It’s almost time to turn our full focus on the 2018 NFL Draft as why try to predict which rotational safety from a D3 school Bill Belichick will be taking with his first second round pick, which means there is real football news to report on. So before things get legit, let’s 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 Patriotssecure 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.
17. A safety and a strip sack to help secure the Number 1 Seed in the AFC against the New York Jets.
16. Gronk’s inner caveman finally reveals itself and gets him suspended.
As you can see, our Number 16 moment shed light on Gronk’s dark side. We’re getting back to his lovable, doofy side as we make our way into the Top 15.
15. Brandin Cooks follows Gronk into the end zone...and rides him out.
Neither of New England’s two showdowns with the Miami Dolphins in 2017 were all that special. The Patriots played HORRIBLY in their Monday Night game in Miami, and the Patriots absolutely spanked the Dolphins a few weeks prior during their first meeting in Foxboro. During that first meeting, Tommy B threw for four touchdown passes and the closest the game ever was was 14-7 after a strip sack was returned for a touchdown. It was the kind of game you love to watch on Thanksgiving weekend; no pressure, no nerves, just a nice home divisional win as we all finished digesting Thursday’s feast.
One play, however, stands out from this game, as it represents the epitome of the NFL, in a rare moment of clarity, wising up and undoing some of its own stupidity this past offseason.
With the Patriots already up big, 28-7, late in the fourth quarter, Tommy B faced a 2nd and goal from the five yard line. Lined up in shotgun with James White in the backfield, Chris Hogan was split wide out to the right, with Brandin Cooks in the slot, and both Gronk and Dwayne Allen were lined up as offset receivers to the left. Just before the snap, Cooks started streaking across behind the line of scrimmage just as the ball came into Brady’s hands.
Technically, Tommy B passed the ball to Cooks. But in reality, he held onto it for less than a second before kind of just dropping it into his breadbasket. The football on that play was the sports equivalent of a hot political take on Twitter - nope, get this out of my hands, I want no part of it, it’s all you. Cooks took the ball in stride, already more or less at full speed, and broke for the left sideline, where Allenwas leading the way.
As Cooks started his run, Rob Gronkowski faked the inside chip before cutting outside, a fairly open lane in front of him. As Allen stuck his block, Cooks got behind Gronk, who became a human wrecking ball of pain, absolutely leveling the poor DB who had absolutely no chance of getting to Cooks. Cooks strolled into the end zone virtually untouched, the game now well in hand, and the Patriots began celebrating.
This was a play the Patriots used a fair amount this past season, to varying levels of success - but this was by far the best iteration, as Cooks rode Gronk out of the end zone like a cowboy on a bucking bronco. He followed the man in, so it made a lot of sense for him to ride the man out.
In years past, this would have garnered them both a fine, the team would have been penalized, Brady would have been suspended again, and the NFL would have come to the homes of every player in the league to claim their firstborn for indentured servitude. However, the NFL realized that flagging players for celebrating with their teammates was a moronic thing to do, so this year saw end zone celebrations return in a big way And this was, in my opinion, the best end zone celebration that the Patriots put together in 2017. It will also most likely never happen again, now that Cooks is no longer a Patriot. But this was a team peaking at the right time, rolling on all cylinders, securing their seventh straight win, and having fun as they put a beatdown on a divisional opponent. So it’s rght where it should be here at Number 15.
See the play and the ride here.
Full game highlights here.