What a whirlwind last week was. I don’t think I’ve ever paid so much attention to NFL Free Agency in my entire life.
But this last week represented a bit of a breather. No blockbuster moves, no sudden pivots. Just signing some core guys and bringing some other players back into the fold. And since I had some time to breathe this week, I figured I’d keep forging ahead on my 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.
18. Two red zone trips, zero total points against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Given the recent news that came out of 1 Patriot place this week, the timing couldn’t be more fitting for Moment #17.
17. A fourth down option read to James White puts the Patriots on the board against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals team that came into Gillette Stadium for a Week 12 matchup with New England was almost a mirror image of their opponent. The Pats were sitting at 4-6, the Cards were 6-4. New England’s offense had only cracked 30 points once over the past five Weeks, Arizona had only failed to score at least 30 in the past five weeks. The Patriots didn’t have any receivers, the Cardinals had one of the best receivers in the game. Arizona was getting ready to make a serious playoff push, New England was desperately trying to squeak in as a Wild Card. All signs pointed to a Cardinals victory and the first non-10 win season for the Patriots since 2009.
However, the constant head scratchery that represented the 2020 Patriots season was in full effect for this game, because the Patriots were able to walk away with an unlikely 20-17 W, thanks largely to the defense. Cam Newton was at his Cam Newtoniest, going 9 of 18 for 84 yards and two picks, and the running game needed four players to amass over 100 yards (well...five, if you want to count N’Keal Harry’s one carry for minus two yards). And when Arizona went up 10-0 in the first quarter - a borderline insurmountable lead last season - most of us thought that was more or less it. However, a 53 yard Donte Montcrief kickoff return, a few Cam Newton runs, and a Jakobi Meyers crossing route got the Patriots down to the Arizona 8 yard line as the first quarter ended, with the chance to punch it in to start the second.
Unfortunately, a Gunner Olszewski jet sweep only went for a yard, and it was 4th and 2 on the 7. New England’s first two possessions went Interception and then punt after just 25 yards gained, and so the chances of them having this good of field position again wasn’t guaranteed. Belichick decided to keep the offense on the field and went for it on 4th down.
New England showed run all the way; receivers were bunched in close with Damiere Byrd as the lone player lined up out wide. At the snap, Cam Newton immediately took off to the right as the linemen pushed their blocks upfield. The only problem with that was that it left linebacker Kyle Fitts completely unblocked, and he crashed into Newton for the certain TFL.
It all seemed to be part of the play design, however, as Newton quickly made the toss to James White, who was breaking into the flat with a decent amount of green in front of him. One cut and a broken tackle later, and he was in the end zone, and the Patriots were right back in it.
White’s stats during that game were unremarkable - 5 carries for 18 yards and one catch for minus one yard - but he also scored both of New England’s touchdowns that day, starting with this one. The second would come late in the third quarter to give the Patriots a lead they would never relinquish. And furthermore, this is just one of those cool plays that we as Patriots fans never got to enjoy until this last year; sure there were misdirection runs, but I defy you to find a single Tommy B bootleg with a toss option at any point during his tenure with the Patriots. It showed some mental toughness, faith in a sputtering offense, creativity, athleticism, and trust among teammates. It also helped to give the Patriots what would end up being one of their signature wins of the 2020 season. All of that, combined with the fact that we all learned that we get to enjoy another season of Sweet Feet in 2021, makes this moment a solid selection at Number 17.
See the touchdown here.
Game highlights here.