There are certain times, both in football and in life, where you don't want to see single digits. On the scoreboard of your favorite team. On the results of my midterm exam. In the rushing yards column. On the list of invitees to my 10th birthday party. In the wins column. On my bank statements. We all get the idea.
But when you're counting down the Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2014, single digits are a good thing. We're down to the last nine moments of the wacky, weird, and wild season the Patriots just completed, which can only mean one thing: we're into the heart of summer and it won't be too long before training camp starts.
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.
15. Chandler Jones blocks a Blair Walsh field goal attempt against the Minnesota Vikings to keep the momentum with the Patriots.
14. Rob Gronkowski officially returns to form as the Patriots destroy the Chicago Bears.
13. Darrelle Revis shuts down Calvin Johnson as the Patriots stomp the Lions.
12. Chris Jones finds redemption in the form of a last second blocked field goal against the New York Jets.
11. The Patriots avenge a Week 1 loss by obliterating the Dolphins to secure the AFC East.
10. Julian Edelman's catch and run helps lift the Patriots over the San Diego Chargers.
The number 9 moment is one of those that, in a different season, would be ranked significantly higher, but given the way 2014 played out, it just couldn't muscle its way any higher. But make no mistake; it was one of the most important plays of the entire year and directly affected the playoff landscape - which, in turn, affected the way the playoffs unfolded.
9. Danny Amendola hauls in a 19 yard touchdown catch on 3rd and goal against the Jets to secure a lead.
The Week 7 matchup between the Patriots and Jets was about as Patriots and Jetsiest as it gets; New England, at 4-2, was a significantly better team than the 1-5 Jets, but none of that mattered in the slightest. The game was 60 minutes of grind-em-out-, hard pounding battle that ended up coming right down to the wire, as it so often does when these two teams meet. The Jets that traveled to Gillette that crisp Thursday evening in October didn't care what the win column said; they were there to do what they always do, and give the Patriots all they could handle.
"All they could handle," in this case, came in the form of an absolutely relentless ground game that served as the engine for 10+ play drives that ate large chunks off the clock and ended in points. New England, however, save for one long bomb to Shane Vereen, had been more or less useless. New England took a 17-12 lead into halftime solely because the Patriots D stiffened up in the red zone and held the Jets to field goals; New York didn't punt on a single possession.
Geno Smith finally found the end zone on the 1st play of the 3rd quarter, a one yard Chris Ivory run to cap off an 11 play, 80 yard drive to give the Jets their first lead of the game. The Patriots answered. back with a field goal to tilt the game 20-19 in their favor, where the score would stay as the fourth quarter began.
Neither team could get anything going with their first few drives of the quarter, and then a shanked punt by Ryan Quigley gave the Patriots excellent field position and the chance to pad their lead. A 14 yard pass to Julian Edelman and a 24 yard pass to Gronk put the Pats at the 3 with the chance to go up by 8 just a few yards away. Unfortunately, the Patriots would end up going backwards on their next three plays: a -1 yard from Vereen, a false start on Tim Wright, and then an Offensive Passing Interference Call on Brandon LaFell turned a 1st and goal from the 3 to 3rd and goal from the 19. Settling for a field goal meant that a Jets touchdown would signify another lead change.
New England came out in shotgun, a 3WR set that had LaFell as the X receiver and Amendola in the slot next to him on Brady's left; Edelman was alone in the slot on the right side, with Gronk in a two point stance close to Nate Solder. Brady motioned Vereen out wide to the right, creating what was essentially a 5 WR set as the Jets only lined up three and backed everyone else off in a strong dime package. At the snap, both Vereen and LaFell, the two widest options, ran quick sluggo routes for the end zone while Gronk ran his patented seam route. Edelman ran a short slant, and Amendola did a 10 yard post towards the left sideline with some real estate in front of him. Tommy B looked to LaFell first, but corner Derrin Walls didn't bite on the slant fake. Brady scrambled left just as Amendola broke out of his post pattern. He was open, but hitting him coming off the break meant he would likely get tackled well short of the goal line. So instead, in a moment of a QB and receiver being on the same page, Amendola made a sharp cut back upfield and sprinted towards the end zone as Brady released on the fly. Because Tommy B was throwing across his body, it wasn't a completely accurate pass, behind Amendola and to his right. In mid-air, the receiver turned, adjusted, reached out, and hauled the pass in just as Antonio Allen made contact. Amendola fell across the goal line, and an extra point later, it was 27-19. A visibly rankled Rex Ryan could be seen storming the sidelines, yelling at anybody and everybody who crossed his path.
The Jets were able to answer back with a score of their own, but couldn't convert for two points, and courtesy of a Chris Jones blocked field goal (which has already graced this list), the Patriots were able to walk away with a huge divisional win and some solid momentum heading into the second half of the season.
I mentioned, at the beginning of this article, that this was a season-defining play, and I 100% stand by that statement. First off, if Amendola doesn't make that catch, you can make a strong case that the Patriots lose this game. Obviously, you never know what would have unfolded, but the way the Jets were moving the ball, it's more than plausible. If the Patriots lose that came, they're sitting at 4-3 instead of 5-2, which may seem like small potatoes, but is in actuality pretty significant. Especially against the Jets, at home, on a short week...a loss like that could have had a genuine negative impact on the team, especially in the eyes of those who were still thinking about the Week 2 Chiefs game. Second, it's one of those plays which represented an offense that was starting to click in all the right places, as well as a player who was willing to go all out to make a play for his team. It was also one of the first of what would be come an excellent trend of Danny Amendola not being a regular contributor to the offense, but coming up with a monster day when he was needed most. It kind of cemented him as one of the guys you can look to to make a play when the chips are down, a role he would reprise on much bigger stages in just a few short months.
That Amendola made pretty much the exact same catch that Wes Welker dropped in some game I can no longer remember doesn't hurt, either.
And so, because of all, that, this is a no brainer at the 9 spot. Again, I would have ranked it higher in seasons past, but there are just too many awesome moments still to come.
Check out the catch here.