It's almost summer! We're almost into June! It's almost the deadest time of the year for football news! And we're almost into the Top 10 on our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2016!
But last time I checked, before 10 comes 11, so we aren't quite there yet. Think of 11 as the Number One Moment of the non-Top 10, which makes this one pretty damn important.
But first, 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 Seahawks line on his way to the end zone.
18. A Chris Long strip sack helps to ice the game against the New York Jets.
17. The Patriots defense shuts down Trevor Siemian and the Denver Broncos on the road.
16. LeGarrette Blount owns Byron Maxwell with an epic hurdle.
15. A different kind of Malcolm Go highlights a convincing road win against the San Francisco 49ers.
14. Chris Hogan finds some nice redemption against his old team in the form of a beautiful 53 yard TD.
13. Shea McClellin leaps the line to block a FG against the Baltimore Ravens.
12. LeGarrette Blount sets a franchise record with his 15th rushing TD of the year against the Denver Broncos.
At Number 11, we have one of my favorite plays of the entire year. I realize that I've been saying that a lot as I blast through these bad boys, but what can you do.
11. Tom Brady hits Chris Hogan for a 79 yard TD to ice the game against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens have been the closest thing the New England Patriots have had to a legitimate rival for some time. The AFC East has more or less been New England's for the taking since the turn of the century, and The Manning/Brady rivalry was really more about the players than the teams they played for - as evidenced by the fact that I often forget that the Colts even exist nowadays. Baltimore, however, is just one of those teams that always plays the Patriots tough; they aren't scared to come to Foxboro, they know how to hit you in the mouth, and Pats/Ravens is almost always guaranteed to be a great game. The Patriots and Ravens have been trending in different directions as of late, but none of that really matters when these two teams face off.
2016 saw the 7-5 Ravens head to Gillette for a Monday Night matchup against the 10-2 Patriots in Week 14. Baltimore had just absolutely destroyed the Miami Dolphins 38-6 as their playoff push began in earnest, wheras the Patriots had just yawned their way to a 26-10 home win over the Rams. The stage was set for what some were predicting to be yet another AFC Championship preview.
As far as Pats vs. Ravens games go, this one was somewhat lackluster for much of the contest. New England was able to jump out to a 16-3 lead at half courtesy of stout defense, strong special teams play, and a balanced offensive gameplan. They were able to increase that lead to 26-3 after forcing a 3 and out to start the third quarter, only to answer with a seven play, 65 yard drive that ended with a one yard Malcolm touchdown reception. When the Patriots forced yet another 3 and out on Baltimore's next possession, they looked poised to blow the game wide open.
However, in what became something of a theme in 2016, rookie Cyrus Jones muffed the kick, and Baltimore was able to recover on the three yard line. Two plays later, Joe Flacco found Darren Waller for the score to make it 23-10. On the ensuing kickoff, Matthew Slater fumbled the return, giving Baltimore the ball back at the New England 22. Kenneth Dixon was able to punch it in, and suddenly the Ravens were only down by 6, courtesy of two massive special teams gaffes. When Dion Lewis knelt in the end zone for the touchback on the ensuing kickoff, the Gillette fans cheered.
New England and Baltimore traded punts for the rest of the third quarter, and then Baltimore was able to add a field goal with about seven minutes left in the game to pull within three. Since the back-to-back fumbles, the Patriots offense had run a grand total of eight offensive plays, and all the momentum they had early in the game seemed to be completely gone. The offense needed a spark in order to preserve this victory.
With the score 23-20, Justin Tucker kicked off to the Patriots, and James White returned the ball 18 yards to the 21. On 1st and 10, Brady lined up in a 3WR set with Julian Edelman the lone receiver on the left side, in the slot next to an offset Martellus Bennett. The Patriots had been running a number of draw plays out of this formation up to this point, and with the Ravens in a 5-2 Nickel package, safety Eric Weddle started inching closer to the line in order to provide run support for a potential LeGarrette Blount run.
Pretty much every single Raven bit on the playfake. Both linebackers started to crash the line, as did the safeties, only to stop and retreat after seeing that it was a playaction pass. It was too late at that point, though, as Hogan was already streaking down the field. Tommy B hit him perfectly in stride as he ran, wide open and untouched, into the end zone for a 79 yard score. Patriots 30, Ravens 20. Baltimore would add another FG late, but it wasn't enough. New England was able to hang on, overcome some costly errors, and improve to 11-2 on the season. Baltimore would drop to 7-6 and eventually miss the postseason altogether.
This play makes the list for a few reasons. One, it's a long bomb for a score, and those plays are always exciting. Two, it came against the Ravens and dashed any hopes they may have had for a comeback. Three, it's just a really fun play to watch, and one of those plays that you see on pretty much every 2016 season highlight compilation that's currently out there. And four, if you watch the Patriots Mic'd Up video against the Ravens, Brady approaches Hogan over on the sidelines after the score and says "I was hoping you saw that sh**!" as they embrace in celebration. It was clearly a case were quarterback and receiver diagnosed the defense pre-snap, saw the same thing, and were able to connect perfectly for the score. I would love to know if Hogan was initially supposed to run the Go, or if the initial playcall had him on some sort of in-cut or sitdown route that he and Brady audibled without even needing to communicate. Whatever the case, seeing a QB and receiver that in sync is awesome, and so this was a no-brainer to make this list at Number 11.
Check out the play here.
Full game highlights here.