I have a feeling that we could all use a break from the hard-hitting, nonstop, action-packed rollercoaster that is looking at a list of games that will be played on certain Sundays five months from now. So let’s all relax with 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.
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.
13. A goal line stand just before halftime keeps the game close against the Arizona Cardinals.
At Number 12, we go all the way back to the very beginning of the season, and something we as Patriots fans hadn’t seen in a very, very long time.
12. The Patriots debut the RPO offense against the Miami Dolphins.
Week One of the 2020 NFL season was a bizarre one for so many reasons. Stadiums were completely devoid of fans. Nobody had any idea if the league was going to be able to play a full slate of games. The pandemic raged on. And for Patriots fans, it was the first time in two decades that New England was talking the field without Tom Brady on their roster. The opponent, the Miami Dolphins, was a foe we were quite familiar with; as for what kind of Patriots team we were about to see was anybody’s guess.
Under center was the newly acquired former NFL MVP Cam Newton. His play had dropped off in years past due to a combination of factors, but New England seemed like the perfect place for a career revival; he was here on a one-year deal, and at 31, it was a golden opportunity to show the league that he still belonged as a starter. The real question was whether or not he was going to be able to deliver, and what a Cam Newton-led offense would look like as opposed to a Tom Brady-led one. In terms of mobility and athleticism, there wasn’t much of a comparison.
And it didn’t take long to answer that question, as the Patriots debuted their version of the RPO offense, ramming the ball down Miami’s throat and dominating the time of possession. Newton only threw the ball 15 times for 155 yards, but he didn’t need to throw; the Patriots ran for 217 yards on the ground, with Newton leading the way at 75. A whopping six Patriots had at least 20 yards rushing, and the team ran the ball a combined 42 times. It was about as far a departure as you can get from a Brady-led team, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a blast to watch. Cam Newton scored two TDs on the ground and averaged an astounding five yards per carry. On top of that, the D registered three picks and held Miami to just 269 yards of total offense in a 21-11 that wasn’t even that close until a late-game Miami touchdown after the contest was more or less over. Every single Patriots fan who watched this game thought to themselves, “if they can do this consistently and pick up some yards through the air as well, this team could turn some heads this year.”
Ultimately that didn’t quite happen; the Patriots offense was never able to remain consistent, and their defense was too weak against the run as the team limped to a 7-9 finish and no postseason for the first time since 2002. And if I’m being honest with myself, the header of this moment is pretty misleading; the Pats actually ran very little true RPO plays last year. However, Week 1 of 2020 was hands down one of the most unique and memorable games in Patriots history; not only was it the first time in forever where we all didn’t kick off the league year just kind of waiting for the playoffs to start, but it was the debut of a brand new offense, a brand new quarterback, and a brand new chapter for the greatest dynasty in football history. We’re always going to remember Cam Newton putting the RPO on full display against the Dolphins to kick off the weirdest NFL season ever, so I think this moment is right where it should be at Number 12.
Game highlights here.