Happy...start of training camp?
I’m starting to realize that maybe I should have spaced my Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments countdown a little farther apart this offseason, in the off-chance that the sport that literally ends in a massive pile of bodies every single play and has done absolutely nothing to address playing during a pandemic isn’t able to proceed as planned this Fall. I mean, what are we going to do then? This countdown would have been a nice distraction to get us through to whatever is going to resemble the 2019 holiday season. Oh well. May as well just keep at it.
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
7. Rex Burkhead finds some nice redemption with the go-ahead touchdown against the Buffalo Bills to clinch the AFC East
6. Lawrence Guy manages to intercept a handoff in a game against the Cleveland Browns.
At that coveted Number 5 slot, the first item on the cream of the crop moments that made up this past season.
5. Stephon Gilmore and Jamie Collins pick sixes highlight an absolute beatdown of the Miami Dolphins.
Patriots at Dolphins for a Week 2 matchup on September 15th, 2019 seems like a lifetime ago for so many reasons. The season was just kicking off, and while it’s always a fool’s errand to make too many judgments during the first month of football, there were two things in particular that it was all but impossible not to recognize. One was that the New England Patriots were looking, once again, like a force to be reckoned with. They had just dispatched the Steelers in convincing fashion the week before, and in between that game and this one had added the best receiver in the game, Antonio Brown, to their roster. Combine that offensive firepower with a defense that was shaping up to be lights out, all signs pointed to New England making a very strong push for a repeat.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum was the Miami Dolphins, who seemed to be the first team in NFL history to take a page from the NBA and deliberately tank the season. New coach Brian Flores cleaned house, let go of some big money, amassed draft picks, and seemed perfectly content to just punt on the year in anticipation of starting fresh in 2020. They opened the year at home against the Baltimore Ravens and lost 59-10 in a game that, remarkably, wasn’t even that close. With the Patriots on the docket next...
Well, we all know what happened.
It’s crazy to look back and remember that this game was only 13-0 New England at halftime. The Patriots only had four possessions in the first half, scoring on two, with a missed FG and a missed extra point from Ghost foreshadowing what would become a real issue for this team all year. The Dolphins only had one first half possession that didn’t result in a three and out. They were just terrible.
And that terribleness really shone through in the second half, as the Patriots proceeded to put thirty points on the board. Six of them came from Antonio Brown’s first and only touchdown as a Patriot. Six more came from a 10 yard James White catch and run late. Ghost finally got his act together and tacked on another field goal. And then, on back-to-back possessions, the defense got into the scoring fest and found the end zone.
The first came early in the fourth quarter, the Pats up 23-0 with the game already over. The Dolphins were in the middle of their most successful drive of the second half, as they had actually managed to procure a first down (their three possessions before this one netted a total of -13 yards and pick on nine plays). However, on third and two from the New England 49, Stephon Gilmore jumped an out route and took it 54 yards to the house to put the Patriots up 30-0. It was a perfectly read play.
Gilmore must have said something to Jamie Collins on the sideline or something during the break, because a mere four plays later, Collins picked Fitzpatrick off and took it 69 yards to the house. The few fans left in the stands at that point were all cheering for New England, and even they almost started to feel bad for the Dolphins.
Ultimately, the Dolphins got their revenge on the Patriots, beating them in an absolutely humiliating fashion at home to knock them out of the Two Seed. I’m sure it was incredibly satisfying to derail New England’s season with that win, and represented at least some kind of redemption for this destruction - but the Pats weren’t going to win the Super Bowl anyway, so that loss was kind of a weird blessing in disguise.
I opted to focus on the pick sixes here, but honestly this entire game could just be one big highlight. The Patriots forced four turnovers. They ran for almost 130 yards on the ground. . The Dolphins QBs combined for just 142 total yards in the air and no player cracked 20 yards rushing on the day. It was just a dismantling of a team they usually lose to on the road, and looking back on it now, this game (sadly) represented the absolute pinnacle of optimism and confidence in the 2019 Patriots. Through eight quarters of football, the defense had surrendered a single field goal. Going back to the 2018 season, they hadn’t surrendered a touchdown in nine full quarters of play. The offense scored had scored 76 points in two games and Antonio Brown was still getting acclimated to the system. This was a team we were all unbelievably excited about, a virtually limitless ceiling on defense and an offense that was only going to get better. Ultimately it didn’t work out...but man was this game a defining moment in the season, which is why it’s right where it belongs at Number 5.
Game highlights here.