And we’re off.
This is usually the time every year where we get way more invested than we should on the running, jumping, and lifting abilities of a bunch of college kids who have all descended upon the wonderful city of Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. But since that ain’t happening this year, we may as well distract ourselves by kicking off our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2020.
As I’ve already mentioned, you should all prepare to be wildly underwhelmed by the countdown that will be taking place over the coming days, weeks, and months of the NFl offseason. And since this list isn’t likely to impress anybody this year, I thought that it would be fitting if I kicked things off with a player that has epitomized the word “underwhelming” since he arrived.
20. A diving N’Keal Harry grab in the end zone makes it a game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 2020 Kansas City Chiefs were defending Super Bowl champions. They had an exciting young quarterback in Patrick Mahomes who was already (inexplicably) finding his name mentioned in that coveted GOAT conversation. They were poised to be the first team to repeat as back-to-back world champs since the 2003/2004 Patriots accomplished the feat. The Week 4 matchup between the Patriots and Chiefs was initially slated as a potential AFC Championship preview, as Mahomes vs. Brady was storyline central.
However, Tommy B departed for Tampa, and then Cam Newton contracted COVID, leaving this once coveted matchup to be a complete dud as Brian Hoyer found himself under center in a wildly underwhelming game. The Patriots, at that point in the season, were still considered a decent team, as their 2-1 record saw impressive performances against the Raiders and Dolphins to go along with barely losing on the road to the Seahawks. However, given the QB situation and the fact that KC was 3-0 and playing at home going into this contest, nobody gave the Patriots much of a chance.
To New England’s credit, they made a game of this one. The defense held the potent KC offense to just a pair of field goals in the first half, and a single touchdown in the third quarter. Brian Hoyer was able to do absolutely nothing as a starter, and he was pulled for second year signal caller Jarrett Stidham to start the fourth quarter. That it was only 13-3 as the game wound down spoke volumes about the gameplan and Bill Belichick’s ability to rattle quarterbacks.
Following KC’s 85 yard TD drive to put them up two scores, Stidham put together what may very well be the best drive of his young career - basically just handing the ball to Damien Harris, who ripped off a 41 yarder to put the Patriots into scoring range, followed by a DPI call that gave them the ball at the Chiefs’s eight yard line. A four yard Burkhead run and an incompletion later, it was 3rd and goal at the 4 yard line.
The next play represented the kind of stuff that we as Patriots fans thought represented the future of this franchise. As Stidham took the snap, recognizing single coverage on N’Keal Harry, he didn’t even wait for the 2nd year receiver to finish his route before tossing a rainbow towards the back of the end zone. Harry, who made an absolutely beautiful double move, beat his man and made the diving grab for the score. Patriots 10, Chiefs 13, with the whole fourth quarter still to play.
Unfortunately, the Chiefs scored on their next possession, and Sidham threw a pick-six on his very next passing attempt to put the game away. The Pats would go on to lose the game 26-10 in what represented the first of four straight losses. However, in that moment, on that drive, with Damien Harris trucking over defenders and Jarrett Stidham throwing end zone fades to a diving N’Keal Harry, we all got what we were hoping we’d get from the young core of this team as we all adjusted to life after Tom Brady. New England was hanging right in there with the best team in the AFC and relying on their younger guys to do it. It was a great feeling, and one I remember well.
Unfortunately, this is the last time that either Harry or Stidham will show up on this countdown, as neither did much of anything last season. But that Harry touchdown was exactly the kind of play he was supposed to be making on a regular basis by now, and that it came on a throw from the guy that a lot of us had pegged as Brady’s heir apparent makes his what-could-have-been moment the perfect thing to open up this list at Number 20.
Check out the play here.
Full game highlights here.