The first week of August. The dog days of summer are upon us. Time to get those last few trips to the beach in, finish off the propane in the grill, watch the Hall of Fame game, and gear up for everyone’s favorite activity: playing “who the hell is that guy?” as we settle in for the upcoming preseason.
Is what I should be writing right now. Instead, I’m just trying to figure out how long I have to pretend like the season is still going to happen before I just accept reality. But it’s summer. This is supposed to be a happy time. So let’s all carry on and finish out our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2019 so we can get back to the important, relevant, and astute analysis of an upcoming season that’s definitely going to start and finish on time.
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.
5. Stephon Gilmore and Jamie Collins pick sixes highlight an absolute beatdown of the Miami Dolphins.
Number Four is a bit of a curveball, as it once again features the defense...but this time, it’s as the offense.
4. Linebacker turned fullback Elandon Roberts turns his first NFL reception into a 38 yard touchdown against the Miami Dolphins.
By the time the Miami Dolphins came into Foxboro to close out the 2019 season, most Patriots fans had more or less resigned themselves to the fact that the New England offense wasn’t very good this year. When you have a stifling defense that almost always keeps you in the game, there’s always a chance to win, but if the Pats were going to make any kind of deep postseason run, it wasn’t going to be scoring 30+ points a game. Still, all the Patriots had to do was take out the lowly Fins, and they locked in a first round bye and at least one home playoff game. Once you got to the playoffs, it was a whole new season, and maybe that Tommy B postseason magic would reveal itself for one final ride.
But the Patriots couldn’t score a single point in the first quarter, managed only 10 in the second, gave up a pick six, and looked as flat and lethargic - on both sides of the ball - as they have looked all year. It was a game the Patriots deserved to lose, as they simply didn’t show up.
However, this game saw one of the coolest moments of the entire year, courtesy of linebacker Elandon Roberts. With James Devlin on IR with the neck injury that would ultimately lead to his retirement, one of New England’s most underrated positions - fullback - was in flux. In order to keep some of their run-heavy packages functioning, the Patriots had started experimenting with different players at fullback to see who gave them the best chance of success. And the man who ended up winning the job was Roberts, the six foot, 225 pound thumper and one of the hardest hitting linebackers on the team. Roberts didn’t necessarily have the gap instincts and zone blocking acumen that Devlin did, but he knew how to read a defense and never shied away from contact. Roberts had a serviceable tenure as the Patriots linebacker, and sprung the running backs for several key runs throughout the season.
One thing he wasn’t, though, was a receiver.
Or so we all thought.
With the Patriots inexplicably trailing 17-10 midway through the third quarter, having just conceded a nine play, 83 yard TD drive in which the Fins averaged an absurd nine yards per play, New England needed to answer. And answer they did; the offense found some rhythm, mostly through the air, as the Patriots moved the ball down to the Miami 49. At this point in the drive, the Pats had run the ball once, a short gain up the middle by Michel.
With a new set of downs to work with, the Patriots came out big. Elandon Roberts joined the huddle and reported as eligible. The play? An eight yard run from Michel to the left. On 2nd and 2 from the Dolphins 41, Roberts once again reported as eligible, and Michel ran up the middle for three more yards and a first down. Roberts reported again as eligible on the next play, and the Patriots were in almost the exact formation as the previous two attempts, overloaded to the left side with Roberts offset to the right. It wasn’t even a playaction; Brady didn’t pretend to hand off to Michel as the ball was snapped. Whether the Dolphins linebackers were blitzing anyway or they just assumed it was another run based on the last two calls out of this formation is unknown, but everyone crashed the line as Roberts snuck out and along the right sideline, where Brady was looking at him right from the getgo. Tommy B threw the ball a little high and behind Roberts, who had to turn and make a pretty impressive adjustment for a linebacker before reeling the pass in and taking off down the sideline. He was already to the 25 yardline before he met his first Dolphins player, but was able to break the tackle and barreled on towards the end zone. 38 yards later, the defense had, once again, scored a touchdown, and the game was tied.
In a year where the Patriots relied so heavily on their defense to keep them in games long enough for the offense to string together a decent drive, it’s pretty fitting that a defensive player scored one of the cooler touchdowns of the entire season. It was indicative of this team in a lot of ways, needing to get creative to move the ball, but they found ways to do it when they needed to. Sure, it didn’t end well...but that’s fine. Every season can’t be magical and amazing. The Patriots weren’t going to win the Super Bowl last year, so that just means we get to appreciate awesome moments like these a little more. “Big man rumbles into the end zone” is always a favorite narrative of any season, and while Roberts’ catch and run may not quite be on par with Nate Solder’s AFC Championship touchdown or Dan Connolly’s kickoff return, I know I always enjoy when an unlikely player does something impressive while playing somewhat out of position, and I can definitely say that Roberts’ TD was one of the sweeter touchdowns of the season. So it barely misses the Top 3 here at Number Four.
Check out the touchdown here.
And if you want to relive the Patriots imploding at home against one of the worst teams in the league for some reason, full game highlights here.