It’s wild to think that this time next week, the 2023 NFL Draft will be underway. These offseasons really fly by.
I want to sneak in one more Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2022 before all the draft excitement starts in earnest, so let’s get to it.
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.
14. A blocked punt leads to the first touchdown of the day as the Patriots blow out the Indianapolis Colts.
At No. 13, a bit of a coming out party for a player we all have high hopes for.
13. Tyquan Thornton emerges with a two touchdown day against the Cleveland Browns.
2023 is the first year in quite some time where the early offseason hype isn’t lousy with articles about how this is the year that the Browns finally get it together and make a strong postseason run. Or maybe folks are still saying that and I’ve just blocked it out at this point. But in 2022, with Cleveland acquiring Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper via trade, the Browns had once again managed to catapult themselves into that vaunted spot of March/April Super Bowl contender.
The problem, however, was that Watson was embroiled in all kinds of legal trouble, and at the end of the day the Browns are still the Browns, so what ended up happening was Watson got suspended for most of the season and Cleveland once again missed the playoffs with a 7-10 record. Shocking.
One of those losses came on October 16th, 2022, when the 2-3 Patriots traveled to Cleveland hoping to put together their first winning streak of the season. Under center for the Browns was former Patriots great Jacoby Brissett, and under center for the Patriots was future Patriots great Bailey Zappe. There were rumors that Mac Jones was able to go, but the coaching staff decided to sit him out one more week, perhaps understanding that the Pats would be able to handle the Browns with pretty much anybody taking the snaps.
The game was, for all intents and purposes, a drubbing. A 10-6 halftime lead quickly turned into a 24-6 lead as New England scored touchdowns on two of their first three drives, on their way to an easy 38-15 win. The Browns wouldn’t even sniff the end zone until late in the 4th quarter, with the game already out of hand, and New England would get to .500 on the year. Bailey Zappe threw for 309 yards with two TDs and no picks as the quarterback controversy raged on, and suddenly the Patriots were right back in the thick of it.
Among the many reasons to feel good about this game was rookie Tyquan Thornton’s day. The 2nd round pick with the legendary speed had been a bit quiet through the first five weeks of his career, but in this Cleveland game he had four grabs for 37 yards and a score, as well as a 19 yard jet sweep for a rushing touchdown to completely put the game away. Thornton’s 56 total yards and two scores represented his best day as a Patriot, and each were special in their own way. The first, a receiving touchdown, was a quick move at the line to beat press coverage on third and goal and cut in for the score. The second was just pure speed and solid blocking where Thornton turned on the burners as he cut north and sprinted into the end zone untouched.
Whether or not Tyquan Thornton will make that vaunted second year leap and become a steadily contributing member of the offense remains to be seen; high draft pick receivers don’t exactly have the best track record around these parts. But Thornton showed some real flashes during his rookie campaign, particularly in this game, and it’s obvious to see that he has the tools and the ability to be a productive player in the NFL. Time will tell if he ends up living up to his potential.
But seeing as how he had a breakout game in a big win on the road to help get the Pats up to .500 on the year and this game left us all excited about what Thornton could bring to the table going forward, I’m happy to put this one here at No. 13.
Check out Thornton’s first touchdown here.
See the Jet Sweep here.
Full game highlights here.