The season is halfway over and the Patriots are on their bye week, so what better time for midseason superlatives? In the first of a three-part series, Phil Perry and Tom E. Curran and Mike Giardi look at some of the best -- and worst -- on-field occurences so far in 2017.
PHIL PERRY: The Tom Brady-to-Brandin Cooks game-winning touchdown against the Texans. Brady's execution was flawless as he pumped to hold off the safety, took a huge shot, and still threw a dime. For Cooks, it was an acknowledgement that he was in the circle of trust. Not many game-winners over the course of the season, so this one is the easy choice in my opinion.
TOM E. CURRAN: Brady-to-Cooks, but Phil got there first. So I’ll go with Gronk’s 53-yard TD against the Saints. Brady heaved it to him and Gronk skedaddled and sidestepped his way to a TD that indicated he was indeed back from his back.
MIKE GIARDI: I have watched the 27-yard completion from Tom Brady to James White from Sunday’s game with the Chargers at least 15 times, and we also featured it on Monday Night Patriots. It didn’t win the game, like Brandin Cooks versus the Texans, but it combined terrific pocket awareness by Tom Brady; left tackle Nate Solder engaging one of the best pass rushers in the game, Joey Bosa, for five or six seconds, and then White first chipping Melvin Ingram and then working hard to uncover as Brady moved around. The throw was spot on. The play was sexy. It really was.
PHIL PERRY: Kareem Hunt's 58-yard fourth-quarter run in the season-opening loss to the Chiefs. The Patriots were down one score (35-27) with 4:15 left in the game, when Hunt went streaking down the sideline on a simple toss play. Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts took bad angles in pursuit. Malcolm Butler and Patrick Chung were blocked easily. If not for Devin McCourty chasing Hunt down, it would have gone for a 79-yard score. One play later, Charcandrick West was in the end zone and the game was effectively over. Afterwards, perhaps with this sequence in mind, Tom Brady questioned the team's attitude and competitiveness.
MIKE GIARDI: Which play from the Carolina game do you want to go with? I’ll pick the screen to Fozzy Whittaker in which every single Patriot defender on the offensive left/defensive right vacated the area as if someone launched tear gas into the area. Elandon Roberts. Devin McCourty. Stephen Gilmore. It was the lowest point for a defense that had a dozen or so of those plays over the first month of the season. I still can’t get over Gilmore -- the last player remaining on that side of the field -- just tearing ass to chase rookie Christian McCaffrey. Staggering. And Cam Newton could have easily flipped it the tight end, who was also all by himself.
PHIL PERRY: The Week 7 win over the Falcons. In prime time, against what was thought to be a very good offense, the much-maligned Patriots defense held Atlanta to one score. And the biggest question mark on the other side of the ball -- the offensive line -- showed signs of turning the corner. We may look back at that night as the night things finally got on track for good.
MIKE GIARDI: No brainer. It’s the Atlanta game. It didn’t have the most points or most explosive plays, but it was Patriot football. Clinical, emotional, suffocating and there was never, ever a doubt, despite the talent on the other sideline. If the Pats could play nine more games like this year, I’d sign up for it. I’m sure Bill Belichick would, too.
PHIL PERRY: Deshaun Watson. Mobile. Tough. Accurate enough. We didn't know it ahead of time, but Watson was a matchup nightmare for the Patriots in Week 3. He was able to take advantage of a secondary still finding itself, and he had all kinds of time to do it based on his own quickness and the absence of a devastating Patriots pass-rush.
MIKE GIARDI: To this point? It’s gotta be Watson. The Texans quarterback had his team poised for a huge win at Gillette if not for the heroics of Tom Brady and Brandin Cooks. Watson was as slippery as a snake covered in axel grease. Pats defenders had one shot after another to take him down for a big loss and Watson slithered in and out of their grasp to make one big play after another. His calmness under pressure comes as no surprise. Watson did this in college for years. But he’s made the seamless transition to the NFL and despite some of the analytic sites not loving him, Watson has given the Texans hope at that position, something they haven’t had maybe ever. I’m actually disappointed that JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus are done for the year. I wanted to see Houston come to Foxboro in January and Watson is a big reason why.
GIVE US YOUR OPINION: Who's the toughtest opposing player the Patriots have faced this year?
The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.
Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.
"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."
“I don’t feel like I gave them a Super Bowl with that,” James told the Daily Times. “So I’m over it now, but it’s going to be a topic of conversation until the rule gets changed — or it doesn’t.”
James' play was initially ruled a touchdown before the referees overturned the play, and took the lead away from the Steelers in the final moments of the game. Ben Roethlisberger then threw an interception a few plays later. By winning, the Patriots took a huge step in locking themselves into the AFC's top seed with a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which they rode into the Super Bowl.
But of course, they couldn't finish their Super Bowl pursuit -- to James' satisfaction.