Welcome to June! The deadest time on the NFL calendar is officially upon us. If anyone is in the Nantucket area over the coming weeks, keep an eye out for Bill Belichick and that fishing vessel he finds himself having to rename every few years.
Kind of wild that we’re already into the single digits of our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2020, but time waits for no man except Tom Brady. So let’s knock some more of these out over the coming weeks.
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.
At Number Nine, we look back on something that used to happen with some frequency around New England, but only happened this once last year.
9. Cam Newton hits Damiere Byrd for a 42 yard touchdown bomb against the Houston Texans.
Here’s something nobody has ever said before in the history of the NFL: The Patriots and Texans both stunk last season.
Houston has only been around since 2002, the year after the Patriots won their very first Super Bowl. For as long as the Texans have been around, New England has been the team to beat in the NFL. That’s pretty wild.
But the Week 11 matchup between these two teams featured a 4-5 Patriots team visiting a 2-7 Texans squad in the battle for which NFL squad could underachieve the most in 2020. Nothing had gone right for Houston since their 0-4 start and the firing of Bill O’Brien, and the Patriots had yet to put a string of solid games together. They had just won two in a row for the first time all year with victories over the Jets and Ravens, and if they were going to make any kind of serious playoff push, they needed this game. 2020 was already more or less lost for Houston, but they were at home, playing for pride.
This game ended up being way more competitive than anyone thought it would be; Houston would pull away in the 2nd quarter to take a 21-10 lead into the locker room at halftime, but New England would pull to within four points on their second possession of the third quarter, following both teams trading punts to start the half, courtesy of Damiere Byrd.
New England’s drive started from their own 18 yard line, 82 yards from the Houston end zone. 72 of those yards came from Byrd, who connected with Newton on 3rd and 10 for 30 yards and a new set of downs. James White was able to gain 8 and 2 yards on the next plays, and the Patriots were facing a 1st and 10 from the Houston 32.
In a Trips Bunch to the right side, White was in the backfield next to Newton, who was lined up in shotgun. The pass protection was phenomenal, and Newton didn’t even try to run it. Instead he waited for Byrd, who ran a simple post route up the middle to get behind the DB. Cam let it fly, and it landed perfectly in Byrd’s arms for the 42 yard score. It was probably Cam’s best throw of the entire season, and one the Patriots very much needed to have at that moment.
Unfortunately, it would be the last TD the Patriots scored that game, as they went on to lose 20-27 as a late drive fell short on 4th and 4. But it was moments like these, these little flashes of great play, accuracy, awareness, and pocket presence, that kept that oh-so-lively, respectful, educated, and rational debate about Cam Newton’s abilities going throughout the 2020 season. Big play scores are always a lot of fun, and in a season fairly devoid of them, seeing such a perfect long bomb connection represents one of the most exciting times we had as Pats fans last season. So I’m putting it here at Number 9.
Check out the play here.
Full highlights here.