Around this time every year, I find myself thinking - and saying - the exact same thing:
Thank goodness the Founding Fathers didn't sign the Declaration of Independence in February.
What a great holiday. What a great long weekend. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't love the 4th of July. Sure, fireworks are criminally overrated - if someone can name me a single technological advance in fireworks since those little screaming ones, I'm all ears - but you know what isn't overrated? Summer. Pools. Beaches. Barbecues. Beer. Patriotism. America. Its the 4th of July or bust for me.
It's fitting, then, that we all get to kick off the best part of summer with the Top Patriots Moment that kicked off the best part of autumn.
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.
9. Jaime Collins hurtles the entire offensive line to block a PAT against the Indianapolis Colts.
8. Tom Brady reaches the 400 TD mark with a one yard pass to Danny Amendola.
At Number 7, we head back to the time when, finally, an offseason for the ages - for all the wrong reasons - was finally put to bed.
7. Opening night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ah, opening night. There are few events that, no matter where you are, are more enjoyable. And no matter what the event - movie, play, sport., all-you-can-eat rib night - there's just something special about an opening night. The wait is over, the fun can start, and a full season lies in front of you that promises all the twists, turns, surprises, and drama that keeps you coming back.
And for Patriots fans, opening night of the 2015 season carried with it extra special meaning. As the 2014 Super Bowl Champions, New England had the honor of opening the league year at home, in primetime, on a special Thursday edition of Sunday Night Football. Furthermore, they were opening against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that many had picked to be a serious AFC contender in 2015. Not only that, but they were set to unveil their championship banner, their fourth, from the rafters of Gillette Stadium. And perhaps most special of all, under center for the opening offensive snap would be one Thomas Edward Brady, whose suspension had recently been overturned by Judge Berman, putting the whole Deflategate nonsense to bed (or so we thought at the time) and giving us all back our leader and greatest hero. It was, once again, the Patriots vs. the world, and September 10th, 2015 marked the start of a championship defense.
And what a start it was.Tommy B threw for 288 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Three of those TDs went to Gronk, who the Steelers decided that they weren't even going to bother covering. Edelman had 11 grabs for 97 yards and a TD. Some little journeyman few people had ever heard of named Dion Lewis had four catches for 51 yards to go with his 69 hards on 15 carries (averaging 4.6 YPC) as he bobbed, juked, and danced his way into our hearts. Duron Harmon picked off Big Ben. New England turned in a relatively dominant performance, winning 28-21 in a game that wasn't really that close, and started the year with a decisive win. Millions watched at home, and tens of thousands watched live.
But you know who didn't watch live? You know who decided that it was best that he didn't attend the first game of the league that he's in charge of? The Ginger Hammer himself. Roger Goodell was absolutely nowhere in sight, and the Foxboro Faithful didn't let that fact slip through the cracks. The team that everybody loves to hate was back for another year, and they made a definitive statement to start out the 2015 season.
As Patriots fans, we have all been blessed with a lot of satisfying wins - and I would rank opening night against Pittsburgh right up there on that list. It's nothing against the Steelers, really; in spite of myself, I like a lot of the players on that team and appreciate their grit and toughness. It honestly didn't matter who New England was playing that night; there was zero percent chance that they were losing, and the atmosphere was going to be electric. It was a statement win, one that put an absurd offseason in the rear view, and it certainly left us all with a great feeling. And because of that, it's a well-deserved number seven.
Game highlights here.