I’d like to think that fairly soon, this site will be loaded with breaking news about signings and draft picks and minicamps. But other than the DeVante Parker news, it’s still pretty slow around these parts, so may was well fill the void by checking off another item on our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2021.
The list so far:
20. The Patriots trade Stephon Gilmore to the Panthers for a sixth-round pick.
19. A Week 1 goal line fumble costs the Patriots the game at home against the Miami Dolphins.
18. A four interception day secures New England’s first win of the season against the New York Jets.
17. Mac Jones hits Nelson Agholor for the first TD of the season against the Miami Dolphins.
16. A 41-yard Kendrick Bourne TD reception opens the game up against the Tennessee Titans.
At 15, we have yet another moment that allowed us all to fall in love with our new QB - not to mention our kicker.
15. A late Nick Folk field goal caps off a 15 play game-winning drive over the Houston Texans.
Despite sitting at 1-3 heading into a Week 4 matchup against the Texans, the New England Patriots had reason to be optimistic. Of their three losses, only one, to the New Orleans Saints, was due to getting outplayed; they were a goal line fumble away from beating the Dolphins in Week 1 and took Tom Brady’s Buccaneers right down to the wire the week before. They just as easily could have been 3-1 instead of 1-3, and rookie Mac Jones was starting to hit his stride. The Houston Texans, also sitting at 1-3, seemed like a perfect opportunity to right the ship.
Unfortunately for the Pats, Houston knew that their backs were against the wall, because they came out swinging, scoring on all three of their first half possessions to take a 15-9 lead into the locker room at halftime. And to make matters even worse, Mac Jones was picked off on just the second play of New England’s very first third quarter possession, which Houston also turned into points. Down 22-9 on the road in the third quarter, the Patriots were on the verge of dropping to 1-4 and the season getting out of reach before it even really got going.
Fortunately, that early third quarter TD would represent the last points that Houston would score all afternoon, as the defense stiffened to force punts on three of Houston’s final four possessions (they missed a FG attempt on the other). The Patriots, on the other hand, exhibited smart, efficient football and put two FGs and a touchdown on the board to tie the score at 22. There was still almost 10 minutes left in the game, so anything could happen.
What did end up happening was yet another Texans three and out as the offense was unable to do anything with the possession. When Mac Jones took the field at his own 13 yard line following the Houston punt, there was 7:15 on the clock — enough for each team to have one more possession to see who would walk away with the win.
Or maybe not.
What followed was a 15 play, 84 yard drive that ate up all but the very last 15 seconds of game clock, and virtually every player on the field contributed. Jones hit Jakobi Meyers on high percentage passes. Harris and Stevenson picked up yards on the ground. Even N’Keal Harry drew a crucial penalty on 3rd and 18 to keep the drive alive.
(Okay, that last one was a lie. The penalty was actually for Roughing the Passer. But the attempt was to Harry. So that’s something he contributed beyond his one grab for nine yards on the day.)
The Patriots were able to milk the clock, keep the ball moving forward, and get all the way down to the Houston four yard line. On 4th and goal with just 15 seconds left, Nick Folk laced a 21 yarder between the pipes to put the Patriots up 25-22. Game over.
With the win, the Patriots moved to 2-3 on the year, which is significantly better than dropping to 1-4. And while needing a last second FG to beat a fairly weak Texans team isn’t anything to get too excited about, what matters way, way more was the way a rookie quarterback, on the road, in as close to a must-win scenario that he’d faced at that time, was able to eat half a quarter of game clock on the way to putting his team in position to get points, and the victory, just as time expired. It was a drive that showed poise, confidence in his abilities, an understanding of the offense, and faith in his teammates. It was something that veteran quarterbacks do, not rookies, and Jones made it look fairly easy.
And while it might be an exaggeration to say that this drive saved New England’s season, I don’t think it’s a huge one. As I already mentioned, 2-3 is light years away from 1-4, despite only a single game difference, and it put the Patriots in position to get right back into the swing of things over the second quarter of the season. Given all of that, I think this drive and win deserves a spot right here at 15, and could easily have been ranked higher.
Check out the drive here.
Full game highlights here.