We are officially right in the middle of that infamous Dead Time in the NFL when there really isn't all that much to talk about; all you can really find on the various football-related websites this time every year are a bunch of predictions, speculation over final rosters, training camp checklists, and idiots procrastinating at work by going back over the top plays from last season. And because of that, what better time of year to crack into the Top 5 of this of the Top 20 Most Memorable Plays of 2013? Whenever something is in the Top 5, you simply hold it to a higher standard. Top 5 means that it's the best of the best, the stuff by which all others are judged. I tried to take that into account when I made these selections, but at the end of the day, it's always going to be little more than one man's opinion.
The list so far:
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
15. bowls over the entire defensive line for a rushing touchdown.
14. leads a 4th quarter comeback drive against the to win the 2013 season opener.
13. emerges as a receiving threat with a two touchdown day against the .
12. A highly questionable non-PI call costs the Patriots a Monday Night Football game against the .
11. and team up for a volleyball-style interception against the Miami Dolphins.
10. New England engineers a huge second half comeback against the Miami Dolphins.
9. Aqib Talib shuts down and in a primetime matchup against the .
8. has 100+ rushing yards and 58 yards receiving on a broken arm in a comeback win against the Buffalo Bills.
7. The Patriots put up 55 points in their historic beatdown of the .
6. goes beast mode against the Buffalo Bills to lock up the 2 seed in the AFC.
The Number 5 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2013 is something of an enigma, as it is one of those situations where the end result is much greater than how that result was attained. So while some of the above moments may have been a little more explosive, few had the overall impact on the 2013 season the way this one did.
5. The Patriots travel to Baltimore and obliterate the Baltimore Ravens.
Patriots travel to Baltimore and obliterate the Ravens
The last time the Patriots and Ravens played, Baltimore won to the tune of 28-16 on their way to claiming a Super Bowl victory. So when it was announced that the Patriots would be traveling to Baltimore in 2013, everyone had the matchup slated as the perfect home opener for Baltimore. However, a scheduling conflict with the Orioles forced the champs to hit the road Week 1, and because of that these two teams didn't meet until Week 16. And while we all missed out on the excitement that would have come with a Pats/Ravens season opener, we were treated to a game with all kind of implications.
The Ravens and Patriots represented two teams trending in very different directions. After a shaky start to the season and a couple of surprising losses, Baltimore seemed to be righting the ship at the perfect time; they had just rattled off four straight wins and, at 8-6, were right in the playoff hunt - they could clinch a berth with a win over the Pats combined with a Miami and San Diego loss. The Patriots, on the other hand, had just dropped a game to the Miami Dolphins, and the week before that needed a miraculous comeback to defeat the lowly Cleveland Browns at home - a game which also saw them once again lose Rob Gronkowski for the season. The general consensus was that the Patriots' rash of injuries to their best players had finally caught up to them and it was just a matter of time before things started to spiral downward. And with the Ravens absolutely needing this game, which came at home, there were many out there who thought Baltimore would be the first of several stops New England would be making as they headed for an early playoff exit.
Things certainly didn't start out too well for New England; their opening possession consisted of two Blount runs for five combined yards and an incomplete pass to Julian Edelman. One minute and forty seconds into the game, the Patriots were punting and it was time for Joe Flacco to remind everyone why he got paid all that money in the offseason. A short run, a deep pass attempt down the sideline, and an underthrown ball over the middle later, the Ravens were punting as well. So far, so bad as both teams traded three and outs to start the game.
New England's next drive would put the first points of the day on the board, as LeGarrette Blount started to get his groove and a Pass Interference call in the end zone gave the Patriots the ball on the Baltimore one yard line, which Blount punched in on 1st and Goal. A touchback on the ensuing kickoff started the Ravens at their own 20, where they were able to gain a first down courtesy of Bernard Pierce. However, Pierce's run and short catch marked two full plays since Flacco took a shot down the sideline, so it was time to remedy that. On the next play, he sent Jacoby Jones on a deep slant from left to right, but the play was tipped by Dont'a Hightower and landed right in Logan Ryan's arms for what would be his first interception of the night.The Patriots got the ball back at their own 47.
Two key plays capped New England's next drive, which also ended in a touchdown. The first was a 34 yard Danny Ammendola catch and run that put his shiftiness and elusiveness on display, as he was able to get open, avoid former Patriot James Ihedigbo, and scamper down to the Ravens six. Two plays later, Tommy B hit Shane Vereen for a four yard reception and the score. Patriots 14, Ravens 0.
New England was able to tack on another field goal in the second quarter, but the real story of the day was the defense. Flacco was picked once in the first half and sacked twice, both times for big losses on third down to force a punt. The Patriots went into the half up 17-0 and at no point had the Ravens looked like a threat. Baltimore, perhaps realizing that they needed to get something going, decided to go for it on 4th and 3 when their first possession of the third quarter stalled at the New England 39. Flacco's pass, once again intended for Jacoby Jones, was batted down by Logan Ryan, and the Patriots got the ball back.
