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The Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2017: Number 2

Our offseason countdown continues with the Number 2 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2017.

Houston Texans v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

I better get a move on here. It’s Week 2 of the preseason, which means that we’re about to get our first look at Tommy B in 2018 and that coveted, all-important Week 3 matchup is almost upon us. Everyone knows that the third week of the preseason makes or breaks a team’s entire year, so I should really be dedicating all my resources to gearing up for that game.

The good news is that we only have two to go, and then we’ll have officially completed our countdown. 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.
6. A standard punt return somehow turns into a safety against the Los Angeles Chargers.
5. Stephen Gostkowski sets a personal and franchise record with a 62 yard field goal just before halftime against the Oakland Raiders.
4. A 103 yard Dion Lewis kickoff return for a touchdown highlights special teams dominance in a beatdown of the Denver Broncos.
3. Tom Brady hits Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone to complete a 4th quarter comeback for the ages to send the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

Our Number Two Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2017 takes us all the way back to the beginning of the season, where a struggling team was bailed out by the greatest QB to ever play the game and his shiny new toy.

2. Tom Brady hits Brandin Cooks in the end zone with 25 seconds left to play to lift the Patriots past the Houston Texans.

The Patriots lost their home opener to the Chiefs, but looked dominant against the Saints the following week, which gave everyone reason to believe that Week 1 was just a fluke, the team too amped up over raising their fifth banner and all the fanfare that went into that evening. So when the Texans, led by rookie Deshaun Watson, came into town for a Week 3 matchup, the general consensus was that New England would be able to handle them easily and get things right back on track. The Texans have only beaten the Patriots once in the history of their franchise, and it was a meaningless Week 17 game in 2009 when the Pats had nothing to play for and lost Wes Welker to a season-ending injury. Bill Belichick, at home, against a rookie QB? No contest.

The Texans, however, had other plans.

The Patriots were able to take a 7-0 lead on their first possession of the game, but Houston scored 10 unanswered to move into the lead. A miscommunication from the offense led to an easy Stephon Gilmore interception and a quick Chris Hogan TD, but Houston answered right back with a strip sack returned for a touchdown. It became clear very early on that this game wasn’t going to be a cakewalk.

The Texans scored on their first two second half possessions, the defense stepped up, and they were then able to add another field goal to bring the score to 33-28 with just over two minutes to play in the game. Somehow, the Patriots were in danger of losing back-to-back home games, the latter against a team that they have historically owned. There’s a big difference between being 2-1 and 1-2 in the NFL, and fans everywhere started to worry if the Super Bowl hangover had finally made its way to Foxboro after this team being immune to it for so long.

Brady got the ball against what had turned into a stifling Texas defense at his own 25 with 2:25 left to play. A holding call on David Andrews on the 2nd play of the drive put the Patriots in a huge hole, one Brady was able to dig out of with two passes to Gronk to move the chains. Two plays later, Brady was strip sacked again, recovered by Andrews to set up 2nd and 18. An incomplete pass attempt to Cooks, and suddenly it was 3rd and 18.

Who should Brady throw to?

Danny Amendola, that’s who.

As he has so many times in the past, Brady connected with Amendola for 27 yards on 3rd and forever to move the ball down to the Texans 25 yard line with just 30 seconds to play. Once again, the Patriots had life, and maybe two shots at the end zone in order to complete the comeback.

On the very next play, the Patriots came out in a 3WR set with Gronk close to the line and James White in the backfield. Chris Hogan, alone on the right side, ran a Go Route down the right sideline and Amendola, in the slot on the left, ran the deep post. Brandin Cooks, the Z receiver, cut in, then back out to the corner of the end zone. Brady, selling the pump fake, launched a missile just as he was hit to Cooks, who came down with the ball, got two feet in bounds, and then fell out for the score.

Gillette Stadium went wild. The play would be reviewed, but since Cooks clearly had both feet down with control, he had established himself in the field of play and thus the call stood. Patriots 34, Texans 33. New England would add a two point conversion to make it 36-33, which is what the score would stay.

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea how Cooks got as open as he did. Yes, it was a very well-run route, but there’s really no excuse for Houston breaking down defensively like that. There were two defenders in the vicinity, but Cooks was able to find the hole in coverage and Brady was able to hit him perfectly for the score. Yet another 4th quarter comeback for the ages from Tommy B.

Not only was this play an amazing moment, a beautiful throw and catch to cap off an improbable drive, but this was also a breakout game from Brandin Cooks. He finished the day with five catches for 131 yards, two TDs, and a two point conversion - a nice boost of confidence for anyone wondering why New England gave up a 1st round pick to acquire him. The problem with plays, and drives, like this one is that we have become so used to them here in New England that there may be some folks out there questioning why I ranked it as high as number 2 when there were so many other great moments behind it. Why Cooks over Amendola, for example?

For me, at least, I have this moment at two on the list because it was the ultimate balance of athleticism, elite quarterback play, Brady doing what Brady does, a fourth quarter comeback, and the perfect reminder that while they may not always win, as long as the Patriots have Tommy B, there’s no reason to doubt them. It was also probably Cooks’s best game as a Patriot, and since he’s no longer with the team, it’s good to give him one final nod.

Check out Brady to Cooks here.

Full game highlights here.

One to go!