Oh how I love these single digits.
At this point in the countdown, it's the really good stuff we get to talk about. And at number nine, we have what I think is the perfect combination of a big moment, a great play, a prime example of athleticism, and sticking it to one of New England's rivals. So let's get to it.
But first, the list so far:
20. In the span of two weeks, the Patriots make two trades to acquire and .
19. A decision to kick in OT backfires as the Jets beat the Patriots in Week 16.
18. Otherwordly phenom and greatest player of all time J.J. Watt is held completely ineffective as the Patriots secure a playoff spot against the Houston Texans.
17. Chandler Jones and Akiem Hicks team up for a strip sack touchdown against the Tennessee Titans.
16. Stopped in the backfield, LeGarrette Blount sheds tacklers and rumbles for a 17 yard gain against the Houston Texans.
15. Danny Amendola and Tom Brady connect for some trickery against the Philadelphia Eagles.
14. The Patriots continue to kick in Rex Ryan's world with a season sweep of the Buffalo Bills.
13. A pair of James White catch and runs show off some agility, speed, and elusiveness.
12. The Patriots absolutely destroy the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football.
11. Julian Edelman outruns the entire Cowboys D on his way to the end zone.
10. A huge 1st down conversion on 3rd and 17 helps push the Patriots to victory over the New York Jets.
The Number 9 moment takes us all the way to that wonderful city of Indianapolis.
(it actually is a pretty awesome city, football team aside)
9. Jaime Collins hurtles the entire offensive line to block a PAT against the Indianapolis Colts.
The 2015 Week 6 matchup between the Patriots and Colts certainly wasn't short on storylines. Not only was it slated to be a game between two teams with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, but it was also supposed to be Tommy B's first game back after his four game suspension and something of a revenge game against the team that put the nonsense that is Deflategate in motion. Of all the games on the 2015 calendar, this is the one that received the most offseason hype.
It's called "offseason hype" for a reason, however, as this game wasn't what anyone expected, for a number of reasons. The Colts were more or less awful last year, once again victims of poor team building and an ineffective approach to the draft (coupled with some key injuries that more or less derailed their season), and they started their season with two straight losses before somewhat righting the ship against the lowly Jaguars and Titans. The Patriots found themselves not treating this game as Tommy B's homecoming, as Roger Goodell's ruling was reversed by Judge Berman and Brady was on the field for New England's first four games, all victories. And this wasn't exactly the revenge game everyone made it out to be; the Patriots didn't win 500-0, and there was no rubbing in of any kind. Both Brady and Andrew Luck put up over 300 yards with 3 TDs, both Frank Gore and LeGarrette Blount ran well, and each team's offense had a pretty decent day. Honestly, other than a small handful of plays (one of which will be making an appearance on this list a little later on), this was a pretty evenly matched contest. The Patriots were able to come away with a 34-7 victory after going into the half down 20-21, courtesy of a pair of 2nd half touchdowns and a defense that finally found its rhythm. When New England went up 34-21 late into the 4th quarter, there was little indication that Indy's offense would suddenly find its groove.
And for the most part, that was true. After Brady hit Blount for his first receiving touchdown of his career, the Patriots held the Colts to two punts and a turnover on downs on the next three possessions. However, with three minutes left in the game, Luck was finally able to get going again, driving 85 yards on eight plays to find Griff Whalen in the end zone. With the score 34-27 with just over a minute left to play, the Colts could kick the extra point, recover the onside kick, and potentially score a game-winning TD.
Adam Vinatieri lined up for the 33 yard attempt. It was a kick he had kicked and made hundreds of times throughout his career. New England lined up in their standard FG block formation with Jamie Collins line up across from center about three or four yards behind the line. Timing the snap count perfectly, Collins charged the line just as the ball was snapped, cleared snapper Matt Overton with ease, and got his whole body in front of the kick to block the attempt. The ball sailed harmlessly out of play, and the New England's lead remained a full seven points. Rob Gronkowski would go on to recover the ensuing onside kick, and two Tommy B kneels put this one in the books and gave the Pats their first 5-0 start since 2007.
Odds are that, even if Vinatieri had made that extra point, New England still wins this game. Recovering an onside kick is tough to do in the NFL, and a 34-28 score is just as much a win as 34-27 is. However, what this play did do was ensure that, even if Indy did somehow manage to recover, all a touchdown would do was send the game to OT as opposed to give them the win outright. That's a fairly big deal, and a potential psychological advantage that takes some of the pressure off recovering that kick. Again, I'm not going to sit here and say that Collins' block is the reason the Patriots won, but it completely changed the dynamic of the ensuing kickoff and altered the win probability more towards New England's favor.
More than that, though, it was just a great play. Collins is one of the most athletic players in the NFL, and that athleticism was on full display with that block. He clears Overton with ease, makes the jump look effortless, and gets his entire body in front of the kick. It's a play that would have been a penalty had Collins made contact with any of the Colts line, but it was never even a question. Just a freak athlete doing freak athlete things - and since it came against the Colts, it was that much sweeter.
Check out the play here.
(And believe it or not, nowhere in the SBNation archives is there a picture of Jamie Collins blocking that PAT attempt. Looks like the photographers were slacking on the job. So instead, I hope you enjoy this picture of Tommy B and Billy B instead.)