We’re into one of the few dead times on the NFL calendar right now. Sure, there will be a few signings here and there, but for the most part the big names are off the board and nothing of note is likely to happen until closer to the NFL Draft. So this a great time to knock off a few items on my offseason countdown of The Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2022.
The list so far:
20. The Patriots trade N’Keal Harry.
19. A game-sealing Mac Jones interception is coupled with a gruesome ankle injury against the Ravens
18. Rookies step up big in relief duty against the Arizona Cardinals.
17. Hunter Henry catches/doesn’t catch a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.
In honor of recent news, it’s pretty appropriate that my Number 16 Moment is coming down the pike this week.
16. Nelson Agholor harnesses his inner Randy Moss with an insane 44-yard TD grab against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Patriots got smacked around by the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 of the 2022 season and were looking to avoid that dreaded 0-2 start as they traveled to Pittsburgh on September 18th to take on a Steelers team that had just eked out a promising OT victory on the road against the Bengals. The annual Pats/Steelers game had lost a lot of its luster with both Tommy B and Big Ben gone, and nobody was talking about that vaunted Mac Jones vs. Mitch Trubisky rivalry, but it was still an important one for both teams. The Steelers were looking to go to 2-0 and the year and New England needed the win.
In what would turn out to be a predictor of the year as a whole, the New England offense struggled to generate any kind of offensive momentum; after a promising opening drive of 71 yards on 13 plays, the drive stalled at the Steeler nine yard line to force a field goal, and their next two possessions ended in a pick and a punt respectively. However, as they did all season, the defense remained stout, holding the Steelers to a field goal of their own to keep the game tied at three deep into the first half.
New England’s last drive of the second quarter began at the 26-yard line with a little over three minutes left to play and the Patriots hoping to get something, anything, going. The yards were hard to come by, but a combination of short passes and Mac Jones scrambles got the ball to the Pitt 44-yard line with only 22 seconds left to play. The thought was that the Patriots needed about 10 more yards, then then could try for a long field goal to go into the locker room up 6-3.
On 3rd-and-3 following a seven yard completion to Jakobi Meyers, New England came out in a 3-WR shotgun set with Rhamondre Stevenson lined up in the backfield on the weak side, Bourne and Meyers lined up in the left Z and slot spots respectively, and Nelson Agholor alone on the right side matched up against Akhello Witherspoon in a one-on-one. At the snap, Jones, looked to his left just long enough to freeze the safety, but he knew where he was going from the jump. Agholor was in single coverage, and Jones wanted to put him in position to make a play.
Witherspoon actually had phenomenal coverage; as the pass released, he was stride for stride with Agholor and in position to at the very least knock the ball away. But the combination of an absolutely perfect throw and Agholor doing what he did...um...some of the time...during his career, Agholor high-pointed the ball and came down with it as Witherspoon tumbled to the ground. A few yards of open field, and the Patriots had their first touchdown on the board. That 6-3 lead turned into a 10-3 lead, and it was a lead the team would never relinquish.
It was also, basically, the only legit offensive touchdown the Patriots scored all day, as their other one came on a muffed punt that New England recovered to set them up with first and goal at the 10, which Damien Harris punched in. New England would go on to win 17-14 to get to .500 on the year and avoid dropping to 0-2, which is a bigger deal than you’d think.
I wish that my offseason countdowns were just riddled with huge Agholor plays, but this catch is more or less the only memorable thing he did during his unspectacular tenure with the Patriots. The Nelson Agholor experiment was a failure in New England, and while I have zero ill will towards the guy and wish him nothing but the best down in Baltimore, I’m not exactly sorry to see him gone. Still, this was an absolutely insane catch, a phenomenal play, and a genuine offensive highlight during a season where big offensive highlights were few and far between. Agholor’s legacy in New England is this play, being the recipient of Mac Jones’s first ever NFL touchdown pass...and that’s about it. If this play came during a more meaningful win, I’d likely rank it higher. But since it was a Week 2 win in a lost season, I think Number 16 is right where this one belongs.
Check out the catch here.
Full game highlights here.