In full disclosure, the Number 16 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2014 was the second play I thought of when I sat down to make this list (the first, as I'm sure you can all guess, is obvious). While this past Patriots season was absolutely jam-packed with great moments, crazy plays, and epic wins, what follows is the very first of all the awesomeness that was to follow. It was an up-and-down season overall, but the up far outnumbered the down, and with the 16 spot we take a look back at the play that, in a weird way, kind of started it all. The only reason it isn't higher is because it took place so early in the season and that there were just so many other amazing moments that took place after it, it just got somewhat lost in the shuffle. But that certainly doesn't mean it wasn't great.
The list so far:
20. wins a job - and our hearts - with a spectacular preseason.
19. officially arrives in a Week 6 contest against the .
18. The get embarrassed on national television with a 41-14 beatdown at the hands of the .
17. The Patriots sign .
16. Vince Wilfork and Jamie Collins help the Patriots lock up a 1st round bye against the New York Jets.
And now, we enter into the Top 15:
15. Chandler Jones blocks a Blair Walsh field goal attempt against the Minnesota Vikings to keep the momentum with the Patriots.
Usually, the only time you see the number zero in the Patriots' win column is in August before the season actually starts. But in 2014, for the first time since 2003, the Pats were taking an 0-1 record on the road to play the Minnesota Vikings, who had just come off a 34-6 beatdown of the St. Louis Rams. New England had looked lost and confused on offense against the Miami Dolphins the week before, and the Vikings had run behind Adrian Peterson and Corradelle Patterson to an easy win. Surprisingly, the picks were somewhat even on this game; while many believed that the Patriots simply don't lose two in a row, others thought that the Week 1 debacle was an accurate taste of what was to come this season.
Right from the getgo, the Vikings looked to prove the doubters right, as Matt Cassel drove the offense 80 yards on just seven plays for one of the easiest touchdowns you will ever see. To make matters worse, the Vikings did it all behind backup running back Matt Asiata, as Peterson had just gotten himself into a spot of trouble on child abuse charges. A pair of career backups put up six points on this supposedly improved Patriots defense like it was nothing. An already worried Patriots Nation began squirming in their chairs that much harder.
To make matters worse, New England's opening possession went as follows: run for no gain, run for two yards, run for seven yards punt. The Patriots had the ball for 1:29 and had generated nine yards before giving it back. The Vikings crowd, initially a little wary, started to get rowdy.
Luckily, as it would come to do all season, the Patriots defense tightened and stepped up when they were needed. On 2nd and 16 from the Minnesota 15, Matt Cassel put up a deep post pass intended for Jarius Wright, but he overthrew it and Devin McCourty was able to come down with the interception. McCourty bobbed and weaved his way down to the 1 yard line, setting up an easy Stevan Ridley touchdown.
McCourty's pick gave the defense the confidence and energy that they needed, as they wouldn't give up another point for the rest of the game. Matt Cassel was under duress all day, primarily from Chandler Jones, who would turn in his best day as a pro that afternoon with eight tackles, six solo tackles, two sacks, three TFLs, and three QB hits. Jones was an absolute terror along the line, using an array of both pass rush moves and sheer power to collapse the pocket and keep Cassel from getting into any kind of rhythm. He would finish his day with 202 yards on 19 completions with 1 TD and 4 INTs. Other than that first drive, the Vikings were only able to put together one offensive series that had double digit plays, an 11 play, 52 yard drive that set the Vikings up at the New England 30 with nine seconds to play in the 1st half. As the clock wound down to close out the 2nd quarter, the Patriots were up 17-7, and a field goal would cut the score to a single touchdown and give Minnesota some much needed confidence going into the locker room.
The Vikings brought their field goal unit on the field, and the Patriots lined up to block. Chandler Jones lined up in a tight formation to the right of the long snapper, bunched in between Rob Ninkovich and Sealver Siliga, an alignment the Patriots were able to do because of the man wearing #75 lined up to Siliga's right, who had the ability to eat up multiple blockers. At the snap, Wilfok took his usual double team, Siliga got a good step on Matt Kalil, and Ninkovich crashed enough to throw the blocker off his footing. Jones executed a textbook swim move to get into the backfield, where he immediately jumped and extended himself to his fullest height. The kick flew directly against his hands and shot backwards, bouncing once before Jones was able to pick it up mid-stride and take off for the end zone. Devin McCourty and Dont'a Hightower escorted him into the end zone, but they were more or less unnecessary, as Jones put his surprising speed on full display and outran the entire Vikings kicking unit. Instead of going into halftime only up 17-10, the Patriots instead had a 24-7 lead, which allowed them to more or less cruise to victory in the 2nd half.
Not only was Jones's block a fantastic play in and of itself, but it was also the kind of momentum-building, confidence generating, pedal-pushing play that the Patriots needed to shake off any of the ring rust that might have still been on them from the Miami game. A blocked field goal is a game-changing play, and this one was no exception. It was just one team imposing their will on another, and it was definitely a moment where Patriots fans exhaled a huge sigh of relief. And while it certainly wouldn't be all roses and sunshine for the Patriots over the next few weeks, this moment definitely put an exclamation point on stifling some early season jitters and letting us all know that this team still has the ability to beat you in all phases of the game.
Check out Jones's block here.
To watch full Pats/Vikings highlights, click here.