Merry Training Camp Eve, everyone!
I don’t have the anxious jitters the way I used to when I was a kid every December 24th, but the day before camp officially starts is just as exciting. The most exciting Patriots offseason in recent memory is finally over and it’s time to see which of all these shiny new toys Belichick acquired is going to get this team back to where they need to be. Plus, it means I get to play my annual game of “Who the Hell is That Guy?” as six different players all wearing the number 34 with no name on their jersey run around a field while we all overanalyze everything.
So since it’s about to be ACATT - All Camp, All The Time - here at the Pulpit for a while as the roster starts to take shape, I thought I’d get this second to last Most Memorable Patriots Moment up and out into the world so we can all keep our focus on what really matters.
First, 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.
6. A 49-yard Cam Newton rush against the New York Jets sets a Patriots record for longest run by a QB
5. Gunner Olzsewski takes a punt return to the house against the San Diego Chargers.
4. Jakobi Meyers hits Cam Newton in stride for a 19 yard score against the New York Jets.
3. A blocked field goal attempt just before halftime leads to the second Special Teams TD of the day against the Los Angeles Chargers.
At Number 2, we once again find ourselves in a bit of a reverse situation, as in years past the Patriots were on the other end of this kind of game
2. The Patriots upset the Ravens at home in the blinding rain in a win that absolutely nobody saw coming.
The Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots have had more than their fair share of epic battles over the years. Whether it’s the regular season or the postseason, Pats/Ravens is almost always guaranteed to be one of the best games of the year. Ask any Patriots fan over the last 10 years or so which team they least want to meet in the playoffs, and the vast majority of them will say Baltimore. So anytime these to teams are set to square off, there’s a lot of justified hype.
In 2020, however, the November 15th matchup between the 6-2 Ravens and the 3-5 Patriots didn’t really have all that much momentum behind it. Baltimore, behind 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson, had won four of their last five, failed to score more than 20 points just once all year (a loss to KC), and were coming off an absolute beatdown of the Indianapolis Colts as they set their eyes on the one seed in the AFC. The Patriots, however, hadn’t won a meaningful game since Week 3. Sure, they had snapped a four game losing skid the week before, but that was against the Jets, and they needed every possible second of game clock to eke out a 30-27 win. Baltimore came into this game heavy favorites, and rightly so.
However, the Ravens were never really able to get anything going. New England played a lot of NASCAR defense and presented multiple looks at the line, seeking to minimize Jackson’s scrambling ability and funneling everything to the sidelines. On offense, they leaned heavily on the run game, controlling the clock and beating Baltimore up at the line of scrimmage. This game was more or less the Damien Harris show, as he amassed 121 rushing yards on 22 carries for a ridiculous 5.5 YPC average. Cam Newton didn’t have to throw much - just 18 attempts, but he connected on 13 of them for 118 yards and a score. Jakobi Meyers also got into the passing game with a TD pass of his own to Rex Burkhead (see Moment 8 above). All in all, the Patriots did to the Ravens exactly what they like to do to the rest of the league: bully them around. The Patriots took a 13-10 lead into the locker room at halftime as a light drizzle started to pick up speed.
That lead quickly became 20-10 after a four play, 75 yard drive to start the third quarter ended with an easy Cam Newton keeper where he walked into the endzone untouched behind rookie sensation Michael Onwenu. They would tack on another field goal in the third to accumulate 23 points, and while the Ravens were able to get one more TD, a combination of stout D and what turned into an absolutely torrential downpour ensured that Baltimore was going to walk away from this one in defeat. A scoreless fourth quarter came to an end with the Patriots winning 23-17.
This win was probably the biggest one of the entire year for the Patriots. I’d argue that there were games where they played better overall, and there were obviously games that they won more handily, but in terms of quality of opponent and impact on the overall NFL landscape as a whole, this one is right up there. Plus, it was against the Ravens, and it very much hurt their chances of getting a first round playoff bye, as they now were several games and a tiebreaker behind the Chiefs. Furthermore, this game, perhaps more than any other, highlighted that absolutely nobody had any clue what to make of the 2020 Patriots team. They won games they were supposed to win. They won games they were supposed to lose. They lost games they were supposed to win. They lost games they were supposed to lose. They played great and they played terrible. Just a rollercoaster of a year all around, which means you need to enjoy these wins when you can get them.
And perhaps most importantly, this game served as a very solid reminder of how blessed I am to have been a Patriots fan all these years. For almost the entire 21st century, New England being on the ass end of a game like this - going on the road to play a team they should probably beat but end up dropping one for some reason or another - represented one of the highlights of other fan bases’ years. Dolphins, Browns, Eagles, Titans, Texans...you name it, odds are the Brady-led Patriots dropped one to a team they really should have beat and fans everywhere rejoiced. Now it’s our turn to celebrate a big regular season upset against one of the powerhouses of the league that represents a high point in a lost season. So for all these reasons, I feel good putting it here at Number 2.
Game highlights here.
Just one more to go...buckle up.