It’s still June, and we’re just outside of the Top Five Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2020. Good for me.
The moment that just misses out on the Top Five has to be important, but it can’t really represent the season as a whole. To be honest, I almost put this at Number 5, but ultimately just couldn’t do it.
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.
8. Jakobi Meyers connects with Rex Burkhead in the end zone to take a 14-10 lead into the half against the Baltimore Ravens.
7. A last minute fumble short-circuits an epic comeback attempt against the Buffalo Bills.
I have a standing rule on these countdowns: if there is ever a Patriots or NFL record set, it automatically makes the list. So Number 6 gives us a record-setting double dip for New England’s quarterback.
6. A 49-yard Cam Newton rush against the New York Jets sets a Patriots record for longest run by a QB.
The New England Patriots are no stranger to meaningless Week 17 games; they usually have their playoff spot locked up by then and are just trying to head into the postseason as healthy as possible. Their 2020 Week 17 opponent, the New York Jets, are also no stranger to the last game of the year not mattering, for the exact opposite reason - the Jets are usually long eliminated from contention by then and it’s simply a matter of where in the Top 10 they’ll be picking in the following year’s draft.
But last season’s matchup between the Pats and Jets to close out the year was meaningless for a very odd reason in that both teams were already out of playoff contention and had absolutely nothing to play for. The Jets had Jetted their way out of Trevor Lawrence and had solidified the #2 pick, and the Patriots were more or less locked in at #15. So if you decided to miss this game for whatever reason, no judgment here.
And as far as games go, there wasn’t much to write home about. The Patriots won handily, 28-14, courtesy of 21 unanswered second half points to put the game away. There were no real celebrations other than for the lack of injuries, and that was more or less that.
However, on the very first possession of the game - a seven play, 84 yard TD drive - Cam Newton called a designed keeper on 2nd and 2 that would most ensconce him in the Patriots record books forever. One of the few true RPO packages the Patriots called in 2020, Jakobi Meyers sprinted across the line as Newton called for the snap and put the ball in Sony Michel’s breadbasket, reading the defense. The combination of Meyers and Michele running right caused most of the Jets D to crash that side of the line, leaving Newton with a wide open hole behind Joe Thuney, who suddenly found himself upfield with nobody to block. As Newton headed towards the end zone, Thuney did the same. N’Keal Harry came across to throw a block at the 2nd level as Thuney absolutely pancaked some hapless DB while Newton took off for the right sideline. After a quick cutback, he was finally brought down at the Jets 15 for a 49 yard gain.
Prior to Cam Newton, the most mobile quarterback ever to put on a Patriots uniform was the legendary Steve Grogan, who hasn’t played a single down of football since 1990. Grogan wasn’t really known as a running quarterback, but he did rush for over 2,000 career yards and 35 touchdowns during his 16 years in New England (most likely running for his life). Grogan also had a 41 yard scamper on two separate occasions; once in 1976 against (who else??) the Jets, and then again in 1977 against Seattle. But with that 49 yard run, Cam Newton set a record for longest run by a quarterback in New England Patriots history.
Not only that, but Newton’s 562 yards on the ground was enough to break Grogan’s previous record for most rushing yards in a single season (539 in 1978).
If absolutely nothing else came out of the 2020 Patriots season, we had a quarterback who was always a threat to take off and gave us some pretty damn exciting plays. This 49 yard rush was something none of us had ever seen before from a quarterback, and in a lost season, it was a nice little exclamation point to close out the year. But since it was during a meaningless game to close out a meaningless season, it just misses the Top Five at Number 6.
Check out the play here.
Full game highlights here.