Training camp is just a few weeks away! Rookies will be reporting before we know it! And we’re in the home stretch of our offseason countdown. You’ve been along for the ride thus far, time to start bringing it home.
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.
6. Damien Harris bowls over seven different Jets on his way to a 26 yard touchdown run.
5. A J.C. Jackson 88-yard pick-six ices the game against the Carolina Panthers.
I never thought I’d place a moment that came in a loss inside my Top 5, but like I said last week, this is an unconventional list to accompany an unconventional season. And there’s just no denying how awesome it was.
4. Mac Jones connects with Kendrick Bourne for a 75 yard touchdown to take a late lead against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys were one of the hottest teams in the NFL over the first half of the 2021 season; after barely losing the season opener to defending champions the Buccaneers, Dallas had rattled off four straight and scored at least 36 points in each of the last three games. The Patriots team they were facing, however, were something of an enigma. Their sole wins of the season thus far were against the lowly New York Jets and a last second drive to beat a lousy Texans team, but they really should have beaten Miami and took the Bucs all the way to the wire a few weeks prior. Dallas was favored to win, but there were plenty that thought the Patriots would get some of that homefield magic back with this one.
What ensued during that Week 6 matchup was one of the best games of the entire regular season, a back-and-forth battle between an established quarterback and a rookie rapidly starting to turn some heads. The Patriots struck first, but the Cowboys answered back. The defense picked off Dak Prescott, the offense fumbled it right back. The Cowboys blocked a punt, Prescott fumbled the ball away right at the goal line. A wild first half finished with New England clinging to a 14-10 lead - but honestly, this game could have been anywhere between 30-30 and 0-0 at the time, given how crazy things were.
The madness died down a bit in the third quarter, as Dallas was the lone team to score and take a 17-14 lead. They’d add another field goal on their next possession to make it 20-14, but it was still a one score game. The Patriots answered with a 13 play, 75 yard TD drive that ate up almost seven minutes of game clock to take another lead - and when Dallas missed a field goal on their next drive, the Patriots had the ball at the 41 yard line with 2:34 left to play. Dallas had all of their timeouts, but basically a first down would seal a massive win for the team.
Unfortunately, disaster struck when, on 2nd and 15, Mac Jones threw a quick slant intended for Kendrick Bourne both too hard and too early, as it bounced off his hands and right into the arms of Trevon Diggs, who took the interception 36 yards for the dagger score. Dallas 26, New England 21, just over two minutes to play.
A missed two point conversion meant that the Patriots could win the game with a touchdown - but they would for sure need to find the end zone. A Patriots offense that had been wildly consistent all game needed to go 75 yards against a very good defense with a rookie at the helm.
It turns out that said rookie just needed one play to get there.
After the touchback, the Patriots lined in a single back shotgun set on their own 25 with Kendrick Bourne the sole weak side receiver. Diggs, who was covering Bourne, bit on the out and up cut, giving Bourne the space he needed as Jones placed it perfectly between Diggs and the safety, who was sprinting to make the play. He overpursued, and suddenly Bourne found himself all alone with nothing but daylight in front of him. Ten seconds after surrendering what was surely the final lead change of the game, the Patriots got it right back. They were also able to connect on the two point conversion when Jakobi Meyers hauled in a crucial catch to make it 29-26.
What really sucks is that this play should have gotten the Patriots the win. Dallas was able to kick a field goal on their next drive to send it into overtime, and they scored a TD on their first possession when New England couldn’t get anything going. The Patriots defense, for all of its flashes and toughness last season, had this mind-numbingly infuriating habit of forcing a 4th and 1 on third down, no matter how many yards the offense needed. At one point during the final minutes of regular time, Dallas was facing a 3rd and 25 at their own 45 yard line, and somehow managed to gain 24 yards. That flat out should never happen, but it was some weird glitch in the New England Matrix in 2021; it could be 3rd and 57, and the Pats would surrender 56 on a screen pass. New England should have won this game if the D had just made a very makable stop. But they didn’t, the Cowboys took advantage, and New England lost in OT.
I know it’s weird to have a loss here at Number Four. But there’s just no denying what an amazing play, and moment, this was. To have a chance to ice the game, only to give up a reverse icing pick six, to then get the lead back on the very next play...just insane. It was jump out of your seat and scream kind of stuff. This was also, as I mentioned, one of the best regular season games of the entire year, win or loss be damned; just one crazy event after another that could have ended any number of ways. Furthermore, this was one of those games that, even though New England lost, still kind of felt like a win; New England hung with one of the best teams in the league. Mac Jones was able to shake off a costly error and bounce right back, not only getting the score but going back to the very receiver that was in on the prior snafu. Jones showed moments of remarkable maturity at various points all last season, and that was definitely one of them. In a season where more than anything you want growth and positive steps forward from your rookie QB, this game was a great experience.
This game would also be the last one New England would lose until mid-December; they rattled off seven straight following this L and became one of the hottest teams in the league. It was the turning point to the season in a lot of ways, all encapsulated by this play here, and so even though it’s in defeat, I’m very confident in my pick for the Bourne TD at Number Four.
Check out the Bourne TD here.
Full game highlights here.