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The Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2016: Number 9

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Our offseason countdown continues with the Number 9 Most Memorable Moment of the 2016 season.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

We're already into the single digits. How crazy is that?

I always get especially excited when we find ourselves inside the Top 10, as these moments not only represent the best of the best, but it also means that the start of the regular season isn't too far away. Not only that, but the countdown of the Top 10 usually starts around this time every year, which also coincides with the start of summer and three whole months of sun, surf, shandy, and all kinds of delicious grilled meats.

Our Number 9 Most Memorable Moment of 2016 takes us right to the end of the season and into the playoffs, a privilege for most franchises, but business as usual for New England. But before we get there, 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.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.
11. Tom Brady hits Chris Hogan for a 79 yard TD to ice the game against the Baltimore Ravens.
10. Rob Gronkowski sets a Patriots All-Time receiving TD record by notching his 69th against the Buffalo Bills.

The first single digit moment on the countdown, appropriately, takes us to the first playoff game of the season for the Patriots.

9. A kickoff return for a TD highlights a historic night for Dion Lewis in the AFC Divisional Round against the Houston Texans.

Anybody who has watched the Patriots in the playoffs over the last few years knows that they have had a tendency in the past to come out of the bye a little rusty. While the week off is always a good thing at the end of the day, a genuine concern for Patriots fans is always whether or not this team will be able to wake up in time to get the job done to defend Gillette Stadium and make it to the AFC Championship Game. Those concerns once again reared their ugly head when the Houston Texans came to Foxboro on January 14th, 2017 for the AFC Divisional playoffs. Houston was able to take down a David Carr-less Raiders team, 27-14, in the Wild Card Round, and were coming to Gillette hoping to shock the world.

Luckily for the Patriots, who once again came out flat and rusty, the Texans simply couldn't get anything going offensively, as Tommy B was inaccurate and sloppy for much of the first half. New England's first possession was a three and out, and then a questionable DPI call on a Chris Hogan deep ball helped set up an easy catch and run from Dion Lewis to put the Pats up 7-0. Their next five possessions would go as follows: interception, fumble, punt, punt, field goal to take a 17-3 lead into halftime. Overall, a pretty lousy 1st half for the offense.

But if the possessions all ended so horribly, how was the score 17-3?

The Texans were actually able to get a drive going following Lewis's first touchdown of the day, a 14 play, 62 yard effort that ate up over eight minutes of clock. The ensuing kickoff, however, went to the man who had put up New England's only points at the time, and what he did with the ball was nothing short of remarkable.

Fielding the ball at the two yard line and close to the left sideline, Lewis started up the field behind a two man wedge. He was able to weave through traffic untouched until the 30 yard line, where he dodged a tackle attempt by CB Dee Virgin before streaking upfield. LB Brian Peters tried to catch him, but it was a huge mismatch at that point and Lewis strolled into the end zone untouched the rest of the way for a 98 yard return. Former Patriots Special Teams legend, now Texans Special Teams Coach Larry Izzo could be seen on the sidelines  with his arms crossed in frustration as Patriots players celebrated in the end zone.

Given the way the game was going and continued to go, to have points come on special teams was especially huge. Houston's defense had an excellent gameplan going in and had New England's offense stymied for much of the contest, so this was a great example of other elements of the team stepping up when they were needed. Dion Lewis ended up having a career game; he would go on to add a rushing TD to this game, becoming the first player in NFL history with a postseason rushing, receiving, and special teams touchdown. he scored 18 of New England's 34 points on the day, including the final score of the game which completely put it out of reach. As we know all to well at this point, running backs have kind of played a big role in New England postseasons over the past few years, and Dion Lewis kicked off a pretty nice little 2016 season streak with this performance. Combined with the fact that he became the first player in league history to score a rushing, receiving, and return TD, then he's very well-slated at the Number 9 spot.

See the kick return here.

Full playoff highlights here.