It's almost time for the Top 5.
The Top 5 represent the best of the best. But better yet, the fact that we're finally into this last stretch of our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2015 means that it's only a few weeks before training camp starts and we'll have something to do with our time besides enjoy the sun and sand. Who wants to do that?
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.
7. Opening night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And while Number 7 saw us remembering the first night of the season, The Number 6 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2015 takes us to where, for Patriots fans at least, the season really gets started.
6. The Patriots offense comes back in style against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round.
Injuries. Injuries injuries injuries. A New England team that came absolutely tearing out of the gate in 2015, rumbling to a 10-0 start, ended up losing four of their final six as key player after key player went down. Nate Solder. Dion Lewis. Gronk. Edelman. Hightower. Jamie Collins. Blount. Dobson. Some were out for the year, some only missed a little time, and some missed a decent amount of time, but as the season came to a close, the Patriots just didn't have enough offensive firepower to get anything going and enough holes on defense to allow teams that shouldn't beat them to squeak out a victory. Luckily, the Patriots were able to do enough earlier in the year to build themselves a nice cushion, and still escaped the regular season with the #2 seed and a first round bye. Fans who had watched New England drop back-to-back games against the Dolphins and Jets to close out the regular season were relying on one thing: that the New England offense would be back into form by playoff time.
The AFC Divisional game between the Patriots and Chiefs took place on January 16th, 2015 at Foxboro. KC had absolutely spanked the Texans, 30-0 the week before down in Houston, and were thus riding a ton of momentum - not to mention a winning streak that extended all the way back to Week 7 of the regular season. New England, on the other hand...well, no need to get into all of that again.
Usually, the Patriots prefer to defer to the second half and an opportunity to score back-to-back to start and end the quarters. But in this case, it's for the best that they got the ball to start the game, as it gave them an opportunity to make a statement. And make a statement they did, with an 11 play, 80 yard drive that ended with Gronk in the end zone. Of the 11 plays, exactly zero were called runs, and Tommy B just marched on down the field with his offensive weapons, sans Dion Lewis, finally healthy once again. Similarly, the New England defense was more or less back in business, and a KC team that had more or less scored at will the week before was held to just a pair of field goals in the first half. The Patriots, however, put together another monster TD drive, this one going 98 yards on 11 plays that ended on consecutive Brady scrambles for 10 yards and the score, respectively. The 14-6 lead the Patriots took into the locker room is one that they would never relinquish, and the stranglehold on the game came pretty early in the third quarter, when a pass to Knile Davis was stripped out of his hands by Chandler Jones and recovered by Dont'a Hightower for a huge change of possession. The Patriots were able to capitalize on the turnover with a five play, 69 yard drive that saw Gronk score his 2nd TD of the game (fitting given the length of the drive) and Tommy B extend his own NFL record of 2+ passing TD postseason games to 17. With the score 21-6 with only a quarter and a half to play, it was just a matter of leaning on the clock and forcing KC to play catch-up.
To their credit, the Chiefs didn't roll over. They scored a TD on their very next possession to bring the score to 21-13, then held New England to two FGs and a punt for their final three possessions. They also scored another late TD, and almost had the chance for a pick-six to tie it when a boneheaded Tom Brady throw bounced right off of Tamba Hali and into the waiting arms of Julian Edelman, which allowed the Patriots to kneel and run out the clock. However, the rally was too little, too late, and the Patriots just had too many weapons on the day as they headed off to yet another AFC Championship Game.
Ultimately, New England would fall short of repeating as champions, due to a stifling Denver defense, a thunderous Denver crowd, and Tom Brady's simple inability to win games at Mile High - however, for the moment at least, the Patriots were officially back in business and all was right with the world. There are few things better than a playoff win at home coming off a bye, and that goes double when you spend the last six weeks of the regular season watching your team hobble around the field as you pine for the squad that was. It was a great win, a great time, and a great moment, so it just barely misses out on the Top 5.
Check out game highlights here.