Here we are. As summer comes to a close, the season gets ready to pick back up again for as long as possible before it inevitably shuts down again in a few weeks, and we all get ready for the next era of Patriots football, we’e finally reached the end of our countdown. At long last: The Number One Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2019.
Usually, this moment more or less selects itself before I even put this list together. There’s usually something absolutely incredible that happens during the previous year that makes picking Moment Number One incredibly easy. Remarkably, more often that not it has been a Super Bowl victory, which is just absurd to think about. But when the Patriots haven’t been hoisting Lombardis, they have been enjoying Buttfumbles, Fake Punts, wild comebacks, last-second finishes, and all of the other good stuff we’ve come to associate with a Patriots season.
This year, however, saw none of that. There really wasn’t a signature, defining moment of the 2019 season that will stand out years from now. 2019 was, relative to what we’re used to these past 20 years, completely forgettable. Yeah, there were some nice little tidbits on this list, but other than perhaps Slater’s blocked punt for the TD and Stephon Gilmore winning DPOY, there’s not really all that much to write home about. Because of that, there were a few different moments on this list that held the top spot for a period before I ultimately switched it up for what’s about to follow.
And what’s about to follow is, for reasons I hope everyone will understand, my Number One Most Memorable Moment of 2019 and it isn’t even close.
But first, 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.
4. Linebacker turned fullback Elandon Roberts turns his first NFL reception into a 38 yard touchdown against the Miami Dolphins.
3. A blocked punt leads to Matthew Slater’s first NFL touchdown against the Buffalo Bills.
2. Stephon Gilmore wins Defensive Player of the Year.
At Number One, a play that says it all.
- Tom Brady lays out Tre’Davious White to spring N’Keal Harry for an 18-yard gain against the Buffalo Bills.
Here’s something you aren’t used to hearing: the Buffalo Bills were still relevant in December of last year.
In fact, the Bills were good. They were 10-5, with a chance to steal the AFC East from the Patriots and take the division for the first time since 1995. New England still had the inside track at 11-3, but at 10-5, if the Bills could come into Gillette and take them out...well, who knows. Buffalo gave New England all that they could handle during their first meeting, and they had just taken out Pittsburgh on the road the week before.
Just as they had during Week 4, the Bills defense gave Tommy B and company all that they could handle. The score was tied 10-10 at the half, and Buffalo actually had a 17-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Patriots didn’t take the lead until there was less than five minutes left to play, when Rex Burkhead redeemed an earlier fumble by breaking multiple tackles to find the end zone on 1st and Goal from the one yard line. A successful Edelman two point conversion gave the Pats the 1 score lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and they were able to once again claim the AFC East Crown.
It’s a game I more or less summed up already in my Number Seven Moment, so no need to rehash it all here. But if you go back and read that article, you’ll notice that one play is conspicuously absent from the recap.
Midway through the second quarter with the Patriots up 7-3, New England found themselves facing a first and 10 at their own 36 yard line following a James White run to move the chains. The formation seemed to scream “pass;” Burkhead was in the backfield, Brady was in the gun, and three receivers were stacked wide to the left. Rookie N’Keal Harry was the lone receiver on the right side, in single coverage against Tre’Davious White. Harry had the size advantage, but White is one of the better corners in the league, and it wasn’t the best matchup.
At the snap, Brady handed it off to Burkhead, who broke towards the right off tackle gap as Harry broke across field and behind the line. Rather than pursue, White broke off Harry to clog the gap that Burkhead seemed primed to break through. However, the play was a reverse; Burkhead tossed it to Harry, who followed a Ted Karras block and took off toward the left sideline. He broke a tackle and had some daylight.
His assigned corner, Tre’Davious White, recognized the reverse right away and didn’t penetrate the gap as initially planned. Instead, hs continued his lateral movement and sought to stop Harry for a short game as he moved across he scrum in the center of the field. The Patriots are all about putting a hat on a hat, and since Harry was White’s guy, there didn’t seem to be anyone there to throw the block.
Anyone, that is, except for Tom Brady.
Almost immediately after Tommy B handed the ball off to Burkhead, he took off upfield, a series of slow, lumbering strides that we’ve all come to know too well. We’d seen this move before; a few steps, maybe a token move, and then Brady’s role in this play would be done.
Not this, time, though.
Brady didn’t know exactly what was going on behind him, but he did see White coming free across the field with an angle on the sideline where Harry would be making his break if everything went according to plan. After a few more Brady-eque steps forward, Tommy B dove low at White and completely laid him out as Harry turned the corner and sprinted down to the Bills 36 for an 18 yard gain. The drive would end in a field goal after going 81 yards on 17 plays with almost nine minutes of clock eaten up. It was one of New England’s best drives of the entire season, highlighted by yet another feat of astonishing athleticism from our fearless leader.
If I’m being honest with myself...is Tom Brady throwing a block, as cool as that may be, really the single most memorable moment of the entire season?
No, it isn’t. In reality, it’s not even close. There are moments on this list that are way cooler than Tommy B laying out some defender. I don’t deny that, and if you want to call me out on it, then I completely understand.
But I do think it belongs somewhere on this list, and as I was initially making this countdown and trying to figure out where it should go, realization dawned on me like a stone.
This moment, this block, whenever I decided to write about it...it would be the last time that Tom Brady would ever appear on my offseason countdown as a Patriot. He left for Tampa during the 2020 calendar year, so that doesn’t qualify for this list (spoiler alert: Tom Brady leaving for the Bucs will 100% make the countdown next year. Dammit).
But as for Patriots Moments... this would be it.
All of the happiness he’s brought me, all of the times I wrote about and covered his play, all of the times he’s appeared in some form or other on a series I started all the way back in 2013...this would be the end. No more writing about Tom Brady Patriots highlights for yours truly. I - all of us, really - have experienced multiple lifetimes of joy because of this man. He lifted an entire region on his back and took us to the promised land six - freaking SIX - times. There will never be another Tom Brady for as long as we live, and likely ever again. What he’s done for this team, done for me...there’s just nothing to be said at this point. I could never do it justice, so why should I even bother trying?
So I had to do it. I had to list it here as Number One. Once more into the fray. One more memory. One last time writing in appreciation of the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Because this block is, for all intents and purposes, Tom Brady personified. This play, in so many ways, is everything there is to know about Tom Brady. Laying himself out to help his team win the game. Thousands of little moments, a generous helping of big moments, and more than a few moments of such incredible magnitude they literally altered the course of football history and changed the game forever. This time, it was a block. Another time, and audible. Maybe a read. A head bob. A pump fake. A rainbow. A laser. A quick out. A deep strike.
A career that will never be duplicated.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go, I have something in my eye.
Check out Brady’s block here.
Full Pats/Bills highlights here.
And with that, another offseason countdown is officially in the books. As always, thanks for reading, everyone. And as we all get ready to leap into the complete unknown that is the 2020 season - unknown in every possible sense of the word - I offer you all a small bit of advice.
Look back on what was with nothing but joy. Look ahead the exact same way.
You’re up, Cam. And we’re all right here behind you. Let’s do this thing.