Most Memorable Moments From New England Patriots’ Regular Season
Most Memorable Moments From New England's Regular Season
All the hoopla and commotion really started before the New England Patriots’ 2013 regular season even kicked off. First, Wes Welker inked a reasonably inexpensive two-year, $12 million deal with New England’s chief competitor, the Denver Broncos, countered just hours later with Bill Belichick’s splurging (five-years, $28.5 million) on Danny Amendola. Obviously, next came the Aaron Hernandez situation that grabbed the world’s attention just a month before training camp was to begin.
Couple those transactions and arrests with Rob Gronkowski’s four offseason surgeries and the free agency losses of Brandon Lloyd and Danny Woodhead, and you got the Patriots’ top five receivers from 2012 out of the loop to begin the season. All might have looked lost come the start of the regular season, but New England took advantage of home dates and another relatively weak division to go 12-4.
Despite the healthy 12-4 record that pushed New England to their fourth straight playoff bye, the season was a grind. That sort of laborious effort instead turned the regular season into one of the most memorable in years; complete with epic comebacks, enduring losses and a fantastic lead-in to what could be a Super Bowl run. The Patriots also competed in an NFL-high 11 games decided by one score or less. Fortunately, the Patriots went 7-4 in those single-score contests, and all four of their losses came down to the final play (Two Tom Brady picks, a Nick Folk field goal and quite possibly the most controversial penalty since replacement refs).
Much of the season’s credit goes to the quarterback. Tom Brady coped with the offense around him, and even though he did not have a flawless season statistically (25 touchdowns; 11 interceptions; 4,343 yards; 87.3 rating; 60.5 completion percentage), he was still pretty darn good; good enough to deserve some MVP consideration although we all know who will win it. That will not matter though if Brady can lead the Patriots in and out of Peyton Manning’s hometown en route to the franchise's fourth Lombardi trophy.
8. James Develin's Touchdown Run in Houston
"That! Was! Awesome!" was how CBS play-by-play man Greg Gumbel described James Develin's one-yard, Week 13 touchdown against the Houston Texans. New England trailed 17-7 at the half to the lowly Texans yet the Patriots' 2:49, 78-yard drive to start the second half helped ignite a 34-31 victory. The drive was topped off with the fullback's first ever touchdown. It did not come easy as three Texans had full grasp of the former Brown Bear before he rumbled left to pay dirt.
7. LeGarrette Blount Goes Off In Record-Setting Fashion
LeGarrette Blount almost single-handedly beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 17. He rushed for 189 on 24 attempts and two scores of 36 and 35 yards. As a kick returner, for which he had done nothing all year, Blount had two returns of 62 and 83 yards. It gave the No. 3 running back a grand total of 334 all-purpose yards, most in franchise history.
6. Brady to Thompkins
The Patriots led all game against the New Orleans Saints in Week 6. That was until Drew Brees hit Kenny Stills for a deep touchdown with 3:34 to play. New England went four-and-out on their next drive, setting up a Garrett Hartley field goal just over a minute later. Making matters worse, Tom Brady threw quite possibly the worst pick of his career on New England's very next play, but the Saints had to punt, giving Brady 1:13 to redeem himself. He led an eight-play, 70 yard drive, completing the game-winner with 0:10 left to rookie Kenbrell Tompkins.
5. Chris Jones' Unnecessary Roughness Penalty
Could the Patriots really lose to Geno Smith and the New York Jets? Yes, yes they can. One week after the comeback win over the Saints, came the annual trip to the Meadowlands and despite being up 11 points earlier in the day, it took a 44-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal just to get to overtime. In overtime, with 7:17 to go and the Jets on the New England 38, everyone figured Rex Ryan would send out the punter. But instead, Nick Folk came out for a 56-yard field goal attempt. Folk missed, but there was a flag, one that baffled all with an interest in the NFL. Rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones was called for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for "pushing" a teammate. Folk eventually hit a 42-yarder four plays later for the 30-27 win.
4. Luke Kuechly's Non-Call Against Rob Gronkowski
After the Carolina Panthers went up 24-20, the Patriots had 0:59 to march 80 yards. 11 plays later and with 0:03 left, the Patriots still had 18 yards to get into the end zone. Tom Brady threw Rob Gronkowski the ball in the end zone as the all-Pro was covered by Luke Kuechly. The linebacker never turned for the ball, instead holding Gronkowski. In turn, the back judge tossed the yellow flag to seemingly give New England one more play from the one to score. No so fast. The refs got together and determined "There was no foul on the play." Ultimately, Brady's ball was underthrown and unworthy of a pass interference penalty (defensive holding maybe), but it caused a week-long stir throughout the sports world.
3. Down Goes Gronk
The Patriots scored 20.8 points in the first six games of the season without Rob Gronkowski, 32.8 in the next six games with him. Then, in the second quarter of their Week 14 meeting with the Cleveland Browns, Brady hit Gronkowski for 21 yards, who was subsequently taken down by a helmet-to-knee hit by TJ Ward. Gronkowski tore his ACL and MCL on the play, and New England's Super Bowl chances took a significant hit.
2. Onside Kick Recovery Versus the Browns
The Browns went up 26-14 with 2:43 to play. In just about 1:30, Brady hooked up with Julian Edelman to make the game 26-21, but an unnecessary roughness penalty on Cleveland's Jordan Poyer meant Stephen Gostkowski would get an onside kick attempt from the 50. Only 12 of the 59 onside kick attempts in 2013 were successful, but this one was executed to perfection, right down the middle before Fozzy Whittaker touched it nine yards in. Kyle Arrington recovered and two plays later Brady hit Danny Amendola for the game-winner.
1. Wes Welker's Overtime Fumble
How insane is it that Wes Welker had a lead role in the most memorable moment of the 2013 regular season? His muffed punt in overtime, after his Broncos were leading 24-0 at the half, set up Stephen Gostkowski's 31-yard game-winner in one of the finest Tom Brady-Peyton Manning showdowns yet.