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The Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2016: Number 5

Our offseason countdown continues with the Number 5 Most Memorable Moment of the 2016 season.

Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are at last. The coveted Top 5. The Creme de la Creme. All places I have never finished in any contest that wasn't eating related. I've been eagerly anticipating this part of my countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2016 since February, and I'm incredibly stoked that it's finally here.

But before we dive in, 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.
9. A kickoff return for a TD highlights a historic night for Dion Lewis in the AFC Divisional Round against the Houston Texans.
8. Dont'a Hightower blows up Andy Dalton for a safety to give the Patriots some much-needed momentum against the Cincinnati Bengals.
7. Michael Floyd decapitates Tony Lippett to spring Julian Edelman for a 77 yard touchdown.
6. A Jacoby Brissett naked bootleg highlights a Thursday night shutout of the Houston Texans.

To kick off the Top 5, we go to Week 5, and the return of the Top One.

5. Tom Brady returns from suspension to the tune of 406 yards and 3 TDs in an absolute beatdown of the Cleveland Browns.

Usually, a 1 PM matchup between a perennial AFC Powerhouse and a perennial AFC bottom dweller is about as far as it gets from must-see TV. However, when the New England Patriots traveled to Cleveland on October 9th, 2016 to play the Browns, there were way more eyes on the game than anyone had any business having. It was, after all, Tom Brady's first game back from his Deflategate suspension. A two year long saga of the utmost absurdity was finally reaching its pitiful conclusion. The world had waited with bated breath for the Pats to stumble, but New England had gone a remarkable 3-1 without Brady under center. Now he was back, healthy, rested, and ready to roll.

Of course, there were some questions. Would Brady be rusty? How would the team chemistry be? With Brady not allowed to even set foot at Gillette Stadium during the suspension, what kind of shape would he be in? He had been spending his month off doing things other than football, so how long would it take him to adjust?

The answer to that last question turned out to be no time at all.

Brady came out from the jump and was absolutely masterful. He engineered TD drives on his first three possessions as he picked Cleveland apart. Brady threw the ball a whopping 40 times, completing 28, for 406 yards, no picks, and a QB rating of 127.7. Two receivers had 100+ yard days (Hogan and Gronk), two more had 60+ yard days (Bennett and James White), and Martellus Bennett caught all three Brady TD passes. Brady was accurate, decisive, and it was as if he'd never left. New England cruised to a 33-13 victory that wasn't even that close, improved to 4-1 on the year, and every other team in the league let out a collective groan. Not only was Brady four weeks more rested than every other quarterback, but he didn't miss a beat while he was away, and he was as motivated as ever to pursue yet another Super Bowl title.

And over in Patriots Nation, fans couldn't have been happier about it.

Think about how you were feeling seeing Brady return. Think about what your confidence level was going into the remaining stretch of games. Think about how good it felt to have Brady hit the ground running and put the league on notice. I'm still amped up from this game all these months later, as it was one of the more satisfying regular season wins I can remember experiencing as a fan.

Was it an overly exciting game? Not particularly. Is beating the Cleveland Browns anything to brag about? Of course not. But this Top 20 list isn't just about big plays and highlight-reel feats of athleticism; it's a representation of the season as a whole, a microcosm of every emotion and inclination we experienced as fans. And one thing I know that I'll remember for the rest of my life is the day that Tommy B returned from his suspension and began his campaign to leave the entire NFL groveling at his feet. Even though it was Week 5, in a lot of ways the 2016 Patriots season started on October 9th when Brady took the field for the first time. The change in attitude and atmosphere was palpable. It was an historic moment in NFL history, for all the wrong reasons, and the only word to describe it was awesome. Sometimes a moment is about much more than just the game itself, which is why the Return of Brady is well-deserved here at Number 5.

Check out Pats/Browns highlights here.