It’s almost time to lean really hard into draft coverage, then it’s time for minicamp, so there’s some fun stuff coming down the pike that, I’m guessing, is a lot more interesting than rehashing what went down last year. But this list isn’t going to write itself, so duty calls.
Let’s keep on rolling with our 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.
16. Nelson Agholor harnesses his inner Randy Moss with an insane 44 yard TD grab against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
15. Devin McCourty registers his 200th start against the Buffalo Bills.
At Number 14, an odd combination of a rarity and something we were once used to seeing on a regular basis.
14. A blocked punt leads to the first touchdown of the day as the Patriots blow out the Indianapolis Colts.
Remember when Colts vs. Patriots was almost always guaranteed to be one of the best games of the season? Boy, those were the days.
November 6, 2022 saw the 3-4-1 Colts, fresh off a 17-16 loss to the Washington Commanders, come to Foxboro to take on a Patriots team that had won three of their last four and was hoping to take some real momentum into its bye week. Vaunted quarterback Sam Ehlinger was under center for Indy, “winning” the job from Matt Ryan, and Indy’s already low expectations couldn’t have sunk much further.
Along the lines of low expectations, New England received the opening kickoff, went for negative two yards on their first three plays (stopped in the backfield, incomplete, incomplete. Sound familiar?), and punted. Indy was able to generate almost 20 yards on their first drive before they had to punt it back to the Patriots, who somehow managed to outdo themselves in spectacular fashion with their next possession; Rhamondre Stevenson was stopped five yards behind the line on his opening run, then gained it back even though Cole Strange drew a declined Illegal Hands to Face penalty, then Mac Jones was sacked to force a 4th-and-13 at the 6.
At this point, anybody who wasn’t a Patriots or Colts fan turned this game off to find a more productive way to spend their Sunday — like perhaps sorting a bag of rice according to grain size.
The Colts and Patriots ran six straight combined drives that ended in punts. Neither team was able to string together more than six plays before kicking it away as the first quarter closed at 0-0 with both teams combining for 59 yards of total offense. Yuck.
New England’s first drive of the second quarter was more positive; a big catch and run from Jonnu Smith and some hard running by Stevenson got the ball down to the Indy 31 before the drive stalled and Nick Folk put the first points on the board.
The way the game had started, 3-0 might have been enough for New England to secure the win, as the Colts simply couldn’t get anything at all going on offense. Yet another Colts three and out led to yet another punt, and yet another Patriots field goal as the Pats were able to capitalize off a strong return from Marcus Jones. New England 6, Indianapolis 0.
To this point, Indy’s last three offensive drives had netted -6, 0, and 3 yards respectively, as they clearly took offense to the 2022 Patriots claim as the most inept offense in the NFL. Their ensuing drive netted only a single yard, as an Illegal Use of Hands penalty negated a 12-yard reception. 4th-and-9 at their own 26, and the Colts came out for their fifth punt of the game. There was still seven minutes left in the second quarter.
Perhaps realizing that this Colts team was simply outmatched by the New England defense, Cam Achord decided that a little risk was well worth the potential reward. As the Colts came out to punt, Jonathan Jones was, as always, lined up out wide as the gunner. But as the play clock wound down, he started to break towards the center of the field, and perfectly timed his break as the ball was snapped to sprint full bore at punter Matt Haack. Laying full out, he got both hands right where the ball was going to be on the release for one of the most textbook punt blocks you’ll ever see. The ball rolled inside the 10-yard line before Brenden Schooler picked it up and stumbled down to the 2.
In true 2022 Patriots fashion, New England decided that a good play-call on first and goal from the 2-yard line was an up the gut run against a goal line package with 5-foot-6, 180-pound J.J. Taylor, who of course was stuffed for a loss of one. They were able to punch it in on the next play with a quick out pass to Stevenson, and at that point the game was over. 13-0 isn’t a massive lead, but seeing as how the Colts could barely even get a first down and had yet to even cross the 50-yard line at that point, it might as well have been 30-0. New England cruised to an easy 26-3 victory to improve to 5-4, putting them over .500 for the first time all year.
I never thought that special teams would ever be a liability for a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team, but that was for sure the case last year. Blocks like this used to be something of a regular occurrence with the Patriots, but last year was nothing even close to anything resembling a regular occurrence. However, this was a great play, an absolutely perfectly executed punt block, dialed up at the right time, and recovered by a promising young special teamer who showed a lot of potential to be the guy once Matthew Slater calls it quits. It was one of the few times where coaches and players were all on the same page and doing their job well, and it set up the only offensive TD of the entire game.
Nothing quite like a home blowout win to make you feel good and cap off your weekend, and when the wins are courtesy of plays like this, it’s enough to give you hope that maybe this team can turn it around. This was a great win to head into the bye with, so here we are at Number 14.