Well, it was fun while it lasted, but the 2019 Patriots are obviously done. They didn’t pick up anybody important in Free Agency, and now all the good players are gone. The roster has no talent, and no hope of defending their title. May as well just cancel the upcoming league year, live in the past, and keep counting down the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2018.
The list so far:
20. Danny Etling gets half of the Giants fired with an 86 yard touchdown run.
Whereas Moment Number 20 took us back to just before the season started, we’re going to jump all the way to the end of the year for Number 19, and the moment that sent us all into the postseason with a huge smile on our face.
19. The Patriots demolish the Jets at home to secure a playoff bye.
Something very odd happened in December of 2018: the Patriots lost back-to-back games. The last time the Pats had dropped two straight this late in the season was all the way back in 2002, Tommy B’s first full year as a starter, taking Ls at the hands of the Titans and Jets in Weeks 15 and 16 respectively. Usually the Patriots don’t lose at all in December, let alone two straight, and as they sat at 9-5 after losing at Miami and then at Pittsburgh, the Patriots were on the outside looking in at that coveted first round bye, and finally - FINALLY - all the pundits who have been saying the Patriots are done since 2006 had cause to warm up the gloating machine. After all, New England’s offense looked completely stagnant against the Steelers, and given the rest of the schedules for the teams in the AFC, you didn’t have to look to far to see the Patriots projected as low as the 4 seed in the upcoming playoffs.
Luckily, New England finished out the year at home with games against the hapless Bills and the happlesser Jets, both of whom had no shot to make the postseason, but would never pass up the opportunity to play spoiler against a division rival. Coming off that Steelers loss, the Patriots came back to Gillette and handled the Bills to the tune of 24-12. However, for some reason, it just wasn’t good enough for the doubters. The Bills were bad, after all, and New England left too many points on the field. Tommy B only threw for 126 yards, a TD, and two picks. Julian Edelman was the only non-RB player to catch a pass all day, with the exception of a three yard screen to Cordarrelle Patterson. Performances like that Bills game don’t work once the playoffs hit.
Cut to the following week.
The New York Jets had just put up 38 points against the Green Bay Packers, taking them all the way to overtime before dropping the game. The playoffs were out of the question by this point, but the team was showing some signs of life and there was a decent amount of optimism already building for 2019. The Patriots, courtesy of some collapses elsewhere in the AFC, were in position to secure the two seed at the very least with a win, and disrupting that by forcing the Patriots to host a Wild Card game for the first time since 2009 would represent the ultimate way for New York to head into the offseason.
That, however, did not happen.
Tommy B threw three first half touchdowns. The defense forced three turnovers, one of which Kyle Van Noy returned 46 yards for a touchdown, another of which set the Patriots up at the eight yard line, and the third of which ended the game. The defense held on 4th down from inside the 10 yard line, on two separate occasions, to keep the Jets out of the end zone. The score was 21-3 at halftime, 28-3 three minutes into the third quarter, and as the Patriots coasted to the easy win, they added a field goal and a 64 yard TD drive for good measure. Seven different Patriots caught passes, and the offense combined for 134 yards rushing - 131 if you want to count the three kneel downs Brian “The Human Victory Cigar” made to run out the clock. Both units played lights out, complimented each other by giving the other squad a long field to defend and a short field to attack, and by the time the final whistle blew, the Patriots had a 38-3 drubbing to give them an 11-5 season and a first round bye.
Of course, there were plenty of people who tried to dismiss the win as a victory against a bad team with nothing to play for, and that Tom Brady’s 250 yard, 4 TD day was a misleading stat. But this game was the perfect way to enter into the playoffs; it showed that New England was back on track, that they were rounding into form at the perfect time, and that they were just starting to play their best football. In a season that saw back-to-back losses on two separate occasions, to close out the year strong like this was a massive confidence boost and a huge morale booster for player and fan alike. So this game definitely deserves its place here at Number 19.
Plus, it was a great chance to demolish the Jets. I don’t care how many times it happens, that never gets old.
Game highlights here.