Here we are. The final two.
We’re well into the preseason now, with that vaunted Week 3 game looming on the horizon like a Viking warship barreling through the Nordic mist. Anyone who’s anyone knows that how your team performs during the Week 3 preseason game determines the outcome of virtually every single snap from here on out, so I’m sure we’re all on pins and needles. Maybe I can do my part to calm you all down by knocking out the 2nd to last item on the countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2018.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.
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.
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.
9. Tom Brady becomes the all time passing yards leader in a win over the New York Jets.
8. Tom Brady eclipses 1,000 career rushing yards with a five yard scamper against the Minnesota Vikings.
7. The Miami Miracle.
6. A Devin McCourty pick-six seals a Monday Night victory over the Buffalo Bills.
5. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski team up to lead the Patriots on a late game-winning drive against the Kansas City Chiefs.
4. The Patriots shut everybody up and dismantle the Los Angeles Chargers in the Divisional Round.
3. Tom Brady hits a double-covered Josh Gordon in the end zone for a 34 yard touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts.
In the penultimate spot, it’s only fitting that we find ourselves reliving the penultimate game of the 2018 season.
2. Tom Brady leads the Patriots to the Super Bowl with an overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
It seems that whenever the Patriots and Chiefs get together, fireworks ensue. KC handed New England an absolutely embarrassing beatdown on Monday Night Football back in 2014. They ruined the home opener in 2017. And since the 2011 shellacking in which Brodie Croyle was forced to start for KC, the Patriots hadn’t beaten the Chiefs by more than a single score. The earlier matchup between the two teams was one of the best games of the entire season, and while everyone thought that New England’s 43-40 victory meant that the inevitable rematch in the AFC Championship would take place in Foxboro, the Chiefs finished the 2018 season 12-4 to New England’s 11-5, which meant that the Patriots took the field at Arrowhead on January 20th, 2019 in hopes of heading to their fourth Super Bowl in the last five years.
Arrowhead boasts one of the best crowds and home field advantages in football, and the stadium was electric as the Patriots received the opening kickoff. The crowd quickly quieted, however, when Tommy B led an 80 yard touchdown drive that ate up over eight minutes of clock. KC’s first possession netted negative six yards on five plays, and they punted it right back to New England, who drove it right down the field again. Unfortunately, Tom Brady threw an inexcusable goal line interception to prevent the Patriots from blowing the game wide open, and the KC defense finally found its footing; New England would only find the end zone once more for the entire first half, on a beautiful 29 yard strike to Phillip Dorsett. The Patriots defense was doubly stingy, keeping one of the most prolific offenses in the league off the scoreboard completely for the first two quarters.
What exactly happened at halftime in each team’s locker is a mystery, but whatever it was worked, for the 2nd half was an offensive explosion. More specifically the fourth quarter, which transformed the game from a 17-14 Patriots lead to a 28-24 Chiefs lead with just over two minutes to play. If the Patriots were going to be heading to Atlanta, they would need yet another Tom Brady 4th quarter drive.
Cordarrelle Patterson got a nice kickoff return to the 35 yard line as the two minute warning hit. Tommy B then immediately hit Julian Edelman for 20 yards and Chris Hogan for another 11. Just like that, New England was in FG range - but a field goal wouldn’t cut it. The Patriots needed to keep driving.
With a minute to play, Brady failed to connect with Dorsett. On the next play, Brady hit Hogan for 13 more yards, but the play was reversed and ruled incomplete. On 3rd and 10, Brady tried to hit Gronk short, but the throw was just a bit high, it bounced off his hands, and was intercepted by Charvarius Ward. Game over.
However, there was a flag on the play. Dee Ford was lined up in the neutral zone, negating the interception and giving the Patriots new life.
KC fans lost their minds. Analysts would later point to Ford, who very clearly lined up offside, as some kind of favoritism shown by the referees. But the replay was clear; Ford was ahead of the ball, and the call was the right one.
Speaking of right calls...on 3rd and 5, Brady connected with Gronk for 25 yards to set up 1st and Goal at the 4. Rex Burkhead punched it in on the very next play. New England 31, KC 28.
