Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer, is right around the corner, and with the impending three day weekend comes thoughts of all the things that make summertime so great. Barbecues. Cookouts. Picnics. Outdoor buffets. Pig roasts. Swimming. Floating on inner tubes down lazy rivers. Coolers full of beer and sandwiches. Two piece bathing suits. Getting sunburned. Beach volleyball. Girls playing beach volleyball. Me watching girls playing beach volleyball. Me getting dirty looks for watching girls play beach volleyball. People getting offended because I'm writing about watching girls play beach volleyball. Summer!
And speaking of volleyball, today's Top 20 Patriots Moment of 2013 draws its inspiration from one of the more underrated sports around. It isn't too often you see a play in professional football that immediately reminds you of another game, as football is so unique in the skills it requires to play well; however, this particular play, which came against the Miami Dolphins, is an exception to the rule. I won't get into too much detail about the game itself, as I have a feeling that the events surrounding this one are going to pop up on this list again very, very soon, but I'd be remiss if I didn't single out one play in particular from this game that's especially worthy.
The list so far:
20. The New England Patriots sign Tim Tebow.
19. Aaron Dobson and Aqib Talib help the Patriots lock up a sloppy home opener against the New York Jets.
18. Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez depart for Denver and jail, respectively.
17. Michael Hoomanawanui makes a huge one-handed TD grab just before halftime against the Miami Dolphins.
16. The Patriots lose in OT to the Jets, courtesy of an interesting new rule
15. James Develin bowls over the entire Texans defensive line for a rushing touchdown.
14. Tom Brady leads a 4th quarter comeback drive against the Bills to win the 2013 season opener.
13. Kenbrell Thompkins emerges as a receiving threat with a two touchdown day against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
12. A highly questionable non-PI call costs the Patriots a Monday Night Football game against the Carolina Panthers.
And now, the Number 11 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2013.
11. Devin McCourty and Marquice Cole team up for a volleyball-style interception against the Miami Dolphins.
When the Miami Dolphins took a 17-3 halftime lead against the New England Patriots during their Week 7 trip to Gillette Stadium, the concern was palpable. New England hadn't been able to get anything going offensively, Miami was moving the ball well, and Brady was very un-Brady like in his decision making and game management, throwing an interception on his very first attempt of the game and misreading the blitz several times. However, as they have done so many times in the past, the Patriots went into the locker room at halftime, made some adjustments, and were able to put up 17 unanswered 3rd quarter points to bring the score to 20-17. That lead, however, was tenuous, and as the 3rd quarter bled into the 4th, Miami seemed to have finally regained whatever magic was working for them in the first half as they once again began moving the ball well. After the Stephen Gostkowski field goal that gave New England their first lead of the game, Miami began their next drive at their own 20. It took a mere four plays to get the Fins into New England territory, as Lamar Miller, Mike Wallace, and Charles Clay each picked up nice gains. Between the Miami 20 and the New England 50, Miami didn't even have a third down and once again seemed to be moving the ball at will.
Then, on 1st and 10 from the New England 46, Ryan Tannehill lined the Dolphins up in shotgun with Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson out to his left and Mike Wallace alone on his right. New England came out in a 4-2-5 package with McCourty and Gregory back deep, Spikes and Hightower as middle linebackers, and Chandler Jones standing up showing coverage. At the snap, Hightower dropped back while Spikes charged up the middle and Jones came rushing around the edge. He got an initial step on Clay, who was stuck with the unenviable task of blocking him, but came in a little high on his rush and Clay was able to push back behind Tannehil and out of the play. Rob Ninkovich got a nice push on his blocker and was able to make a beeline straight for Tannehill, but he was a step too late; Tannehill was able to spot a huge mismatch, as Marquice Cole was in single coverage against Wallace. He zeroed in on his deep threat from the moment he got the ball and didn't wait long before harnessing his inner Joe Flacco, lofting a deep pass down the right sideline for Wallace, who easily had a step on Cole, to go up and get. McCourty, however, maintained eyes on Tannehill and was able to see him telegraph his throw. He cut across the field and got to the ball right as it was starting to drop, in prime position to make the interception. However, his forward momentum was carrying him directly out of bounds, so even if he did make the pick, it wouldn't have counted. Showing incredible vision, dexterity, and on-field awareness, McCourty leaped into the air and batted the ball up and back in bounds, where Cole was waiting. Cole was able to get both feet in, make the grab, and give New England the ball back. The play was reviewed, as Cole was right along the sideline when he made the catch, but replay clearly showed both feet in bounds and full possession of the ball. New England would go on to score on the ensuing possession and win the game comfortably, 27-17.
Not only is this play a great Patriots Top Moment, it has also been played several times on highlight reels encompassing the best plays in the NFL from the past year. It's the kind of interception you really don't see too often and represents teamwork and defensive chemistry at its finest. While this play is pretty much one of the only big contributions that Marquice Cole made during his tenure in New England, it also represents McCourty's rapid growth as a safety, as well as his maturation into one of the better safeties in the game right now. If McCourty hadn't made this play, who knows how the game would have worked out; instead, New England got the win and got their season back on track.
Check out the play here.