How is it only Wednesday?
The good news is that March Madness starts tomorrow, which means the best two weeks on the sports calendar are about to kick off. So while you’re all filling out your brackets today, take a bit of a break as we continue to count down the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2018.
The list so far:
Where our Number 19 Moment took us to the very end of the season, Number 18 finds us just one week earlier, in a game that wasn’t overly impressive, but crucial nonetheless.
18. Julian Edelman bounces off a Bill and into the end zone on a 4th down conversion.
It’s very rare that a late season home game against the Buffalo Bills is not only a must-win, but has all kinds of implications; however, that’s the exact spot the Patriots found themselves in on December 23rd, 2018 as the Bills came in to Foxboro. New England, losers of two straight, had yet to clinch the AFC East and were currently on the outside looking in on that coveted first round playoff bye, as Kansas City and Houston both boasted better records. The Texans were playing what should have been a layup game against the struggling Eagles, and KC was at Seattle. However, the Patriots couldn’t worry about the outcome of those games, as they had yet to clinch their division - a goal they could accomplish with a win against Buffalo, who had just upset the Lions on the road.
As far as games go, this one wasn’t much to write home about; Tommy B had a very pedestrian day, throwing for 126 yards, two picks, and a single touchdown. The Patriots mostly relied on their running game, which put up a monster 273 yards, with touchdowns by Sony Michel and James White. However, any Patriots fan looking for a boost of confidence that this team had righted the ship after losses to Miami and Pittsburgh couldn’t have been overly happy with a fairly inconsistent offensive performance, and a defensive showing that was more about Buffalo’s ineptitude than an ability to generate legitimate stops. New England took a 14-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, which was for sure going to be enough to win the game based on how the Bills were playing, but two of New England’s seven first half possessions ended in turnovers and two more were three and outs. Not what we were hoping for.
The second half was more of the same. The Patriots got the ball to start the third quarter, but Brady threw a pick on the very first play of the drive to set up the Buffalo FG that would put them on the board for the first time that day. The Patriots then went three and out on their next drive, and Buffalo drove down again to put another field goal on the board. There wasn’t much momentum in the game, but what little their was was firmly on Buffalo’s side. New England needed to wake the hell up.
Sony Michel muffed the ensuing kickoff, so his return only took the Patriots to their own 12 yard line. The way the offense had been playing, a TD drive wasn’t looking good. However, the offense finally got it together and went 88 yards on 10 plays to get in the end zone for their only TD of the second half. Using runs up the middle and a 25 yard catch and scramble to Rex Burkhead, the Patriots found themselves with 1st and 10 at the Bills 38. Two consecutive runs set New England up with 3rd and 4 at the 32, but then a Tom Brady pass intended for Edelmen fell incomplete. The Patriots were inside Ghost’s range, and on 4th and 4, the smart thing to do is to go for the field goal.
However, the offense stayed on the field. They were driving well for the first time all game, and they wanted to keep the drive going.
With Philip Dorsett lined out wide as the sole weak side receiver, Brady motioned him into the backfield, where he joined James White. Flanked out to the right were Edelman in the slot and Hogan as the Z. At the snap, Brady faked the draw to White, which froze the linebackers and generated a short crash to the line. Cornerback Levi Wallace, who was clogging the middle, made a beeline towards Dorsett in hopes of blowing up the quick screen. Hogan ran a simple out and up, taking Micah Hyde with him, which left the middle of the field wide open for the quick slant. Brady hit Edelman in stride at the 24 yard line, picking up the first down and more as Edelman ran all the way to the 15 before he was tackled and brought down.
Or was he?
As soon as he dropped, he was right back up again, running and diving into the end zone. As safety Jordan Poyer collided with Rafael Bush to bring Edelman to the ground, they had created a cushion of bodies for Edelman to land on, and thus no part of him had touched the turf. Edelman, showing great awareness, knew he was still in play and got up to keep moving toward the goal line. In what has become something of a signature Julain Edelman move, he extended the ball and dove into the end zone to put the Patriots up 20-6. They would eventually add another FG for a final score of 24-12. Once again, the Patriots were AFC East Champs.
Even better, both Houston and KC lost that day as well, putting the Patriots back in control of the two seed with a shot to still be #1 with a win the following week coupled with a Chiefs loss. So while it wasn’t pretty, it was still a victory, and a victory that put the Patriots right back where they needed to be.
There are two main reasons that this play makes the list. One, it was just a cool play, one of those crazy things that seems to happen a few times a year (LeGarrette Blount had a similar play against the Texans a few seasons back). And two, it’s just vintage Julian Edelman, fighting for every yard, not giving up until it’s fully over, and making a big play when he’s needed. Considering how Edelman’s season ended, I think it’s well positioned here at Number 18.
Check out the play here.
Full game highlights here.