Free Agency is almost upon us - a time of year we as Patriots fans have traditionally had mixed feelings about. Usually, the middle of March finds us all sitting around, watching fans of other teams celebrate their upcoming Super Bowl victory as their team signs the biggest names on the market and comes out swinging during those first few hours of the Free Agent period. We sit around some more as all of the hottest commodities are snatched up, and then on Day 2 or 3 we welcome the rock-solid, every down player that isn’t going to break the bank or turn any heads, but will likely prove instrumental in another deep playoff run. It’s never a glamorous time of year around Patriots Nation, but the results have been hard to ignore.
This year, though, may be a little different. After a down year, the Patriots have tons of cap space, need at key positions, and multiple directions they could take their approach to team building. So March 17th may give us all reasons to tip back a few that have nothing to do with the greatest holiday in the history of humanity. And in case that does happen, there’s going to be a lot to cover here at Pats Pulpit, so let’s get one more knocked off our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2020.
The list so far:
20. A diving N’Keal Harry grab in the end zone makes it a game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
19. A last second 51 yard Nick Folk field goal caps off a comeback win against the New York Jets.
It’s kind of fitting that Moment Number 18 falls right at the start of Free Agency, as it was one of the year’s biggest indicator that the Patriots have a lot of work to over the next few months.
18. Two red zone trips, zero total points against the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the madness of 2020, most of us weren’t sure if there would be an NFL season at all. When the season did end up happening, we weren’t sure how the league was going to handle COVID infections and players missing time. But it quickly became obvious that the NFL was just planning on plowing ahead no matter what, so after minimal rescheduling, it was business as usual all across the league.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, that meant that their October 5th matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs was going to happen even after Cam Newton tested positive for coronavirus. New England was coming off a convincing win over the Raiders, and Newton was starting to show some real flashes of his old MVP self - and the Chiefs were still the Chiefs. This was going to be a great matchup of two extremely mobile, athletic QBs that had potential to be one big highlight reel.
Unfortunately, Mahomes vs. Newton quickly became Mahomes vs. Hoyer, as the journeyman was thrust into a starting role for New England. We were all familiar with Brian Hoyer; he backed up Brady for years, then found some success around the league, and found himself back in New England on the tail end of the Jimmy G trade to the 49ers. He was no Cam Newton, but he knew the system as well as anybody, so we all strapped in for...well, we weren’t exactly sure what we strapped in for, but it was on.
As far as games go, this was one of New England’s best from a defensive standpoint. The D held the explosive Chiefs offense to just a pair of field goals in the first half, and a solitary touchdown in the third quarter. There was every opportunity for the Patriots to make a game out of this one and pull off a huge upset on the road.
As the first half was winding down and KC holding a 6-3 lead, Hoyer led the offense on a 13 play drive all the way down to the Chiefs 14 yard line. With 39 seconds left to play, the Patriots ran Damien Harris up the middle for five yards to bring it down to the 9 before using their final timeout with 33 seconds left. That was more than enough time for a few shots at the end zone before possibly settling for a game-tying FG.
On 2nd and and 5, Hoyer connected with James White for a loss of four. On the very next play, he was sacked to end the half. No points.
Not the end of the world, though - the defense was still playing great, and KC punted on their first possession of the 3rd quarter, and Hoyer yet again led a 13 play drive to get the ball down to the 10 yard line. Worst case scenario, the game is tied at six.
On 3rd and 8, Hoyer was strip sacked, recovered by the Chiefs. Seven plays later, it was 13-3 KC, and that was the end of that for Brian Hoyer. Jarrett Stidham came on in relief duty, and actually put a decent TD drive together before a back-breaking pick six dashed any hopes of a Patriots comeback. The final score of the game, 26-10, could have looked very different had just a few things gone New England’s way.
The loss marked Hoyer’s 11th straight defeat starting for three different teams. It also marked the first of four straight losses for the Patriots and signaled the beginning of the end of the 2020 season.
I don’t want to sit here and say that if the Patriots had managed to come away with even one score on those red zone trips, it would be a different game. But honestly, you never know; this is a game the Patriots 100% could have won if not for some incredibly costly errors, and instead of sitting at 2-2 they’d have been 3-1 with a massive tiebreaker victory over the defending champs and a huge confidence boost to close out the first quarter of the season. That’s a lot of hypotheticals, obviously...but who knows what this season could have looked like if the Pats had beaten the Chiefs. But they didn’t, in large part because YOU CAN’T LEAVE THE RED ZONE TWICE WITH NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT AGAINST THE WORLD CHAMPS, and so here we are, forced to look back and shudder at the thought of how putrid this offense was at times. Good thing this moment is pretty low down the list at Number 18.
Game highlights here.