We’re slowly creeping up on the slowest part of the NFL calendar - which, on the plus side, means it isn’t that much longer until training camp starts. Better get a move on with 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.
15. Brandin Cooks follows Gronk into the end zone...and rides him out.
14. A throw off the back foot leads to an epic Gronk touchdown against the New Orleans Saints.
For number thirteen - or should I say numero 13 - we head south of the border to Mexico for a game against the Patriots and Raiders.
13. Tom Brady hits Brandin Cooks for a 64 yard TD against the Oakland Raiders.
One of the first things that New England Patriots fans checked for when the 2017 NFL Schedule came out was when they would be heading to Mexico City to face the Raiders. The league’s boneheaded decision to play international games aside, most folks had Pats/Raiders pegged as a potential AFC Championship preview and the matchup that should have happened the year before; the 2016 Raiders, led by Derek Carr, finished with a 12-4 record, which would have been good enough for a first round bye in almost any other division, but due to a tiebreaker with the Chiefs they fell all the way to a 5 seed. Derek Carr, who was lights out for the entire season, suffered a season ending injury on Christmas Eve of 2016, which more or less ended the Raiders chances at making a serious playoff run. But all signs pointed to them being back in 2017, and this game in Mexico City was predicted to be the deciding factor as to which coast the AFC Championship season would be played on.
Not so much.
After a 2-0 start, Oakland proceeded to lose their next four straight, and five of their first eight games as they limped into their bye week at 4-5. The Patriots, however, hadn’t lost since Week 4 and had just come off an absolute drubbing of the Denver Broncos. A game that initially had a lot of hype didn’t quite live up to expectations by the time kickoff actually arrived.
The game was over almost as quickly as it started. Oakland’s first six possessions went punt, interception, punt, fumble, punt, turnover on downs. new England’s? Touchdown, punt, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal. The score was 17-0 at halftime and 24-0 less than a minute into the third quarter, when Brady hit Brandin Cooks on the third play of the drive for a 64 yard score.
The Patriots received the third quarter kickoff, knelt for a touchback, and completed two passes for 11 combined yards to Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola respectively. Then, on 1st and 10, Tommy B hit a wide open Cooks on a simple out and up pattern, and the receiver did the rest. The Patriots were in shotgun and had thrown on every play on that drive. They didn’t mask the formation at all. There wasn’t any motion at the line to help diagnose the defense. But for some reason, Oakland played single off man on Cooks with a single high safety in the middle of the field. It’s not even like the Patriots had stacked the other side of the line, either; both Amendola and Gronk were lined up close to the left side of the line, and both ran shallow out patterns. Whatever it was, Brady saw the coverage immediately, Cooks made a quick move to the outside before streaking upfield, and Tommy B hit him is stride for the easy score. Less than a minute into the 2nd half, and the game was already wrapped up. Oakland would eventually score a TD late in the 3rd quarter, but it didn’t matter; New England rolled to a 33-8 win and put to rest any lingering thoughts of Oakland being ready to hang with the big boys.
Big plays are always exciting, regardless of how they develop. There’s also always an added element when it’s a big play to a shiny new toy like Cooks. But what really makes this one stand out, to me at least, was just how easy the Patriots made it look. There’s always a game or two every year where Patriots fans get to relax right from the start and just enjoy the game, well in hand, and this was definitely one of those game. That it took place in Mexico City, on the heels of a Denver win, against a team that was supposed to challenge them for supremacy in the AFC just makes it all that much sweeter. and this Brady-to-Cooks play encapsulates that whole game perfectly.
See the play here.
Full game highlights here.