By this time next week, we’ll all be waist deep in the NFL Draft. I’m not sure how the booing of Roger Goodell is going to go this year with things still not fully back to normal, but we’ll all find out soon enough. So this might be the last Top 20 New England Patriots Moment for a little while.
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.
17. A fourth down option read to James White puts the Patriots on the board against the Arizona Cardinals.
16. A last-second goal line stand prevents the Patriots from stealing a game on the road against the Seattle Seahawks.
15. A nonsensical blindside blocking flag negates an 82 yard punt return for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals.
14. Derrick Carr is strip sacked in the end zone to put six points on the board and put the game away against the Las Vegas Raiders.
At Number 13 we, for the final time, revisit a game that turned out to be one of the better ones of the entire Patriots season.
13. A goal line stand just before halftime keeps the game close against the Arizona Cardinals.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the 2020 Patriots had a lot of trouble putting points on the board at times.
The Arizona Cardinals didn’t boast an elite, top-tier defense, but that didn’t really matter when they came into Gillette Stadium in late November of last year. The Patriots offense was only able to put a single touchdown on the board in the first half, needing to pull out some trickery with a fourth down option run to James White rather than settle for a field goal. The Cardinals had a 10-7 lead when they got the ball back with just under minutes to play in the second quarter, and they would be receiving the 2nd half kickoff as well. A long scoring drive here, coupled with another scoring drive to start the third, would likely more or less put the game away for Arizona; there was just no chance that the Patriots could come back from a 24-7 deficit.
And the Cardinals looked well on their way to that infamous double dip; a beautifully engineered, 15 play drive ate up the entire clock and found Arizona on the New England 8 with just 36 seconds left to play. Kyler Murray hit KeeSean Johnson on a short left pass on third down, and he fell into the end zone for the score to cap off what can only be described as a borderline perfect drive.
However, the official scoring review revealed that Johnson was actually down before he crossed the plane, and the score was taken off the board. It would be 4th and goal at the New England one yard line with three seconds left. Decision time.
The Cardinals decided to keep their offense on the field. The Patriots did it earlier in the half and were successful, so it was time to answer back.
It was going to be the last play of the half regardless, so there was no telling if it was going to be a run or pass. With Murray in a 1WR Big Shotgun set with Kenyan Drake in the backfield, they were for sure showing run - but the one receiver lined out wide was DeAndre Hopkins, in single coverage against Stephon Gilmore. A corner fade or quick in slant was 100% on the table, or a playaction to one of the tight ends along the line. The Patriots had their own big goal line package in, and at the snap, everyone charged forward as the Cardinals did a very good job of opening up a hole right up the gut. Murray handed off to Drake, and he lowered his shoulder to get into the end zone.
Standing in his way was Ja’Whaun Bentley, who timed his rush perfectly just as a double-teamed Lawrence Guy somehow got enough penetration to force his blocker a step to the inside, narrowing the gap. Bentley and Drake collided right at the goal line before they were both swallowed up by a pile of bodies.
No good. Half over.
Looking at the replay, there was just no way that they were going to be able to overturn the original call on the field. Drake might have gotten in, he might not, but no replay angle showed anything but a bunch of jerseys and a big pig pile. So the call stood. Rather than go into the half down 17-7, it was just 10-7.
The Patriots won this game by three points, so it was a game where every score mattered. And never underestimate the difference between going into the locker room at halftime down 17-7 having just given up a long drive and going into the locker room down 7-10 having just stopped an opponent at the goal line. This stand was a massive momentum shift in the game and one that, had it not happened, likely would have caused a different outcome for this game. With the win, the Patriots were able to keep their playoff hopes alive for a little while longer. New England forced a punt right away, then scored a FG and a TD on their next two possession, which would be the points they’d need to eventually squeak out the win.
They always say that football is a game of inches, and never has that been more exemplified than this play here. It was a potentially season-altering turn, for both teams, and well suited here at Number 13.
Check out the goal line stand here.
Full game highlights here.