And then there were two.
Just one more entry after this one and it will be time to wrap up another Top 20 Countdown. I can't believe how quickly this offseason has gone by and that tomorrow we'll all be settling in to watch the first Patriots preseason game of the year. But we aren't quite there yet, so let's close out this countdown strong.
The list so far:
20. In the span of two weeks, the Patriots make two trades to acquire Keshawn Martin and Akiem Hicks.
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.
6. The Patriots offense comes back in style against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round.
5. Judge Berman overrules Roger Goodell and Tom Brady is allowed to play.
4. The Buffalo Bills lose their Week 2 Super Bowl in spectacular fashion.
3. Dion Lewis makes a one-handed grab and jukes out the entire Cowboys D on his way to the end zone.
The Number Two Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2015 is pretty special on its own, but given who it was against, there's all the more reason to rank it so high.
2. The Patriots exorcise some old demons and finally beat the New York Giants in dramatic fashion.
November 15, 2015. The 8-0 Patriots traveled to New Jersey to take on the team responsible for Tommy B's two Super Bowl losses. Not only had the Giants handed the Patriots the two biggest defeats in team history, they also managed to pull off a miracle regular season win the last time the two teams met in 2011, a 24-20 victory that came off a last-minute TD courtesy of a crazy catch by Jake Ballard. For whatever reason, the Giants not only beat the Patriots, they beat them off of some of the most ridiculous plays you will ever see - the kind of plays that could ever happen again in a million years. Patriots fans, coming in to this game, were almost resigned to the fact that New England was going to once again lose this one in unbelievable fashion and the karma train would keep rolling on.
And it certainly seemed that way right from the beginning. After an absolutely beautiful eight play, 80 yard drive that resulted in a touchdown and took over eight minutes off the clock, the Giants answered with a score of their own in just two plays, the latter of which being an 87 yard catch and run from Odell Beckham that represented the longest scoring play ever conceded in the Bill Belichick era. And here we go again.
As it has always been, the game was something of a defensive battle; in spite of the first drives by each team, it was mostly punts and field goals for the rest of the first half. New York was able to sneak into the endzone just before halftime to go up 17-10, but for the most part defense ruled the day (especially considering that Julian Edelman broke his foot relatively early on, thus completely short-circuiting the offensive scheme).
The second half saw each team find their rhythm a little more, generate some turnovers, and put some points on the board. The Patriots defense successfully kept the Giants out of the end zone for the entire second half, but they did tack on nine points via field goal. The Patriots, however, found the end zone twice, including a 76 yard Brady to Gronk strike made possible largely via Brandon Merriweather's patented horrendous angle. As the clock wound down in the 4th quarter, the Patriots were clinging to a 24-23 lead with possession and the chance to more or less ice the game with a touchdown. Tommy B drove the team 76 yards on eight plays, and on 2nd and goal from the 5 with just over six minutes to play, perhaps for the first time all game, Patriots fans allowed the thought of a win to enter their minds.
This is the Giants we're talking about here, though, so of course Brady threw an interception that gave New York the ball back at their own 1. Eli Manning was 99 yards away from the game-winning score.
At that point, the question on everyone in New England's mind wasn't if he was going to make it happen; it was how he was going to make it happen. What was the play going to be that ripped our collective guts out this time? A bobble and catch? A dropped interception that fell right into a receiver's hands? A fumble that the Patriots recovered only to be called back for defensive holding? It would turn out that none of these things occurred; Manning just drove the Giants down the field methodically to set up a 1st and goal at the five with 2:06 left on the clock. New England only had one time out, and would only be able to stop the clock once after the two minute warning. New York could run it a few times, kneel, and then kick a chip shot to go up two and give New England less than a minute to answer back with no timeouts.
The Giants, however, wanted to go for the TD, and it appeared that they had it on their very first play, a quick strike to Beckham in the end zone. Upon further review, however, the cal was overturned, as Beckham didn't have possession for long enough before Malcolm Butler knocked it out of his hands.
Before I continue, I want to give a massive amount of credit to Butler for this game. Other than the long completion for the touchdown, which was just as much Devin McCourty's fault for taking a bad angle, Butler held Beckham to three catches for 17 yards, and made the pass breakup that ended up being the deciding factor. His amazing story gets a new chapter each and every year.
The Beckham play only took five seconds off the clock, meaning the Giants had to run another one before the two minute warning. An incompletion followed by a huge sack of Manning by Malcom Brown meant that the Patriots had 1:47 to regain the lead after Josh Brown kicked a 29 yard field goal to put the Giants up 26-24.
Brady started the drive from the 20 after a touchback. His very first pass, a deep in to Aaron Dobson, was seemingly intercepted by Landon Collins. However, Collins was unable to hold onto the ball as he hit the turf, and the Pats got a second chance. 2nd down was an incomplete pass to Brandon LaFell, and 3rd down fell incomplete as well. Facing 4th and 10 from their own 20, Brady was able to hit Danny Amendola over the middle for 12 yards and a new set of downs. The clock continued to wind down.
Brady hit Gronk for seven, then Dobson for five. Amendola picked up 11, and then another nine to bring the ball to the Giants 36 with 19 seconds to go. Tommy B spiked it with six seconds left to bring Stephen Gostkowski out to attempt a 54 yard field goal.
Gostkowski is one of the best kickers in the league and has filled in admirably for Adam Vinatieri. His accuracy and consistence are unparalleled in the NFL right now. However, the big knock on him was that he had never made a clutch kick. Sure, he has had some game winners in the past, but they were all relatively easy makes, and given the fact that his predecessor is the most clutch kicker in NFL history, it was always something of a black mark hanging over Ghost's head that he had never won the Patriots a game with a monster field goal.
Facing a 54 yard kick, into the wind, against the New York Giants...that certainly represented a good opportunity to put that talk to rest.
A timeout from new York to ice the kicker. Then the snap. The kick. It started out right down the middle, then started to veer left. It continued to veer left, looked destined to bounce off the post. Another game, another insane loss.
But it didn't bounce off the post. It stayed true, hugged the left corner of the uprights, and sailed through. Patriots 27, Giants 26.
Of course, there was still one second on the clock, and given how this is Pats/Giants, it wasn't truly over until Beckham was pushed out of bounds after a crazy series of laterals. Relief. Victory. Patriots went to 9-0, Giants moved to 5-5.
Does a Week 10 regular season win even come close to what the Giants were able to accomplish against the Patriots in two Super Bowls? Of course not. You'd be hard pressed to find a Giants fan who has a problem with the Pats, because no matter what happens from here on out, they will always have 2007 and 2011 to look back on. However, from a Patriots perspective, this game was proof that New England is in fact capable of beating the Giants, despite what history would have you believe. And while it certainly didn't take any of the sting away from those Super Bowls, it was an extremely satisfying win and well ranked at Number 2.
Game highlights here.