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The Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2017: Number 3

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Our offseason countdown continues with the Number 3 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2017.

NFL: AFC Championship-Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Serious question: how is today not a national holiday yet? I mean we’ve had 41 years to make this happen now. If we’re all still at work next Tom Brady Day, I say we all take to the streets.

But since we are still stuck at our desks...may as well keep on going with our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2017. We’re officially into the Top Three!

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.

In honor of Tommy B’s 41st birthday, we’re going to look back on what may as well have been his 41st epic comeback.

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.

When the Patriots beat the Steelers in Week 15 of the regular season, one question dominated the airwaves during the following weeks as the playoffs descended: will Pittsburgh be able to beat the Patriots at Gillette in the AFC Championship Game. Pats vs. Steelers for the right to represent the AFC was such a foregone conclusion to so many that I’m surprised they even bothered to have Wild Card and Divisional Rounds.

One team that didn’t get that particular memo, however, was the Jacksonville Jaguars. While the Patriots coasted to an easy victory against the Tennessee Titans, The Jags went into Heinz Field and stomped all over the Steelers, hanging 45 points on them and completely controlling the flow of the game. The Steelers only lost by three, but were only able to stay in it because of some miracle throws from Big Ben. Suddenly, the vaunted Pats/Steelers rematch was gone, and in it’s place was a contest between a perennial powerhouse and a young, scrappy team with a solid running game, efficient quarterback, and ravenously ferocious defense. New England came into the game as the favorites...but for most of the game, it certainly didn’t feel like it.

Jacksonville jumped out to a 14-3 lead right away, generating consecutive scoring drives of 76 and 77 yards. Blake Bortles was utilizing the short passing game, receivers were generating yards after the catch, and running back Justin Fournette was showing no signs of the ankle injury that hampered him the week before. An effective two minute drill aided by some long PI calls just before halftime cut the Jags lead to 14-10, but the opening possession of the third quarter and another long drive put them up 17-10 as the defense tightened its grip. New England’s first three drives of the second half: six plays, 28 yards, punt; three plays, eight yards, punt; three plays, 40 yards, fumble. Miles Jack brilliantly stripped Dion Lewis on a screen pass and appeared to take off for the end zone before he was ruled down by contact on what some believe was an incorrect call. The score very well could have been 24-10 had the boom-boom play been called differently...but it didn’t seem to matter. Jacksonville’s D was legit. As the fourth quarter got underway, the Jaguars had a 10 point lead and the Patriots had only driven the ball over 50 yards twice all game, with one of those drives aided by a 15 yard roughness call and a 30+ yard DPI.

In other words...it was time for Tom Brady to get to work.

Jacksoville wasn’t able to capitalize off the Lewis turnover; the defense had adjusted to the short game, forced Bortles into taking some longer shots. and accuracy proved an issue. Starting from their own 15, Brady took the offense 85 yards on just 8 plays, sending his receivers on a lot of comeback routes and capitalizing on the deep middle of the field. The drive seemed dead in the water at one point, where an eight yard sack on 2nd and 10 had the Pats facing 3rd and 18 at their own 25 yard line, but Brady was able to hit Danny Amendola on 3rd and forever to move the chains with a deep cross over the middle.

Brady was able to hit Danny Amendola on 3rd and forever to move the chains with a deep cross over the middle.

Brady was able to hit Danny Amendola on 3rd and forever to move the chains with a deep cross over the middle.

Brady was able to hit Danny Amendola on 3rd and forever to move the chains with a deep cross over the middle.

(I know I just wrote that three times...but as I was typing it, I realized that I would most likely never get to write those words ever again. How many 3rd and forevers has Amendola picked up as a Patriot? Thank you, Danny. Thank you.)

Brady hit Philip Dorsett on a flea flicker to put New England at the 23. Three plays later, he connected with Amendola on a shallow drag route to bring the score to 20-17.

The Patriots and Jaguars traded punts on their ensuing two possessions. Jacksonville had the ball at their own 10 yard line with less than six minuted to play and the chance to mroe or less put the game away with a score, but went a very quick three and out and had to punt from their own end zone. Danny Amendola fielded the punt at the 50 and returned it 20 yards to the 30, already well inside of Ghost’s range.

(Dammit, Amendola again. But he’s overrated, right?)

1st and 10 from the 30. Short pass to James White, who made a defender miss and picked up 15 yards.

1st and 10 from the 15. Brady hits Amendola over the middle for seven.

2nd and 2 from the 7. Tom Brady sneak for two yards. First down.

1st and goal from the 5. James White runs up the gut for one yard.

2nd and goal from the 4.

Brady under center, White in the backfield. Cooks alone on the left side, Amendola and Hogan bunched to the right. Dwayne Allen motioning over to the strong side. Playaction, well sold, linebackers bite up just a bit. Cooks is Brady’s first look; he runs a quick in and out route, cuts to the sideline, covered. Brady tucks back in, scans the back of the end zone. Amendola and Hogan had both run identical angle out routes to help clear the middle of the field for what may have initially been a Cooks in cut, but with the linebackers not fully committing that part of the field was clogged. As Hogan continued his route towards the corner end zone, Amendola cut in and skated the very edge of the end zone on the post route. Brady saw the opening and absolutely rifled it in.

The ball was a little high, and just slightly behind. Amendola adjusts in mid-air, makes the grab, cradles it to hist chest. Right foot down, in bounds, as he starts to fall. He looks down, sees his position, and gets his left foot in bounds as well. Touchdown.

With less than two minutes to go in the game, the Patriots had their first lead since their opening possession.

However, in true Patriots fashion, this one wasn’t over.

The first two plays of Jacksonville’s next possession went for eight and then 29 yards. It wasn’t even the two minute warning yet, and Bortles had brought his offense to the NE 38. But as it had for the entirety of the 2nd half, the defense came up huge, breaking up a pass to Fournette and then strip sacking Bortles for a loss of 9. Two plays later, on 4th and 15, Stephon Gilmore broke up a pass that could have potentially sent Jax to the Super Bowl, but instead ended their remarkable 2017 run. A Dion Lewis run ensured that the Patriots could run out the clock, and a few kneeldowns later, the Pats were heading back to their 2nd Super Bowl in as many years.

What a game.

There are a lot of reasons to rank this touchdown and comeback all the way up here at Number 3. It was a great game, a great moment, and a huge season highlight. But more than any of that, it’s a chance to bid a very, very fond farewell to Danny Amendola, who I will go to my grave arguing was one of the best clutch players the Patriots have ever had. His regular season numbers were never anything to get too excited over, but the number of amazing catches he has made, the 3rd downs he has converted, the touchdowns he has caught in crucial moments, and as the receiver who scored the biggest, most history-altering two point conversion ever in the NFL, it feels good to rank this play up here so high. This year more than most, I have struggled with how I have ordered these moments, and in retrospect I might have done these rankings a little differently if I had to do it all over again. But this one is right where it needs to be, and this is my way of sending off the latest player to do the number 80 proud in the best way I know how.

Check out the Amendola TD here.

Full game highlights here.

And to say goodbye to Amendola one last time with some career Patriots highlights, grab a tissue (what you use it for is nobody’s business but yours) and click here.