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The Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2017: Number 6

Our offseason countdown continues with the Number 6 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2017.

Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Here we are. We’re almost into the Top 5. Just six more of these articles, and the countdown will be over and the 2018 season will be here.

Number 6 is always a weird ranking, to be honest. There’s just something special about a Top 5 of anything, and knowing that you missed it by a single number can grate on a lot of people. That’s why I decided to make the Number 6 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2017 one of those things that only seems to happen to teams that play the Pats

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

Our Number 6 Moment is definitely a season highlight for Patriots fans, but it’s probably a career lowlight for the person it happened to.

6. A standard punt return somehow turns into a safety against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Patriots vs. Chargers. It’s one of those matchups that should be exciting, but isn’t. The Pats and Chargers play at least every three years, sometimes more, and every single time the experts and analysts try to play up the game like it’s some kind of playoff preview or battle between two quarterbacks who enjoy a long and heated rivalry. The truth is that Philip Rivers has never beaten Tom Brady in any capacity, and the last time the Chargers beat the Patriots was almost a decade ago when they blew out Matt Cassell and company to the tune of 30-10. So when the Chargers came to Foxboro on October 29th, 2017, although there were still plenty of people trying to push the narrative of this being a competitive game, not many people were buying it.

However, an 87 yard Melvin Gordon TD run in the middle of the first quarter put the Patriots on their heels. They didn’t set the edge, couldn’t shed their blocks, and before they knew it they were down 7-0 as the quarter came to a close.

Luckily, this is the Chargers we’re talking about here, and that Gordon TD represented the last touchdown LA would score that day.

The Patriots evened the score right as the 2nd quarter started, a Brady to Gronk connection to cap off a 77 yard equalizing drive. LA went three and out on their next possession, giving the Patriots the ball back. Unfortunately, the drive stalled at the NE 35 yard line due to a holding penalty, and on 4th and 14, the Patriots brought out the punting unit.

Ryan Allen absolutely boomed it, sailing the ball high and deep towards the corner. Return man Travis Benjamin backed up to field the ball at the Charger 11 yard line. However, he muffed the punt, and the ball sailed back a few yards to the 6. Benjamin picked it up, turned around, and tried to make a play as Matthew Slater, Jonathan Jones, and Brandon King converged on him.

At this point, the smart thing to do is just go to the ground. Give yourself up so your offense has a shot to make a play. But Benjamin decided he wanted to be a hero and set the Chargers up for some points, so he decided to reverse his field.

Let the record show that reversing field can be a viable return strategy. You run backwards for a few yards in a looping trajectory as you wait for some blocks to develop, then you cut up the other sideline. Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman have both reversed field a few times successfully during their time as return men. That said, it’s usually a smart move to only reverse field when running backwards a few yards doesn’t take you into your own end zone.

By the time Benjamin realized he had run out of real estate and better cut upfield immediately, the Patriots were swarming him. King and Jones wrapped him up and knocked him backwards as the rest of the punt unit converged. Benjamin fell backwards and deeper into the end zone. A brief meeting between the refs, and the call was made: safety. Patriots 9, Chargers 7.

The Chargers not only lost a posession and ceded points, but they also had to punt the ball back to the Patriots. New England tacked on another field goal to make it 12-7, then another before halftime. The final score was 21-13 in a game that never felt that close, as any momentum LA built with the Gordon run retreated like Benjamin exhibiting complete and unwanton numbskullery.

Usually, bonehead plays like this one end up much, much higher on these countdowns. The Buttfumble. The Funt. And believe me when I say I thought about ranking this one higher on the list. But at the end of the day, this was just one of those brain-fart moments that happen once in a while in the NFL. Nobody is going to remember this play in a few years, and players have made significantly worse blunders than this one. So I feel comfortable ranking it just outside the top five at Number 6. But man...what a moron.

See the play here.

Full game highlights here.