Another relatively slow news week in Patriots Nation, so there's no better time to check off another moment in our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Moments of 2016!
The list so far:
20. The New England Patriots trade Jamie Collins to Cleveland for a bag of peanuts.
19. LeGarrette Blount runs through the entire Seahawka line on his way to the end zone.
18. A Chris Long strip sack helps to ice the game against the New York Jets.
The Number 17 Moment is particularly timely this week, given that we all learned that Roger Goodell will allegedly be returning to Foxboro for the kickoff game of the 2017 season. I think it's safe to say that Gillette Stadium will be a ...let's just say...hostile environment on September 7th. And speaking of hostile environments, that's exactly what makes Number 17 such a sweet one.
17. The Patriots defense shuts down Trevor Siemean and the Denver Broncos on the road.
Ah, Denver. That Mile High Stadium full of rowdy fans, thin air, and Patriots losses. For whatever reason, Denver has historically been the place that has given Tom Brady and Bill Belichick the most problems over the years. It's the one stadium where Brady turns human. So it didn't really matter that the Broncos were kind of having a down year and were just coming off a 13-10 road loss to the Tennessee Titans. This was just one of those games that a lot of folks had pegged down as an L, solely because of where it was being played. If the Trevor Siemean-led Broncos were coming to Foxboro, then there may not have been too much cause for concern. But since it was Mile High, and Tommy B was 2-9 there all time...there was just something about this one that didn't sit right with anyone.
And it certainly didn't start well, as the Patriots went three and out on their opening possession and were forced to punt. And even after a Norwood muff on the kick gave the Patriots the ball back at the 31, they went three and out again and had to settle for a field goal. In fact, the Patriots didn't even register their first 1st down until almost 10 minutes had transpired in the first quarter, but that drive stalled out when a pass intended for James White fell ...wait for it...IN-COM-PLETE (very clever, guys). Yet another New England punt made it seem like this was going to be an extremely low scoring affair.
With the score knotted up at 3-3, Denver finally got a drive going. Starting from his own seven yard line, Siemian was able to drive 79 yards on 11 plays, down to the New England 14, highlighted by an absolutely beautiful 31 yard catch and run by tight end Jeff Heuerman. The Broncos hadn't even needed a third down on this drive and seemed poised to take a lead their stifling defense may never relinquish. The Patriots were able to stiffen up, however, and Siemian finally found himself facing a 3rd and 3 from the New England 14. A pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders was jumped by Logan Ryan, who picked it off and returned it 42 yards to the Denver 46. Seven plays later, Bliunt was able to punch the ball in from the one yard line to put New England up 10-3.
Blount's TD would turn out to be the only one of the entire game, for both sides. The Patriots were able to put two more field goals on the board, but wouldn't sniff the end zone for the rest of the day. Brady finished his day 16/32 for just 188 yards. The story of the day was the New England defense, who held the Broncos scoreless for three quarters. Of course, the Denver offense struggled all season, so if there are any Broncos fans reading this right now who feels like mentioning how the classless Chreatriots fans are gloating over shutting down a weak Denver offense, you guys have at it. But the bottom line is that shutting anybody out, regardless of talent level, is extremely impressive in the National Football League. Even if you're playing against a third string rookie QB with a ruined thumb on his throwing hand, shutting out an opponent is a recognizable feat. And to do it in Denver, where the Patriots have struggled so much as of late, made for an extremely sweet victory. It was also yet another testament to a defense that very much came into its own over the latter half of the season. In addition to Logan Ryan's interception, the Patriots forced a fumble, registered four sacks, and laid the hit stick on the Broncos receivers, including a drive-killing shot to Demaryius Thomas by Devin McCourty on 4th and 2 which knocked the ball clean out of his hands. New England imposed its will on Denver, on the road, so even with Tommy B not having his best day, the Patriots were able to come away with a win.
Not only that, but the victory clinched the AFC East for a record eighth consecutive year and all but solidified a first round bye for the Patriots. The Broncos, on the other hand, dropped to 8-6 on the year and dropped out of playoff contention because of the loss; they would eventually miss the postseason altogether, with the Miami Dolphins taking their place. That alone should be enough to put this performance on this list, but with the combination of strong defense and a road win where the Patriots always seem to lose, this one was a no-brainer.
Game highlights here.