Unfortunately, they did exactly nothing with it, as three quick incompletions gave Baltimore another possession without taking much more than 45 seconds off the clock. Flacco answered by throwing his second pick of the day, a slightly off-target pass to Dennis Pitta that bounced off the tight end's hands and into Ryan's. Ryan actually returned the ball 35 yards to the Baltimore eight, but the replay showed he was down by contact, giving the Patriots the ball at the Ravens 39. The turnover would result in a field goal, and New England was up 20-0 with a quarter and a half to play.
Baltimore officially entered into desperation mode, knowing that they absolutely needed to get some points on the board this quarter if they were going to have any chance of winning this game. Flacco was actually able to get something going on his next drive, assisted by a great 42 yard catch-and-run from Torrey Smith, and the Ravens were able to move the ball to the Patriots 13. A 7 yard Ed Dickson completion brought up 3rd and 1 and the New England four, which ended in an unsuccessful pass attempt to Pitta. 4th and 1.
Harbaugh, faced with the decision of going for it or taking the easy points, opted for the former. The play was initially a pass, but Flacco audibled to a Ray Rice run off the right guard when he saw the defense. Unfortunately for the Ravens, Rob Ninkovich sniffed out and stuffed the run off of a surprisingly agile swim move. Once again, New England had stopped Baltimore on 4th down.
However, once again the Patriots couldn't get anything going, and Ryan Allen had to punt from his own end zone to set the Ravens up with great field position. However, at that point the 3rd quarter was coming to a close, and Baltimore still had yet to score a point.
They wouldn't score a point on their next drive, either, as a Justin Tucker field goal attempt sailed wide left on 4th and 5 from the Patriots 19. More than anything, New England just needed to get the ball out of their own half of the field, which they were able to do on their ensuing drive; Brady's first two throws were to Edelman for 15 yards and Dobson for 21 yards. While the drive would eventually stall at the Baltimore 35, a solid Allen punt pinned Baltimore inside their own 10 and forced a long field and not much time. This, of course, would end up being a scoring drive for the Ravens, as apparently short fields and plays started right on the Patriots goal line isn't how Baltimore does things. Flacco was able to get into the end zone on 9 plays, mainly through a series of short gains through the air capped off by a QB keeper on 2nd and goal from the 1. Patriots 20, Baltimore 7, for the first points in what seemed like forever.
Another Patriots 3 and out, and people started to get a little worried; with a little over eight minutes left in the game, a quick Ravens score would put them right back in it, and the way New England's offense was getting stymied by Baltimore, a victory was suddenly (and for the first time that game) far from certain. Fortunately, New England's defense held, as for the third time that day Baltimore failed to convert on 4th down and gave the Patriots the ball back on the Raven 48.
New England's next drive would represent the dagger that we had been waiting for all half. With 6:37 on the clock, Tommy B took the Patriots 48 yards on nine plays, all of them runs.A combination of Ridley and Blount gained yards in chunks, whittling away the field, and there was nothing that Baltimore could do about it. The Ravens became so frustrated with their sudden inability to stop the run that LarDarius Webb lost his cool and was flagged for a personal foul at the Baltimore 16, which gave the Patriots 1st and goal on the seven yard line. Blount scored on the very next play to put the Patriots up by three scores with just over two minutes to play. Game over. Flacco sat the rest of the game out, replaced by backup QB Trod Taylor. Taylor's brief day was something of a mixed bag, as he was able to scramble for runs of 25 and 14 yards, but he also threw a pick-six to Tavon Wilson when the game was well out of hand.
There's also the fact that he fumbled his very first snap, which Chandler Jones picked up for an easy touchdown.
By the time the final whistle blew, the score was 41-7. New England had blown Baltimore out, at home, while putting a serious damper on their playoff hopes. All New England needed now to secure at least a two seed was a win, and Baltimore now needed A LOT of help if they were going to have any shot at a playoff berth.
This far removed from that game, it's easy to overlook just how huge it was and just how positive the vibes around Patriots Nation really were in the days following the victory. There were a lot of three and outs from the Patriots, a few drives stalled when they probably shouldn't have, and at the end of the day the final score is a bit deceiving - those last two touchdowns came in garbage time against a backup QB. However, far more important than any of that is that, other than that one scoring drive, New England was in complete control of this game and played with the poise, confidence, and swagger of a team that hadn't just lost their best player not named Brady and their grasp on the one seed in a matter of weeks. Questions about whether they would be able to win when it mattered, whether the defense was strong enough to hold, whether there would be any way to put points on the board - all of these questions were answered and then some, all the while all but eliminating a heated rival from postseason contention...it was something that the Patriots really, really needed at that particular point in time, and it gave them the confidence they needed to finish the year strong. I know that I finished watching that game thinking that this team can hang with anybody, and it's certainly reassuring to have that feeling so late in the season - especially on the heels of a loss to Miami and the news of Gronk's knee. I realize that, as a game, it wasn't the most memorable of the year; Flacco was playing hurt, Brady was held to under 200 yards, and a lot of things simply didn't go right for the Ravens. However, the events surrounding this win, what it meant to the team, and what it also signified for Baltimore makes me very happy to put it at Number 5.
Watch game highlights here.