OTAs are done! Minicamp is just around the corner! Time to knock off another moment on our offseason countdown. At this rate, I’ll be done before training camp even gets into full swing.
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.
12. The Patriots debut the RPO offense against the Miami Dolphins.
11. Rex Burkhead hurdles into the end zone just before halftime against the Las Vegas Raiders.
10. The Patriots sign Cam Newton.
9. Cam Newton hits Damiere Byrd for a 42 yard touchdown bomb against the Houston Texans.
At Number 8, we take a look at something that was in short supply in 2020, which meant the Patriots took it any way they can get it.
8. Jakobi Meyers connects with Rex Burkhead in the end zone to take a 14-10 lead into the half against the Baltimore Ravens.
Pats/Ravens was, for a goos chunk of the 2010s, one of the best matchups of the season. New England was always a perennial playoff contender, and Baltimore, even during those few down years when they weren’t really in the conversation, always found a way to play the Patriots tough. If you were to poll Pats fans and ask them who the last team you’d want to see in the postseason in, Baltimore would win in a landslide. It was just two good teams going at each other hard, and it made for some absolute classic games.
In 2020, though, the November 15th contest between New England and Baltimore didn’t really have the same impact. The Ravens were one of the Top 2 teams in the AFC at 6-2, and the 3-5 Patriots had barely beaten the lowly Jets the week before to snap a four game losing skid. Even though the Patriots were at home, nobody expected much from this contest.
But the football gods have always had a sense of humor, and so in the blinding rain on Sunday Night, New England took one from Baltimore to the tune of 23-17 courtesy of 173 yards on the ground and an efficient passing game from Cam Newton. The Patriots got one TD on the ground and two through the air, and Newton had a safe but productive day going 13 of 17 for 118 yards and a score.
The other TD pass came from what has been one of the best stories of the past two seasons: high school quarterback turned wide receiver standout Jakobi Meyers.
Meyers represents the latest in what has been an impressively long line of late round picks/undrafted free agents whom the Patriots take a flyer on, they excel in preseason, earn a roster spot, and find themselves a productive member of the team. Meyers certainly isn’t a #1 receiver, but he’s instinctive, versatile, and represented the most consistent option in what was a relatively awful passing game last year. That he played QB in high school and throws himself a pretty nice ball is just a nice little tool in his toolbelt.
And it’s a tool the Patriots decided to take out and use as the first half of the Ravens game came to a close and the Patriots were driving down 10-7 with just over a minute left to play. Newton was able to put together a fairly impressive drive that started from the New England 25 yard line and wound its way down to the Baltimore 24. Up until that point, of the nine plays the Patriots had run on the possession, Damien Harris ran the ball on six of them; he was averaging 6.5 yards per carry on the drive, and Baltimore didn’t seem to have an answer. And when the Patriots came out in a 1 back, big package on 2nd and 6 from the 24, Baltimore was thinking run. Meyers was the only receiver not close to the line, and while Harris had been swapped out for Rex Burkhead, the Patriots still had two timeouts yet and had been very successful on the ground, so why wouldn’t they run it here?
At the snap, Burkhead started off to the right, making like he was staying in to block before taking off on a wheel route. Jakobi Meyers, who went into motion just before the play started, seemed to be running across the back of the offensive line for either a jet sweep or end around run, only to stop in his tracks as Cam Newton passed him the ball back at the 30. As he set his feet to throw, Burkhead continued his route, in coverage against linebacker Patrick Queen, who had to cover a lot of ground to get there. By then, it was too little, too late, and Meyers hit Burkhead right between two defenders in the end zone for the score. Patriots 13, Ravens 10. Nick Folk would miss the PAT attempt, but the Patriots had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game.
There was another Patriots throw against the Ravens between two defenders that I’ll say was better. And there was another Patriots throw made by a receiver against the Ravens that I’ll say was better. But this was still a really sweet play, against one of the best teams in the league that also happened to be the closest thing the Patriots have had to a rival over the years. It also ended up being the deciding factor, as the Pats won the game by one score. And while it may end up with Baltimore complaining to the league to change the rules so that receivers can’t throw touchdown passes going forward, it was hands down one of the best moments of 2020 for New England, so it’s well positioned here at Number 8.
Check out the play here.