With the NFL celebrating its 100th birthday this year, the league’ heritage and history are in the spotlight all season long. As part of this process, NFL Network recently looking back at some of the greatest and most unforgettable moments of the past years and released its ‘100 Greatest Plays of All Time’ list. Among the plays in questions, we also see the New England Patriots pop up quite a few times — for better or for worse.
Let’s take a look at the six plays that made the cut.
#99: The Buttfumble: The Patriots have had their fair share of issues with Rex Ryan’s New York Jets in the past, but 2012’s Thanksgiving meeting was a blowout of the highest proportions. A single play exemplifies the 49-19 beatdown: the Buttfumble. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran into the backside of guard Brandon Moore, which forced a fumble that was recovered by Steve Gregory and returned for a touchdown — one of three Patriots scores within 52 second of game time.
#85: Benjamin Watson tackles Champ Bailey: One of the greatest individual efforts in NFL history, Benjamin Watson was able to chase down and tackle Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey to prevent a pick-six in the 2005 divisional playoffs. While the Patriots ultimately lost the game — in part because it was ruled that the football had not gone out of bounds through the end zone after Watson knocked it from Bailey’s hands — the play earned its place in franchise history.
#84: Randy Moss’ one-handed score over Darrelle Revis: Darrelle Revis was the best cornerback in the NFL in 2010, but Randy Moss was able to beat him one-on-one in Week 2 for a spectacular one-handed touchdown. It was one of Moss’ final highlights in a Patriots uniform — he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings two weeks later — but one that showed his abilities as a playmaker and one of Tom Brady’s favorite ever targets.
#22: Julian Edelman’s Super Bowl 51 grab: The greatest comeback in Super Bowl history had plenty of memorable moments, but no other stands out quite like Julian Edelman’s reception over three Atlanta Falcons defenders: in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ comeback from a 28-3 deficit, the veteran wide receiver hauled in a first down pass for a 23-yard gain that helped New England eventually tie the game and win in overtime with a final score of 34-28.
#18: Adam Vinatieri sends the Tuck Rule Game to overtime: Adam Vinatieri has kicked game-winners in two Super Bowls, but his greatest kick might still very well be the 45-yarder that sent the 2001 divisional game against the Oakland Raiders to overtime. Kicking in blizzard conditions in old Foxborough Stadium, Vinatieri’s kick just made it through the uprights. He would later go on to kick the game winner as well.
#5: Malcolm Butler wins Super Bowl 49: A play that very well could have been ranked #1 on the list, Malcolm Butler’s goal line interception against the Seattle Seahawks capped what was arguably the greatest Super Bowl ever. A heavyweight fight between two powerhouse teams came down to the wire, and it was a little known undrafted rookie cornerback that made the difference. While the Seahawks’ decision to throw the football has been the subject of countless debates, Butler making a historic play cannot be denied.
All of the plays listed above certainly deserve their place on the list — the Buttfumble can be disputed, but then again: it does have its own Wikipedia page — but one gets the impression that some that are not on the list very well should be.
How about Ty Law’s pick-six in Super Bowl 36, for example, that set the tone for the entire game and paved the way for the Patriots’ upset over the then-St. Louis Rams? Or Dont’a Hightower’s strip-sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to spark the aforementioned Super Bowl 51 comeback? Or Jason McCourty breaking up a touchdown pass in the low-scoring Super Bowl 53?
The Patriots are not just on the positive end of historic plays, as six have also made the list that went against the club:
#79: William Perry’s Super Bowl touchdown
#59: Barry Sanders shakes the entire Patriots defense
#42: The Miami Miracle
#31: Mario Manningham’s Super Bowl catch
#10: The Philly Special
#3: The Helmet Catch