The NFL Scouting Combine is officially underway, which means it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2018 season. Which, ironically, is also as good a time as any to start looking back at the 2017 season. Let the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2017 begin!
And we begin at the end, as it were - the end of the regular season.
20. Back-to-back touchdowns before the half against the New York Jets help the Patriots secure the #1 Seed in the AFC.
Week 17 of the season saw the Patriots closing out their year at home against the 5-10 New York Jets. New England, sitting at 12-3, would clinch the #1 seed in the AFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win, whereas the Jets were hoping to play spoiler and give the Pittsburgh Steelers, hosting the 0-15 Cleveland Browns, a chance to bump the Patriots down to the 2 seed with a win. The Patriots had absolutely stomped the Buffalo Bills 37-16 the week before, whereas the Jets were riding a three game losing streak and hoping to finish their 2017 campaign with at least something positive to take into the offseason.
Unfortunately for New York, that wasn’t going to happen.
New England got the ball to start the game and engineered a 13 play, 75 yard drive that was more or less the Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola show. A quick Lewis 3 yard run, and the score was 7-0. The Jets went all of 5 yards on their first possession before punting it back to the Patriots, and this game looked to be over before it even started. However, the New York defense stiffened, and the Patriots were forced to punt on their next three possessions. The Jets were able to sneak a field goal in there to bring the score to 7-3, and as the clock wound down to approach halftime, New England got the ball back in hopes of regaining some of that early momentum.
New England’s final two drives of the first half both resulted in touchdowns. The first, 10 plays and 73 yards that ended with a five yard completion to Brandin Cooks, took 4 minutes and 23 seconds and put the Pats up 14-3. The defense held the Jets to a total of -9 yards on their ensuing possession, as Bilal Powell was stuffed in the backfield on 2nd down and Bryce Petty was sacked for a loss of 8 on third down. The Patriots got the ball back on their own 42 with just over 2 minutes left to play.
One minute and 41 seconds later, they were back in the end zone. Tommy B started the drive off by hitting Philip Dorsett for 11 yards, followed by a pair of Brandon Bolden runs. A defensive holding penalty kept the drive alive on 3rd down, and then a completion to Dion Lewis and and end-around to Cooks brought the Patriots down to the Jets’ 5 yard line. With 20 seconds to go, Brady hit Lewis out in the flat for the five yard score. 21-3 at the half. Ballgame.
The second half of this game was profoundly boring and saw a combined 8 points scored. New England’s defense kept Petty confused and unable to do anything; of the Jets’ seven 2nd half possessions, five of them were three and outs. On offense, New England’s longest drive went six plays, as they more or less either ran it up the gut or took deep shots downfield as they transitioned into a vanilla, nobody-get-hurt scheme. By the time the final whistle blew, the Patriots had won 26-6, clinched the #1 seed, and coasted into the postseason knowing they had a week off and they wouldn’t have to travel until February.
And while the game itself was a predictable snoozer in terms of big-picture, the fact that it a) clinched the #1 seed for the Patriots AGAIN, b) secured a remarkable 7th 13-win season for the Patriots, c) represented Bill Belichick’s 250th regular season win, tying him with Tom Landry for 3rd all-time, and d) gave Tommy B his 13th win after age 40, tying him with Brett Favre for most all-time, I think it’s well worth cracking the Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2017. And New England showed their ability to score quickly, score often, and keep their foot on the gas when they needed points, which was a nice way to once again stomp the Jets into Bolivian. The win was a great way to close out the regular season, keep optimism alive for the playoffs, and stick it to an old rival.
Full game highlights here.