Let the 2018 Countdown begin!
It’s crazy how fast the offseason goes by. February is over, Free Agency has begun, and the annual freakout that accompanies losing Patriots players to other teams is in full swing. I better get a move on here before the draft hits and minicamp starts.
Picking the Number 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of the year is always one of the hardest, as it’s the last one to make the list and ends up edging out a few other moments that could have easily taken its place. I always make a point to ensure that my countdown encapsulates the whole season, from start to finish, and because of that there may be a few moments in here that might not have been as impactful as some others, but helps paint the picture as a whole.
And that’s certainly the case with the Number 20 Moment of 2018, as it takes us all the way back to August, before the season kicked off in earnest, with a play that didn’t mean a damn thing, but was a lot of fun regardless.
20. Danny Etling gets half of the Giants fired with an 86 yard touchdown run.
Week 4 of the preseason is usually only exciting for one reason - it’s the last game before the season starts in earnest, and so it’s easy to get pumped up knowing that real football is just a few days away. Other than that, there’s not much going on there. Most folks don’t even bother to watch the last week of the preseason, as it’s played almost entirely by the guys fighting for those last few roster spots and showcasing their skills to the rest of the league in hopes of landing a spot on a practice squad somewhere. I wish I could say I had better things to do every late August...but I don’t.
Week 4 of every Patriots preseason is almost always played against the New York Giants, and 2018 was no exception. August 30, 2018 saw the Pats backups travel to East Rutherford, NJ to take on the G-men’s backups in an 17-12 barnburner that pitted 7th round rookie Danny Etling against 4th round rookie Kyle Lauletta. The game was, as most preseason games are, completely forgettable; Etling threw for 157 yards with a TD and two picks, and nobody on the Patriots cracked 100 receiving yards. In fact, not a single Patriots player who caught a pass or ran the ball ended up making the final 53. The Giants took a 6-3 lead into halftime in a first half that saw 13 possessions, eight punts, and three interceptions. If you turned the game off at that point, you were smart.
But you also missed what was probably the play of the preseason, which came late in the fourth quarter with the Patriots leading 10-6 off a 3rd quarter Ralph Webb touchdown reception. After the Giants turned the ball over on downs, Danny Etling took the field at his out 14 with less than four minutes to play and looking to engineer a long drive to close the game out. On 1st and 10, he lined up in shotgun, and at the snap faked the draw handoff to Webb, who dummy ran right into the middle of the line.
The entire Giants defense collapsed on Webb, who didn’t have the ball as Etling took off down the right sideline. By the time anyone knew what was going on, Etling was 15 yards down the field with the ball in his hand. The closest Giant to him was a 3rd string linebacker about 20 yards away without a single prayer of catching him. Etling ran 86 yards, completely untouched, into the end zone to put the Patriots up 16-6. It would be the last TD the Patriots scored in that game as they went on to win 17-12, closing out the preseason with a 3-1 record.
Whether Danny Etling has any kind of future in New England, or the NFL, remains to be seen; I mean when was the last time a late round quarterback ended up working out for the Patriots? His preseason stat line is nothing to look at - 30 of 38 for 178 yards, a TD, and two interceptions - but he has drawn praise from the team on multiple occasions for his work as a scout QB, earned practice player of the week on multiple occasions, and he did enough this year to be one of the first players signed to a futures/reserve contract. So there’s reason for optimism for sure. But even if Etling doesn’t work out, even if he goes on to become an insurance salesman the way you’re apparently required to by law if you were once an NFL QB, he’ll always have that play in late August were he smoked the entire Giants defense on his way to the end zone. It was a cool moment, and a chance to recognize a player that made positive contributions to a championship run in his own way, so Etling gets the honor of kicking off this list at Number 20.
Check out the run here.
And if you’re somehow in the mood for full Week 4 of the preseason highlights, you can check those out here.