So much for a down period in terms of Patriots news.
March is usually the time of the year where I'm able to get quite a few of the Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2016 up and running...but not this year. The Patriots have been one of the most active teams in the league in terms of Free Agency, and because of that myself and my fellow staff writers can't even keep up with all these moves. So our offseason countdown has taken a bit of a backseat as of late - but you know what? I'm certainly not complaining. And neither is Dont'a Hightower and Brandin Cooks. I'm hoping that we have enough time in between all the recent action to get this Number 19 Moment out today - but then again, who knows.
But before we get to Number 19, the list so far:
20. The New England Patriots trade all-star linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland for a bag of peanuts.
As for what's next: to be perfectly honest, there are some other Patriots moments out there that didn't make the final cut that should probably be on here instead of what's about to come. My Number 19 Moment isn't all that spectacular when placed against some of the others that you'll all see in the Honorable Mention Article that I'll post between the #2 Moment and the #1 Moment. However, I always make sure to put at least one moment in every Top 20 that comes on the heels of a loss, and this year is no exception. The Patriots lose games every year, and since this countdown is meant to represent a snapshot of the 2016 season as a whole, I have to ensure that there's a loss factored in somewhere. And since the Patriots only lost one game this year with Tom Brady under center, I have a fairly limited pool to select from. The good news is that, even though the Patriots did drop this game, the Number 19 Most Memorable Moment of 2016 was still pretty awesome.
19..19. LeGarrette Blount runs through the entire Seahawks line on his way to the end zone.
Up until fairly recently, having a bye week meant two weeks to prepare for the next opponent as players got some much-needed rest and time off. The Patriots coming off a bye were rejuvenated, motivated, and ready to put the league on notice heading into the second half of the season. However, as of late, the Patriots have tended to look rusty and sluggish after a bye week, both in the regular season and postseason, and this past year was no different. New England played two games after a week off this past year; one came against the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round in which the Patriots were lucky they weren't up against an opponent with a more competent offense. The other came in Week 10 of the regular season, when the Seattle Seahawks came to Gillette on the heels of a 31-25 home win against the Buffalo Bills that was a lot closer than everyone thought it was going to be. The 2016 Seahawks were something of a mixed bag; they flashed at times, but struggled at others, and had already put up a couple of clunkers that included a 9-3 loss to the Rams, a 6-6 tie against the Cardinals, and a 25-20 loss to the Saints. The general consensus was that the Patriots, who had obliterated the Bills 41-25 in Week 8, would be able to move the ball against a solid, albeit inconsistent, Seattle D. The read question was what the Patriots defense was going to be able to do against a competent quarterback; the only QB of note they had faced at that point in the year was Carson Palmer.
The answer, it turns out, was not much; Seattle put up 31 points on the Patriots, the most points they would surrender for the entire season. Russell Wilson went 25-37 for 348 yards and 3 TDs, with a 9.4 yards per pass average. C.J, Prossise and Christine Michael combined for 88 yards rushing, and Seattle didn't turn the ball over once. The Patriots, however, gave it up twice; once on Tom Brady's first interception of the season, and the other on a Julian Edelman fumble, the latte of which resulted in a Seattle touchdown. The time of possession was almost exactly even, but the bottom line is that Seattle made more plays and did enough to win. The Patriots were able to mount a comeback and were almost able to tie it late, but an impressive goal line stand from the Seahawks allowed them to walk away with a 31-24 win. Some folks complained about some contact on Rob Gronkowski on the final play of the game, as he and Kam Chancellor were both battling for the ball and there was some contact, but you never want a game to be decided because of the refs, and there was enough back-and-forth between the two that the no-flag was ultimately the right call. It was the last game the Patriots would lose that year - but it was also a rare home loss, after a bye, to a team with a good quarterback. It did little to assuage any worries that were floating around about New England not really being tested yet.
Two positives came out of that loss, however. The first was that the Seahawks game represented the last time that the Patriots defense gave up more than two touchdowns in a game (yes, the Ravens scored 23, but the defense was put in a borderline impossible situation twice on botched kicks, so it's tough to really count that); whatever happened against Seattle, they certainly addressed it going forward. And the second was one of the more memorable plays of the 2016 season, courtesy of LeGarrette Blount.
Down 12-7 late in the 2nd quarter, the Patriots defense was able to force a punt after a Tommy B pick intended for Malcolm Mitchell fell into the hands of Earl Thomas. In a drive that started from the 19 yard line, a solid mix of run and pass got the Pats all the way down to the Seattle one yard line, where they faced a 1st and goal with just over a minute to play in the half.
New England came out in a Jumbo Package with Cam Fleming reporting as an eligible receiver. Gronk and Bennett were both lined up on the strong side before Brady motioned him over to the left, taking Earl Thomas with him. The Patriots were showing run, and Seattle knew it. At the snap the entire Seahawks D crashed the line as the Patriots all blocked right. Blount took the handoff, looking to bounce off-tackle and into the end zone via the edge. However, K.J. Wright was able to penetrate the backfield and smother Blount's initial running lane, forcing him to cut in and try to get into the end zone through the middle. He was met at the goal line by a wall of Seahawks, who stood him up and attempted to push him back. Blount, however, kept his legs churning, and instead of moving backwards, the scrum of players began moving sideways instead. Kam Chancellor joined the pile, as did a number of Patriots players, and the whole mess just kept on moving sideways. Blount simply wouldn't go down. He eventually ground his way all the way to the outside - his original running lane, ironically - and collapsed into the end zone to give the Patriots the lead, capping off the play with the Gronkiest spike you'll ever see.
Unfortunately, Seattle would march right down the field and score before the half, and the Patriots would go on to lose the game. But what a massive display of power this was. It was vintage LeGarrette Blount, the kind of run he's good for a few times a year, and exactly what the Patriots had in mind when they first signed him. It doesn't always come with a win - but even in a loss, you have to appreciate that kind of power, especially coming against a defense that made a name for itself by being the one who imposes its will.
Check out the play here.
Full game highlights here.
And don't worry - it's all wins from here on out. And just in case reliving this Seahawks game left a bad taste in your mouth...here you go.