Whenever we get to this point on our offseason countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2019, I always tend to say the same thing; we’re about to enter the Top 10, so whatever takes the 11 slot is basically the #1 moment of the year that isn’t a Top 10 Moment. And if that isn’t something to be proud of, then I don’t know what is.
The list so far:
20. The Patriots draft N’Keal Harry.
19. The Patriots trade for Mohammed Sanu.
18. Josh Gordon breaks three tackles to score the first Patriots touchdown of the 2019 season.
17. The kicker carousel.
16. A Kyle van Noy scoop and score ices the game against the New York Giants.
15. The refs screw the Pats out of not one, but two touchdowns against the Kansas City Chiefs.
14. The Patriots play the Jets twice - and the defense shuts them out twice.
13. The Patriots force four interceptions as they dominate the Cincinnati Bengals and secure a playoff spot.
12. Julian Edelman hits Philip Dorsett in the end zone to help lift the Patriots over the Eagles.
At 11, a nice contribution from the first rookie of the 2019 Patriots team.
11. N’Keal Harry scores his first NFL touchdown with a back shoulder grab against the Dallas Cowboys.
The hype surrounding rookie N’Keal Harry was loud and proud in the months leading up to the regular season; he was the first receiver Bill Belichick had ever selected in the first round of the draft, his measurables and college highlights were amazing, and he represented that big-bodied, rangy deep threat that New England hadn’t really had since Randy Moss. So everyone was incredibly excited to see what he could do.
They had to wait all the way until November, though, as Harry was placed on IR with a designation to return in early September as the result of an ankle injury sustained during training camp. His return couldn’t come soon enough, as the receiver position was absolutely decimated in 2019 due to injury, marijuana, and crazy pills, and there were more than a few folks clinging to the hope that Harry’s return would give Tommy B the weapon he needed to get a struggling offense on track.
And in Harry’s second game on the active roster, a Week 12 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, there seemed to be good cause for that hope. The 9-1 Patriots had eked out a win against the hapless Eagles the week before and were hoping to get a statement win, of sorts, at home against a Dallas team that had been all over the map in terms of productivity. Which unit was going to show up against New England? And which Patriots team would show up?
The game was, once again, a defensive slugfest, as neither team was able to do much when they had the ball. The Cowboys didn’t sniff the end zone all day and couldn’t string more than nine plays together at any one point. The Pats didn’t fair much better; of their 12 offensive possessions, they came away empty-handed on nine of them, with only a pair of field goals and a touchdown to show for it. Luckily, that touchdown was enough to get them the W.
After a Matthew Slater blocked punt set the Patriots up on the Dallas 12 yard line, New England faced a 2nd and 8 on the 10 after a two yard Sony Michel run on 1st down. In a 2 WR shotgun set, Edelman was lined up in the left slot with Harry out wide in single coverage. It was the exact kind of play that the Patriots brough Harry in to exploit; against a shorter corner, no safety help, and in that extremely tricky part of the red zone where it’s much harder to throw a man open and quarterbacks need to rely on their guys to make plas and use their physical abilities.
Edelman ran a quick in and out route, which froze the linebacker and forced him to cheat in to try and block the quick passing lane. Ben Watson, lined up on the other side of the line, ran a small flat route as Sony Michel ran the dummy outlet. It was all a ruse designed to ensure Harry had the single coverage the defense showed pre-snap, as Brady locked on Harry from the jump and never wavered.
Cornerback Byron Jones actually had decent coverage and inside leverage as Harry handfought with him throughout the route, which was a simple Go as Brady rifled a laser right towards the sideline. At the exact right moment, Harry turned, made the grab off his back shoulder, and landed out of bounds - but not before he made sure both feet were clearly in the end zone for the score. It put the Patriots up 7-0 late in the 1st quarter, and they wouldn’t relinquish that lead for the entire game.
As Harry got up to celebrate, his teammates all ran over to congratulate him on his first ever NFL touchdown. And what a TD it was: a contested catch, in the rain, in the end zone, and right on the sideline where he’d have to show tremendous dexterity and body control in order to get down in bounds and register the score. It would be his only grab of the day, but it was one helluva grab, and represented all of the potential that Bill Belichick saw in Harry when he took him in the first round.
Will Harry pan out? Will Stidham to Harry become as oft used as Brady to Gronk? Who knows, and only time will tell. But on that day, Harry was living up to his first round status and more. This catch almost made the Top 10, but I think it’s right where it belongs as the Number One Non-Top 10 Moment of the year.
See the catch here.
Full game highlights here.