Not even close to over.
The Patriots defense suddenly couldn’t stop anything, and Mahomes needed just two plays to get from his own 31 to New England’s 21. A 39 yard chip shot as time expired tied the game at 31.
To overtime we go.
There was another overtime playoff game the Patriots played in not too long ago, I think...but I can’t remember how that one shook out. I think New England won the coin toss in that one, though, just like they did here. The Patriots took the ball, and with Patterson’s kneeldown, they were 75 yards away from a Super Bowl berth.
Brady was able to hit Chris Hogan right away for a new set of downs, but Rex Burkhead couldn’t find any room on 1st down and Brady couldn’t connect with Edelman on 2nd. Facing a 3rd and 10 from their own 35, KC was in great shape to get a massive leg up in the field position battle; force a punt here, and it would be a short field to get into FG range.
However, Tommy B hit Julian Edelman for 20 yards to put New England at the KC 45 and keep the drive alive. The Chiefs D tightened up again, though, blanketing Dorsett and knocking loose a surefire completion to Patterson. It was once again 3rd and 10. The good news was that a punt here would make for a much longer field for the Chiefs offense - but the way they had been moving the ball in the 2nd half, that wasn’t overly comforting.
Once again, though, Brady found Edelman over the middle for 15 yards and a 1st down at the KC 30. At the very least, the Patriots were in position for a 47 yard FG try. And it looked like it would be just that, as passes to Hogan and Patterson both fell incomplete, setting up yet another 3rd and 10. Lining Gronk out wide and seeing the gap, Brady hit Gronk on a quick slant - a route that no human tight end should be able to run - for 15 yards. 1st and 10 at the 15 yard line.
At this point, the Patriots hadn’t attempted a running play since the 2nd play of the drive all the way back at the 35. It had been all passes, and all big ones on third down, keeping this drive alive. The Chiefs defense knew that New England only had to travel 15 more yards to end their season for good, and so they played press man at the line, moved the linebackers further away from the LOS, and prepared to defend against any in-cuts. New England ran Burkhead up the gut for 10 yards, down to the 5.
1st and Goal.
Burkhead for three more. Two yards to go.
Burkhead again. Following James Develin. Touchdown. Patriots 37, Chiefs 31.
Patriots stormed the field. Brady threw off his helmet and leapt into the arms of Kyle Van Noy. Chiefs fans sat in stunned silent as their quarterback, their league MVP, their hope for the future, dropped a playoff game to the old guard. This was supposed to be the passing of the torch in the AFC - but Brady wasn’t ready to relinquish it just yet.
After the game, Brady would seek out Mahomes to tell the kid what a talent he is and remind him of the bright future he had ahead of him. But the day belonged to Brady and the Patriots. Time to head to back-to-back Super Bowls.
This game, and OT drive, was an easy choice at Number Two. It was an instant classic, a great game that very closely mirrored the first Pats/Chiefs matchup of 2018 in that there were few points early and an explosion of points late. It was a great storyline, the young superstar trying to reached the promised land, but in his way stands the stalwart champion who won’t go down without a fight. It was great to watch all the media who predicted a Chiefs win try to spin the game, emphasizing Dee Ford’s penalty and the Julian Edelman muffed punt that got overturned.
But most importantly, it was a signature road win for Tom Brady, his first since the Patriots beat the #1 Seed San Diego Chargers all the way back in 2006. The vast majority of Brady’s playoff success had come at Gillette Stadium, mainly because they were the 1 or 2 seed so often that’s just where the games were played - but the folks who were still adamant on dying on the anti-Brady hill had always pointed to the “no signature road playoff win” as one of their talking points. Now, with this one, yet another argument went out the window. Not only that, but to engineer an OT game-winning drive in which he converted three straight third and longs to keep the offense moving...just remarkable. In a year where Tom Brady, all 41 years of him, didn’t play up to the standard he set for himself at times, his ability to call upon his greatness when it mattered most is just yet another reason to be in awe of this man. In most other seasons, this would easily be Number One...but since the result of this drive allowed Brady to engineer another drive a few weeks later, it’s right were it belongs in the two spot.
Check out the game highlights here.