stevan Ridley was a healthy scratch after continuing to have serious ball security issues, and the Patriots were only able to amass 88 yards on the ground as the running game struggled. Keenum came up with big play after big play and was only sacked once all game. The Texans scored more points in the first quarter than they had all game the week before against the Jags and went into halftime with a 17-7 lead, with New England's only score coming off of a 23 yard Brady-to-Gronk TD grab in which he had to basically scoop it off the ground in order to haul it in.
Luckily, they had deferred the kickoff and were able to take the first drive of the third quarter 78 yards on just five plays. Tommy B finally found his rhythm with a nice 16 yard pass to Danny Ammendola shortly followed by a 50 yard pass to Gronkowski. A short left pass to Shane Vereen quiclkly set the Patriots up with 1st and goal from the one yard line with the chance to cut the lead to a field goal.
To open the drive, New England came out in a Jumbo goal line I set with Nate Solder reporting as an eligible tight end inside of Matthew Mulligan on the left side with D.J. Williams lined up as the sole TE on the right. Brady was directly under center with Develin at fullback and LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. Everything about this play screamed run, and yet the Texans still played their linebackers and safeties off the line in order to anticipate the playaction. The play, however, was a simple fullback dive up the gut; Blount motioned off-tackle to the right, Brady gave the ball to Develin, and he dove for the end zone. However, he was thoroughly stuffed by linebacker and former Patriot Jeff Tarpinian, forcing him backwards. He quickly bounced back to the outside, where he was able to elude an arm tackle from Trevardo Williams before running headfirst into D.J. Swearinger. Swearinger is a safety, however, and Develin bowled right over him just as Tarpinian came back around for a leg tackle. Whitney Mercilus got a hand on him, despite stellar blocking from Mulligan, which allowed Shiloh Keo to finally be the one to bring the big man to the ground. Unfortunately for the Texans, however, Develin was already in the end zone at that point. He broke five tackles in the process of scoring that touchdown, and the change in posture from Houston's D was palpable. It was easily one of the top Patriots plays of that game and one of the few positives to take away from the running game following the win.
There are a few reasons why this play is on this list. One, it was one of the more impressive one yard runs you'll ever see, and hearkened back to the old days of smashmouth football where you give the ball to your Mack truck of a running back and he just plowed people over on his way to the end zone. In an era where dirty looks now draw flags and big hits are slowly becoming a thing of the past, it's always fun to watch a head on collision between a bunch of big dudes, especially when said collision results in a Patriots score. Two, it was a touchdown by a traditional, old school fullback (and fellow Brown alum), a position that is all but dead in the NFL. Three, it was just plain exciting to watch; Develin kept his legs churning, bounced off defenders, refused to go down, and wound up in the end zone after a fourth and fifth effort.
And perhaps most importantly, he held onto the damn ball. Watching Patriots running backs fumble had become something of a weekly tradition in the New England area, and to see someone holding onto the ball for dear life and plowing his way in for a TD was like a breath of fresh air. It was the ultimate "next man up" kind of play, and watching all of our "stud" running backs fumble again and again only to have Develin come in and show them all how it's done was great to see.
To watch highlights from the game, click here.
If you just want to see Develin's touchdown, click here.