ATLANTA — The Patriots don’t like to reminisce until the job is done, so don’t expect Bill Belichick, Tom Brady or any of their friends to be hopping in the wayback machine this week.
That doesn’t mean we can’t. It’s been a long season, one that at times seemed like it might not end where it has. With everything that’s gone on since September, it’s easy to forget some of the pivotal moments on the field that went into this season, so let’s go back and review some of the moments that may not have been forgotten but merit reliving.
In no particular order, here are 10 unsung plays from the Patriots season thus far:
Week 13, Patriots-Vikings — Elandon Roberts blows up Dalvin Cook on a screen pass on the first play of the game.
Roberts “set the tone for the entire game,” a 24-10 Patriots win, with a monstrous hit, according to defensive tackle Adam Butler. Roberts made significant strides in 2018 and was a factor late in the season when the Patriots needed to improve their run defense, both exemplified in that play.
Week 13, Patriots-Vikings — James Develin rushes for a 2-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, his second of the game.
Develin just might be the unsung hero of the Patriots season. This game was the first time the Patriots routinely turned to him for help as a ball carrier in short-yardage situations, something they’ve struggled with but Develin has excelled in.
AFC Championship game, Patriots-Chiefs — Chris Hogan makes a one-handed catch in the fourth quarter.
Hogan converted on third and 8 with 6:25 to go on a drive that ended with Sony Michel’s second touchdown. Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson pressed Hogan off the line, and the receiver dived with one arm outstretched to corral the ball. It would have been the play of the game on many other occasions.
Week 6, Patriots-Chiefs — Stephen Gostkowski nails a 50-yard field goal in the fourth-quarter, a prelude to the winning drive.
Rob Gronkowski made a huge play on the winning drive, but the Patriots would have needed a touchdown, not the field goal they got, had Gostkowski not made this long one with 3:15 to go.
Week 7 — Patriots-Bears. Cordarrelle Patterson returns a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
A half-dozen plays from this fluky-but-impressive road win could apply here, but Patterson’s return probably hasn’t been talked about as much as Duron Harmon’s tackle of Kevin White at the 1-yard line on the Bears’ Hail Mary. So, we’ll include it, especially since it made up for an earlier fumble by Patterson. The Bears game was the Patriots’ only regular-season road win against a good team, and they needed plays like that one to make it happen.
AFC Divisional round — Patriots-Chargers. Julian Edelman breaks two tackles to move the sticks on second and 13 during the Patriots’ second touchdown drive
Everyone remembers that the Patriots came out strong, but the Chargers tied it. From this drive on, though, New England put Los Angeles away with ease, but it might not have looked so easy had Edelman not gone full steam ahead.
Week 16, Patriots-Bills — Edelman rolls over two Bills defenders and doesn’t go down, turning fourth and 4 into a 32-yard touchdown.
In a team offensive performance that wasn’t entirely satisfying, this play was a reminder that Brady and Edelman can still work miracles.
Week 7, Patriots-Bears — J.C. Jackson intercepts Mitchell Trubisky in the third quarter.
The emergence of Jackson was one of the factors in the Patriots’ defense getting better as the season went on, and though he hadn’t moved into as large a role as he would, the Bears game was critical for the rookie cornerback. Jackson moved past multiple early penalties and still played aggressively, making a big play toward the end of the game.
Week 8, Patriots-Bills — Devin McCourty’s 84-yard pick-6.
It was the Patriots’ first defensive touchdown in 40 games and McCourty’s first touchdown since 2012, but this play stands out because of what almost happened right before it. Bills tight end Jason Croom looked like he might have made a 25-yard catch to convert on third down and put the Bills in the red zone, where they could have pulled within one score. A closer look showed that the ball hit the ground before Croom caught it, so Derek Anderson threw another pass on third and 10, which McCourty snagged and brought to the house. The Patriots would probably have won either way, but this sequence made it look a lot better.
AFC Championship game, Patriots-Chiefs — Trey Flowers sacks Patrick Mahomes for a loss of 14 yards in the second quarter, moving the Chiefs out of field goal range and forcing a punt.
The second quarter of that game feels like ancient history, but this play probably denied Kansas City at least 3 points in a game that went to overtime. The Patriots had an excellent defensive game plan that got far more pressure on Mahomes than the stat sheet indicated. But on this third-and-9 play, the Patriots’ best pass rusher brought the star quarterback down at exactly the right time.