It’s time to turn our focus to the 2018 NFL Draft; over the next week or two, the Pulpit is going to be full of draft prospects, breakdowns, player analyses, and all that good stuff. And that means we’re well into the offseason by now, so I better get a move on with my countdown of 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.
19. The Patriots demolish the Jets at home to secure a playoff bye.
18. Julian Edelman bounces off a Bill and into the end zone on a 4th down conversion.
17. Some punt team acrobatics keep the Steelers from getting a touchback.
16. Gronk magic returns with a 34 yard touchdown seam route catch against the New York Jets.
Our Number 16 Moment saluted one of New England’s big men; time to give some credit to another one.
15. James Develin finds the end zone twice against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings team that came to Gillette Stadium on December 2nd, 2018 had just taken out a Green Bay Packers team that was supposed to be in contention for the NFC Championship when the season first kicked off. The Vikings were also supposed to be in that conversation, but neither team was quite living up to expectations that year. Still, at 6-4-1, the Vikings were right in the playoff hunt and needed a win to keep pace with Chicago. The Patriots were sitting at 8-3, fresh of a win at the Jets, and looking to come into December with one of their trademark win streaks to close out the season.
And things couldn’t have started much better for the Patriots; after forcing a Minnesota punt, New England went 81 yards on 8 plays, mainly through the air as Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Cordarrelle Patterson, all made big grabs to set the Patriots up with a 1st and goal at the 1. Unfortunately, Sony Michel wasn’t able to punch it in on 1st down, in spite of New England coming out in a jumbo package.
One 2nd down, they decided to go even more jumbo.
The Patriots came out in the same package - but instead of handing it to Michel again, Tommy B handed it off to all 255 pounds of fullback James Develin, who plowed directly into the end zone for six. That carry would represent 1/13th of the total carries Develin has had in his career. The Patriots took the lead, and they would never give it up.
However, until midway through the 4th quarter, it was still a one score game. New England was holding onto a 17-10 lead when they forced a punt and began the drive that would ultimately put the game away for good. Tommy B once again drove the offense all the way down the field, setting up a 1st and goal at the two yard line. This time, instead of even trying Sony Michel again, he went to Develin on the first try, where the big man dove into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. Develin finished the day with four carries for five yards and two TDs. The Patriots would win the game 24-10 and coast the rest of the way following the Develin score to an easy W.
Are two touchdowns of one and two yards respectively amazing highlight material? No way. But is this worthy of the Top 20? Absolutely. Players like James Develin rarely get the credit they deserve; it’s Develin’s job to charge through gaps, opening up holes for the running backs. He chips at the line and helps with blitz pickup. He motions out wide as a dummy receiver, possibly Tom Brady’s last option if the play breaks down. He has 13 career rushes for 23 yards and five touchdowns since 2012. Six of those rushes came in 2018. So last season saw Develin double his carries and get in the end zone for the first time (in the regular season) since 2013. Most of the time he’s busy making Michel look like a rookie all-star or making sure Brady stays upright. How can you not love a player like that?
Not only that, but you won’t get a more prototypical Patriot than James Develin. Undrafted in 2010, he bounced around the AFL and UFL before ending up on the Bengals practice squad. Waived by Cincy in 2012, the Patriots picked him up for their practice squad. He played one game during that season, a loss to the 49ers. Develin was actually released in 2013, but quickly re-signed and earned a starting FB role. He has been a cornerstone of the offense ever since - a hard working, team-first guy who followed his dream, never gave up, seized opportunity, and has become, in my opinion, at least, one of the most memorable players of this second incarnation of the Patriots dynasty. So I’m proud to give him a spot on my countdown at Number 15.
Game highlights here.
And here are some bonus James Develin highlights for you.