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The Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2017: Number 7

Our offseason countdown continues with the Number 7 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2017.

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Honest question: is anything at all getting done next week?

The 4th of July falls on a Wednesday this year, which means one of four things:

  1. You’re taking Monday and Tuesday off as well.
  2. You’re taking Thursday and Friday off as well.
  3. You’re taking the whole week off.
  4. You have a soulless maniac for a boss and only get Wednesday off and you can’t do anything or go anywhere because somewhere along the line you made some very bad life choices.

As for me, I fall staunchly into Group #2, which of course reserves today, Monday, and Tuesday of next week for “wrapping things up” or “clearing my desk” or any other stupid corporate term you want to use in order to rationalize doing absolutely nothing as you count down the minutes to Liberty O’Clock.

And a great way to “clear my desk” is to write a Patriots article instead of working. So lets’ 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.
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.
11. A bizarre fumble turns a touchdown into a touchback against the New York Jets.
10. Rob Gronkowski hauls in a spectacular one-handed TD grab to even the score against the Buffalo Bills.
9. Stephon Gilmore gets airborne to break up a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game.
8. The Patriots trade Jimmy Garoppolo.

At Number 7, we have one of the best moments from one of the best games across the entire NFL calendar - one that ultimately didn’t have long-term effects on the league landscape, but nobody knew it at the time.

7. Gronk goes beast mode in the final two minutes to give the Patriots the lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Patriots vs. Steelers - the winner of this game is likely going to be hosting the AFC Championship in January.

Sound familiar?

It seems that every year, New England travels to Pittsburgh or Pittsburgh travels to New England with the potential #1 seed in the AFC on the line. In a league that tries very, very hard to enact parity and ensure that it isn’t the same storyline each and every year, the Patriots and Steelers have bucked the trend and have been two of the best teams in the NFL for the better part of the 21st century.

December 17th, 2017 was no different. The 10-3 Patriots went down to Hines field to face the 11-2 Steelers with the inside track to a bye and homefield advantage on the line. Everyone knew that neither New England nor Pittsburgh was going to lose again after this one; the Patriots were finishing out the year at home against the Bills and Jets, and the Steelers were facing the injury-riddled Texans and the horrible, horrible Browns. Whoever won this game would be at home until the Super Bowl. High stakes football at its finest.

Usually, much-hyped games don’t live up to expectations. This one, however, exceeded them. In a back-and-forth, grind-it-out slugfest, the Patriots and Steelers took turns trading the lead back and forth until Pittsburgh found themselve up 24-19 with just over two minutes to play. Unable to convert on a huge third down, the Steelers had to punt back to Tommy B and the offense, who took possession at their own 23. They would need a touchdown to take the lead.

The second play of the drive was a bullet to Gronk over the middle for 26 yards. The second play of the drive was another 26 yard bullet that saw Gronkowski dive down and scoop the ball up off the ground before rolling into the completion. The very next play? Brady to Gronk for 17 more yards to set up 1st and goal at the 8. In just over a minute, Rob Gronkowski took the ball 69 (heh) yards to put the Patriots on the doorstep of yet another Tommy B fourth quarter comeback. Pittsburgh called a timeout, as much to try and cool Gronk off as anything else, and came out after the break fully stacked in double outs coverage.

Brady, seeing the size mismatch, called an audible and handed off to Dion Lewis, who scampered into the end zone to make it 25-24. An extra point would prove useless, as Pitt could win with a field goal either way, so it was time to go for two.

The Patriots know a thing or two about coming up big on the conversions when the chips are down. James White had one last year, I think, and so did Danny Amendola, perhaps at one point during the preseason, I can’t really remember.

But the past was the past. The Patriots needed points now.

Brady lined up under center, single back set, with Steelers showing man. Motioning Amendola to the left to overload the side left Gronk completely alone on the right side, matched up against all 6 feet, 200 pounds of Sean Davis. The Steelers had a single high safety in the back of the end zone, who immediately bit on the slant fake just as Brady hiked the ball. Gronk planted his foot, made his cut, and Brady threw the fade for the easy catch and score. As Davis tumbled to the ground like a toddler caught in a riptide at the beach, Gronk pointed, laughed, and spiked the ball so hard into the ground that it only just came down last Thursday. As for Davis, he immediately evaporated in a cloud of shame, and I don’t think anyone has heard from him since.

Patriots 27, Steelers 24, which is what the score would stay.

The Steelers put a corner on Gronk. They put a safety on him. They put a corner and a safety on him. None of that mattered. The man simply couldn’t be stopped, and when Tommy B needed a playmaker, he knew exactly where he was going. Gronkowski is completely unstoppable when he’s healthy, and this game was yet another stark reminder of that. This is the last time that Gronk will be appearing on this countdown, but it was undoubtedly his finest moment of the season, so he’s right where he belongs here at number 7.

Check out Gronk’s highlights for this game here.