Here we finally are: The Top 10.
Minicamp is over, and we’re about to head into the quietest time on the NFL calendar, so breaking into the Top 10 couldn’t have come at a better time. 20-11 were all awesome, but these lists don’t really start until we get to the 10 spot. Which is why it’s only fitting that I give Mr. Patriot himself the honor of getting the second half of this list in full swing as we slide on into summer.
But first, 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.
15. James Develin finds the end zone twice against the Minnesota Vikings.
14. The New England Patriots trade for Josh Gordon.
13. A Julian Edelman screen pass and an epic Tom Brady fakeout secures a primetime win on Sunday Night Football over the Green Bay Packers.
12. The Patriots right the ship with a Week 4 blowout of the Miami Dolphins.
11. Special teams lead the way for a decisive road victory over the Chicago Bears.
At number 10, we head to the first of two meetings between the Patriots and Chiefs, and the almost sack that wasn’t.
10. Tom Brady avoids the sack on 3rd and goal and dives headfirst into the end zone to take the lead against the Kansas City Chiefs.
October 14th, 2018 saw the undefeated Chiefs heading into Foxboro to take on the 3-2 Patriots for what most folks already knew was going to be an AFC Championship preview. KC looked unstoppable so far in 2018, whereas the Patriots were solid at home, but really struggled on the road. This game was more or less a coin flip for the analysts.
In what would become something of a Pats/Chiefs tradition, this contest would feature points galore. Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady would combine for almost 700 yards passing, with the Patriots adding another 173 yards on the ground in an absolute offensive explosion. New England got out to a commanding 24-9 lead at the half, only to see the Chiefs come storming out the gate in the third quarter to score on their next four possessions to take a 33-30 lead. New England had only managed two field goals and a fumble out of their 2nd half possessions, and all the momentum was strictly on KC’s side, especially when a 97 yard kickoff return allowed for an easy score to take the lead.
With the score 33-30, KC kicked off, and the Patriots started from their own 25 following the touchback with just under nine minutes to play in the game. A nine yard pass to James White got the drive started, but then Sony Michel was stuffed up the middle for no gain, bringing up a crucial 3rd and 1. Rather than try to run it again, the Patriots came out in an empty set, and Brady hit Chris Hogan on a 42 yard out and up that Hogan caught in spite of a DPI call. Brady hit Hogan again on the very next play to bring the ball down to the Chiefs five yard line.
An incomplete pass intended for Julian Edelman followed by a James White run for one yard brought up a 3rd and goal from the 4. New England was well within Ghost’s range, but a field goal would only tie the game, and the Chiefs offense was simply unstoppable in the second half. Odds are they were going to score a TD on the ensuing drive, meaning the Patriots would be left with not a lot of time left and in need of a touchdown just to tie the game.
With 5:25 left to play, Brady lined up in shotgun with James White in the backfield, Chris Hogan and Josh Gordon lined out to the right, and Edelman alone on the left side. Gronk motioned over to the left slot just as the ball was snapped and ran a dummy route to draw the safeties towards him and free up the middle for a Chris Hogan crossing route. Gronk did his job, but Hogan was unable to get the separation he needed, causing Brady to bring the ball back in just as linebacker Breeland Speaks ripped around Trent Brown and got Brady in what looked like an easy sack. However, for some reason, he was unable to fully wrap Tommy B up, allowing him time to step back up into the pocket and look for Gordon, who was also covered. With no receiving options and a little bit of daylight in front of him, Brady took off, diving headfirst into the end zone from two yards out for the score and the lead. There was a flag on the play, defensive holding, but it was declined and the Patriots were back in control, 37-33.
I won’t get too much into what happened next, as I have a feeling it’s going to be showing up a little later on this countdown, but let’s just say that Brady’s escape and run was the spark the team needed to pull out a huge 43-40 win that gave the Patriots the head-to-head tiebreaker over their biggest competition in the AFC. It ultimately didn’t end up mattering, as we all know where the AFC Championship was played (more on that a little later in the countdown as well), but at the time, this was exactly the win the Patriots needed: signature, tough fought win over a strong opponent that showed that they were able to deliver when it mattered most. Week 6 represented one of a few crossroads that was the 2018 Patriots season, and as always, they righted the ship when they needed to. You can trace it all back to this play, which is why it’s here at Number 10.
As a nice added bonus, in an interview after the game, Speaks mentioned how he was worried about drawing a flag when he wrapped Brady up, so he just straight up let go. Now anybody who’s anybody knows that Tom Brady gets special treatment and if you breathe on him too hard you’re getting a penalty, so Speaks did the right thing here.
Or The Patriots just live in everyone’s kitchen and win the mental battle almost every single time, one or the other.
Check out the Brady run here.
Full game highlights here.