It’s hot. I’m cranky. It seems like every sport that’s scheduled to come back is having all sorts of problems and it’s looking more and more likely that there’s going to be severely limited football this season. So let’s just pretend I wrote something witty and fun here and get right to the countdown.
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.
11. N’Keal Harry scores his first NFL touchdown with a back shoulder grab against the Dallas Cowboys.
10. The Patriots force three turnovers on three straight plays against the Cleveland Browns.
9. Tom Brady becomes the 2nd All-Time passing yards leader in a Week 6 win over the New York Giants.
8. The Patriots sign Antonio Brown
At Number 7, to steal a quote from Anchorman: today we spell redemption R-E-X.
7. Rex Burkhead finds some nice redemption with the go-ahead touchdown against the Buffalo Bills to clinch the AFC East.
There’s something of an unwritten rule when it comes to Patriots running backs: if you fumble the ball, there’s a good chance that you aren’t going to see the field for the rest of the day.
So when Rex Burkhead short-circuted New England’s opening drive against the surging Bills by fumbling a big catch and run and setting up Buffalo’s first lead of the game, nobody could blame anyone who thought that was the last we’d see of ol’ Rexy that day. The Patriots offense, at this point in the season, was what it was: efficient, not overly dangerous, and lousy in the red zone. And when your offense isn’t going to carry the team, you can’t afford costly fumbles the way Rex did, especially when it puts your team in a hole.
However, unlike years past, Bill Belichick stuck with Burkhead, and the guy delivered. His five rushes for 20 yards, averaging four yards per carry, was nice, but where Burkhead really made his mark was in the passing game. Buffalo was extremely aggressive in their rush, and to counter it the Patriots ran a lot of screens and quick outs to the backs. Rex Burkhead was actually the leading receiver on the day, hauling in 77 yards on just four grabs for almost 20 yards per reception.
Then, late in the game, with the Bills clinging to a 17-16 lead, the Patriots drove all the way down to the Bills two yard line - a famous stalling point for the 2019 offense. They hadn’t scored a touchdown since the first quarter, and while a field goal would give the Patriots the lead, all Buffalo would need was a FG of their own to win the game. New England needed to get into the end zone.
On 1st and goal with just over five minutes left in the game, New England came out in their Jumbo package. Elandon Roberts reported in as the fullback, with the lone receiver, Matthew Slater, going in motion to draw Jordan Poyer over to the opposite side. Slater is really a receiver in name only; the special teams ace is one of the best in the business at taking good angles, fighting through blocks, and - more importantly - holding his ground as a blocker. The Patriots were running the ball, and they weren’t even trying to hide it.
Buffalo lined everyone up on the line and the safeties crashed right at the snap. Both Joe Thuney at Ted Karras threw chop blocks immediately, but Star Lotulelei held his feet and penetrated into the backfield. At the same time, Lorenzo Alexander came in through a gap and got to Burkhead just as Lotulelei did. They had him wrapped up well behind the line - but Burkhead broke free. Roberts had thrown a block that opened up the outside, so Burkhead took off and rumbled into the end zone for the score. Tommy B would hit Julian Edelman to make the score 24-17, which is how it would finish.
I have this play ranked as high as I do for a few reasons. Sure, it was a nice broken tackle and run, but that alone isn’t enough to justify getting it into the Top 10. There was also the element of Rex Burkhead shaking off an early game fumble and making up for it with superior play and the mental toughness that gave him what ended up being the winning touchdown.
Also, this game clinched the AFC East for the Patriots for an absurd 11th straight year. We’ve come to take division titles as something of a birthright in New England, so it’s very easy t
And finally, this game was something that was sorely lacking in 2019: a statement win. New England had a pretty soft schedule last year, and while they beat the teams they were supposed to beat, they really struggled against talented squads. The 2019 Bills were legit. They gave the Patriots everything they could handle for eight full quarters of this past season, but New England held on, kept it close with the defense, and punched it in when they needed to.
Check out the TD here,
Full game highlights here.