I say it every year: the Number Six Most Memorable Moment is by far the hardest one for me to rank. It’s the best moment that didn’t quite make the Top 5, so I always find myself second guessing...um...myself. And while this year was no different, I am pretty excited about today’s, as it’s one of my favorite plays of the entire year.
But first, 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.
15. A late Nick Folk field goal caps off a 15 play game-winning drive over the Houston Texans.
14. Mac Jones is named the starter over Cam Newton.
13. Nick Folk can’t connect on a 56 yard FG attempt to complete the comeback against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
12. An Adrian Phillips pick-six seals the game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
11. Kendrick Bourne connects with Nelson Agholor to kick off an epic beatdown of the New York Jets.
10. A quick out to Jakobi Meyers results in his first career touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.
9. Free Agent Frenzy.
8. The Patriots obliterate the Jacksonville Jaguars and find themselves back in the NFL Playoffs.
7. A diving interception gives J.C. Jackson an impressive record.
Some may think I have this next one ranked too high, but as someone who grew up in the 80s and appreciates smashmouth football, I would disagree.
Plus, it’s my list. I can do whatever I want.
6. Damien Harris bowls over seven different Jets on his way to a 26 yard touchdown run.
The Patriots lost their home opener to the Miami Dolphins in heartbreaking fashion, just a Damien Harris goal-line fumble away from a sure victory. They came into the Meadowlands tied with the Jets, who had barely lost to the Carolina Panthers, with sole possession of last place in the AFC East on the line. It’s tough to say Week 2 is an important game, but to start out the year 0-2 with both of those losses in the division with a rookie quarterback at the helm is an easy recipe for a season that could rapidly slip away. The No. 2 overall pick was up against the No. 15 overall pick in what could very well be the first of many matchups between the two young quarterbacks.
Yet in spite of all the turnover, parity, and uncertainty in the National Football League, there remains one steadfast, unwavering truth:
Jets gonna get.
New York’s first possession: two plays, eight yards, and a J.C. Jackson interception. New York’s second possession: two plays, 13 yards, and an Adrian Philips interception. The Jets would get a field goal on one of their first half possessions... but they also gave up another pick. The Patriots took a 13-3 lead into the locker room at halftime in a game that felt much farther apart in score than it actually was.
Now stop me if you’ve heard this one before... but New York’s first possession of the third quarter resulted in — you guessed it, an interception, this time by Devin McCourty. The drive was officially recorded as seven plays, three minutes and 45 seconds, and two yards long. That’s not a typo; the Jets netted two yards on seven plays, as a series of penalties kept driving them backwards, and the McCourty pick ended up coming on a 2nd-and-28 after an illegal chop block penalty negated a 10-yard run. New England had the ball back on the Jets 35 with the chance to more or less put the game away.
And put it away they did, in spectacular fashion.
A short pass from Mac Jones to Nelson Agholor set New England up with a 2nd-and-1 at the 26. Needing just a yard for a new set of downs, the Patriots came out pretty big in a single back set, Harris the lone runner in the backfield, and Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry both lined up on the left side as extra blockers. A quick counter step by Harris at the snap got the linebackers moving towards the right before he took the handoff and ran right up the left A gap, making one defender miss in the backfield while shedding a second tackle attempt with the help of Smith, who finished off the block superbly.
Having broken into the secondary, he had about five yards of open space before Jets safety Adrian Colbert tried to wrap him up, failing miserably. Harris cut slightly right to follow Jakobi Meyers, who was doing a fantastic job keeping his man Michael Carter out of the play, just as linebacker Quincy Williams dove to make the tackle from behind. Harris lowered the shoulder, bounced Williams to the turf, and kept on plowing forward. At the 8-yard line, Carter was finally able to break free from Meyers, diving for Harris’s right leg as Colbert, DE Bryce Huff, and CB Bryce Hall all swarmed him in a desperate attempt to keep him out of the end zone. By the time Harris’ legs stopped churning, there were four different Jets on top of him and he was across the goal line for the score. Patriots 19, Jets 3.
New England would go on to add two more field goals for a 25-6 rout that got the team even on the season, generated some nice momentum, and perhaps most importantly, notched rookie Mac Jones his first career win.
Beating the Jets is always great. Beating the Jets handily is better. Beating the Jets handily while getting your young QB his first win and some confidence is fantastic. And putting the game away with a run like this — just a punishing, athletic, I’m-stronger-than-you-and-I’m-going-to-make-you-look-foolish steamroll of a play by perhaps the most underrated RBs in the NFL right now, was the sweet sweet cherry on top. It may not have been quite as good as the old hook and ladder play that sent the Coyotes to the playoffs, but it was, in my opinion, one of the best runs of the entire year, and that it came against the Jets in Mac Jones’s first career win gives it a spot right here at Number 6.
Check out the run here.
Full game highlights here.