Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
The unofficial start of summer. I hope you’re all reading this on Tuesday, as today should be spent outside, hovering over grills, giving cooking advice to whoever has drawn burger duty without once offering to help yourself. That’s what this holiday is all about.
(Actually, no it isn’t. Today is about honoring those who gave their lives for this country. Let’s never lose sight of that.)
We’re almost in the Top 10... but not yet. 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.
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.
13. Tom Brady hits Brandin Cooks for a 64 yard TD against the Oakland Raiders.
12. A goal line stand ends with a huge stuff on 4th and 3 to preserve the shutout against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Number 11 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2017 is the first of a couple of absolutely wacky calls to take place last season.
11. A bizarre fumble turns a touchdown into a touchback against the New York Jets.
When it comes to the Patriots and Jets in the last decade plus, two things have remained consistent: The Patriots are going to beat them at home (I can’t hear you 2010 AFC Playofs lalalalalala), and Pats at Jets is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t matter how bad the Jets are, how good the Patriots are, which offense is scoring and which defense is dominating, or what anyone’s record is; when New England travels to The Meadowlands, anything goes.
The Patriots traveled to New York on October 15th of 2017 sitting at 3-2, having narrowly beat a surging Bucs team in yet another sloppy Thursday Night Football turd of a game. The Jets had barely beaten Cleveland the Week before, 17-14, to pull to 3-2 as well. Crazy to think about it now, but this game really mattered.
Of course, the Jets struck first. They also struck second, when a Mike Gillislee fumble ended with a 31 yard strike from Josh McCown to perennial Patriot killer Jeremy Kerley. The Patriots were able to get on the board, but Brady was throwing picks, Gostkowski was missing field goals, and McCown - yes, Josh McCown - was scrambling for huge gains with his legs. It was a classic road game at the Jets, one the Patriots should always win, but make it as hard on themselves as possible. That the Pats and Jets went into the half tied at 14 seemed like a gift for New England.
Luckily for the Patriots, it wasn’t the only gift they received that day.
New England was able to build up a 10 point lead by scoring on the opening possession of the 3rd quarter, then turning a Devin McCourty pick into a field goal to go up 24-14. The Patriots defense had seemed to finally find its footing, as the Jets hadn’t scored since the 1st quarter and weren’t able to really get anything going. However, on their 2nd possession of the 2nd half, the Jets were able to go 74 yards on 12 plays - not only that, but they didn’t even need a 3rd down until they were all the way down to the NE 12 yard line. On 2nd and goal, McCown hit tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for the easy score. Malcolm Butler was on the tackle. Jets 16, Patriots 24.
Not so fast.
As it was a scoring play, it was automatically reviewed by the officials. As the replays started to show on TV, it clearly moves in Jenkins’s hand as he crosses the goal line. It looks like he regains possession as the ball is crossing the plane, but it’s unclear as to exactly when. By the time Jenkins lands, half in and half out of bounds he once again has control of the ball..but it’s in the air, or seemingly so, as it crosses the goal line.
Over at replay review headquarters in New York, it was determined that Jenkins was in fact bobbling the ball as he crossed the goal line. Thus, the play was technically ruled a fumble and a touchback, giving Patriots possession.
Everyone was stunned. The Jets flipped out. Even some of the Patriots players looked surprised. If the player was ruled down at the 1 or something, so be it - but for a complete change of possession? Nobody saw that coming.
Well, almost nobody. Both Butler and Bill Belichick seemed to think it was the right call. And, technically, it was. The rules state that if the ball is fumbled as it’s going into the end zone, than it’s a touchback. The NFL later doubled down on their claim that they got it right, shockingly, stating that there was “clear and obvious evidence” that he lost possession of the ball, and “clear and obvious evidence” that he didn’t fully establish repossession before crossing the goal line. What it ultimately came down to was that, while nobody can dispute that he lost possession prior to crossing the goal line, exactly where he re-established possession was murky at best -especially since he fell out of bounds. So, without a clear ruling, the league had to defer to the last obvious call, which was a fumble.
The Patriots didn’t do anything with their gained possession - a three and out after less than two minutes - but they did move the ball back to the Jets 35 on the punt and force them to eat up more clock as they drove, down 10 with less than nine minutes to play. They would ultimately get a field goal out of that possession, which would be the last score by either team that day. Patriots 24, Jets 17.
Personally, I think that the call was absolute garbage. I can understand the logic behind it, and just because you don’t personally like or agree with something, that doesn’t make it incorrect (a fact I wish that more people would understand when it comes to daily life), so I’m not one to criticize the thought process. But it just seems that this is one of those scenarios where a strict attention to following the letter of the law means we have to ignore common sense. The bottom line is that Seferian-Jenkins had the ball before he crossed the plane, he lost it, and then he recovered it after he crossed the plane. Nobody can deny that. But the fact that he might not have had possession for about three seconds and six inches (get your mind out of the gutter, people) means that not only did his team not score, but the other team gets the ball? The NFL strikes again.
I’d like to think that the league has since gone back and changed this rule - it’s something of a pattern when it happens to the Patriots - but I don’t know for sure. Regardless, it was one of those head scratching moments that happens several times a year in the absolute dumpster fire that used to be a football league I was proud to watch, and so I think it’s well positioned here at Number 11.
Check out the play here.
Full game highlights here.