Trick and treat: Plays 12 and 11 of Curran's Top 100


Trick and treat: Plays 12 and 11 of Curran's Top 100

We're into the Top 20 now.

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!


THE YEAR: 2014 (actually January 2015)

THE GAME: Patriots 35, Ravens 31

THE PLAY: Double pass

WHY IT’S HERE: The Patriots' run to their fourth Lombardi was loaded with, “We’re doooomed . . . ” moments for their fans. Given that some of their fan base just got here (relatively) and doesn’t know what bleak really is, the pessimism wasn't a surprise. And in 2014, it was well-founded. It took ingenuity and individual players displaying balls of steel to turn the tide. And one of the plays that combined both elements was the double-pass against the Ravens.

We started this list with the first iteration of the play from back in 2001, when David Patten hit Troy Brown (number 100). This time, it was Julian Edelman hitting Danny Amendola. One of the most impressive aspects of the play: The complete calm Edelman showed in pulling in the lateral from Tom Brady, setting his feet, and throwing a room-service pass right on Amendola’s hands. The play covered 51 yards and brought the Patriots into a 28-28 tie.

We have two other plays from this epic game on the list -- the formation chicanery with Hooman (number 49), and Brady’s game-winner to Brandon LaFell (number 72) -- but this play is here because of the way it was drawn up, executed, and showed the resolve of a team that erased two 14-point deficits in the game.


THE YEAR: 2003 (actually February 2004)

THE GAME: Patriots 32, Panthers 29

THE PLAY: Adam Vinatieri 41-yard field goal to win SB38

WHY IT’S HERE: Nobody expected Adam Vinatieri to miss the Super Bowl game-winner. That’s because nobody knew the behind-the-scenes drama that was unfolding all week long with long-snapper Brian Kinchen.

Kinchen was completely out of football for almost three seasons before the Patriots called him in Week 15 to handle long-snapping duties after Lonie Paxton and his replacement, Sean McDermott landed on IR. Kinchen was teaching middle school and working as a part-time coach with LSU’s Nick Saban at the time. He had a link to Bill Belichick and GM Scott Pioli from their Cleveland days during the 1991 to 1995 seasons when Kinchen played tight end. But self-doubt started to wrack Kinchen soon after he came aboard. Then came the long-snapping yips. Then came the coaching staff, Vinatieri and holder Ken Walter all trying to buck him up while at the same time internally tortured that this poor guy was going to come undone and not only cost them what they’d all worked for but shatter him. Then Kinchen cut his hand with a steak knife during the Super Bowl pregame meal.

The game was no picnic, either.

Read all about the drama in the 2009 book and you’ll understand how fraught with disaster that kick was. And why it’s a play that’s been taken for granted for more than a decade.

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."