Some of you are working today. Some of you are enjoying a day off. And some of you have the day off, but are very hungry and will likely be at church for quite a while. But it’s almost April, which means that - in theory, at least - the weather will FINALLY be nice enough to enjoy two consecutive days outdoors. Plus, it’s baseball season! So what better time to continue our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2017.
The list so far:
20. Back-to-back touchdowns before the half against the New York Jets help the Patriots secure the #1 Seed in the AFC.
19. A one-handed Dion Lewis grab is pretty much the only thing that goes right against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.
18. The Patriots pick up James Harrison.
And since we’re already on the subject of James Harrison, we may as well stay with him for a bit longer as we relive the immediate contribution he made to the defense.
17. A safety and a strip sack to help secure the Number 1 Seed in the AFC against the New York Jets.
In Patriots Nation, we prefer it when Week 17 rolls around and the Pats have nothing to play for, having already locked up a bye and homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by then. However, that isn’t always the case, and courtesy of their annual stinker against the Dolphins in Miami the week before, the Patriots and Steelers were tied with identical records heading into the last week of the season. New England held the head-to-head tiebreaker, but still very much needed to win their Week 17 matchup against the Jets, as the Steelers were all but a lock to beat the 0-15 Cleveland Browns. The Jets had absolutely nothing to play for at that point other than spoiler, but upsetting the Patriots at home to knock them out of the one spot would represent a great way to head into the offseason.
Of course, it wasn’t meant to be, as the Patriots rolled to a 26-6 victory that wasn’t even that close. The Jets failed to produce even 200 yards of total offense, and the Patriots took a 21-3 lead into the locker room at halftime that they would more or less sit on for the rest of the game. Very little of note happened for either side in the third and fourth quarter as New England cruised to the one seed.
The exception, of course, came on defense. Late in the 4th quarter with the Patriots leading 24-6, New York faced a 3rd and 7 at their own 7 after a beautiful Ryan Allen punt pinned them deep in their own territory. The Jets had more or less given up on the day as they continued to run the ball, down 18 with under seven minutes to play, but with Bryce Petty under center, Todd Bowles seemed to want to use the opportunity to see what he had in the young quarterback, so he decided to give Petty the reigns to call plays as he saw fit. On that 3rd and 7, Petty stayed in a 4WR shotgun set against a Patriots front that was clearly showing blitz, six men on the line and corners tight in press man. He didn’t call an audible or motion to a hot route - which means that when he took the snap and the defenders actually dropped into coverage, only rushing four, all of his outlets were covered. As he looked for an open man and began rolling to his right, Bills castoff Eric Lee beat his man and wrapped Petty up for the safety. Petty more or less walked right into Lee as the pocket started to collapse, giving the Patriots another two points and the ball back. It was a great defensive play, a nice cap on a dominant performance, and a sweet little confidence boost heading into a postseason where pass rush was still a concern.
A nice exclamation point came on the Jets very next possession. The Patriots did nothing with the ball after the free kick, the game well in hand at that point and more concerned about managing health and ensuring no last-minute injury derailed the playoff campaign. And in Petty’s defense, he actually made some very nice throws on what was likely his last drive ever as a Jets starter, including a beautiful 12 yard strike on 4th and 10 to keep the drive alive. However, with the Jets finally driving into Patriots territory, newly acquired James Harrison came off the edge on 1st and 10 and registered a strip sack for a nine yard loss. On the very next play, Harrison sacked Petty again for another loss, which was enough to let the clock run out on this game.
For anyone who watched the 2017 season, I don’t have to remind you that defense was a big concern. And it was the defense that ultimately ended up costing the Patriots their sixth Super Bowl. However, that day, with the season coming to close and late additions both putting up defensive points and causing fumbles, it was a great feeling. It was hope that the D was coming into its own at exactly the right time, bolstered by players from team rivals, and that hope is more than good enough to get the last few minutes of what was an otherwise completely forgettable game here on the list at 17.
Game highlights here.