Five Biggest Kevin Faulk Moments
Five biggest Kevin Faulk Moments
By Tom E. Curran
CSN Patriots Insider
With Kevin Faulk set to be this year’s inductee to the Patriots Hall of Fame on Aug. 1, it makes sense to take stock of his Patriots career. Here are five Faulkian moments that – like the player – meant more in hindsight than they seemed to when they occurred:
It was the season opener and the Patriots – the least-talented team in the NFL at that point – were playing the Bucs when the Tampa defense was cresting. It was a beatdown and only a 66-yard Troy Brown punt return touchdown allowed New England to be in a game it lost, 21-16. But as the Patriots were getting battered in Bill Belichick’s first game as head coach, we got an introduction to the heart of Kevin Faulk. With no time to set up and throw, Drew Bledsoe checked it down to Faulk in the middle of the Tampa defense time after time. Fourteen targets, 11 receptions, 62 yards. Faulk got his second-year posterior handed to him by guys like Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp. Faulk also carried 10 times for 21 measly yards. Same thing as with the receptions. He got pummeled. And Faulk kept taking that lead-back pounding for a bad Patriots team. Week-in, week-out, through fumbling issues and to a point where his toughness and mental resilience won out and convinced the coaching staff what it had before those of us watching really knew.
Janet Jackson’s nipple wound up being the headliner for people who watched Super Bowl 38 for the spectacle. For those that came for the football, Patriots-Panthers was dream game. Brief spasms of scoring cropping up amid some of the most physically punishing football I’d seen. It was stalemate-shootout-stalemate. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots having just scored to go ahead 27-22 on a Tom Brady-to-Mike Vrabel touchdown from 1-yard out, the Pats needed to ensure that a touchdown and PAT wouldn’t beat them. So with 2:55 left, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis called for a direct snap to Faulk. Brady sold it with a spinning leap that indicated the snap was over his head while Faulk burrowed through to make it 29-22. The Patriots needed that because less than two minutes later, the Panthers tied it at 29. How might the game have changed if Carolina only needed six? Or if New England got the ball back trailing 29-28 with a minute left? Can’t tell. Faulk made sure – in a key moment where the Patriots trusted him – that it wasn’t a concern. Faulk finished the game with 10 touches for 61 yards and that two-point run.
BREAKING IT OPEN
As poorly as the Philadelphia Eagles and Donovan McNabb played in Super Bowl 39, they tied the game late in the third quarter, 14-14. The Patriots weren’t getting anything going on offense. Then they rode Faulk. A 5-yard run and 13-yard reception opened the drive that ended the third and started the fourth. On a second-and-2 from the Philly 28, Faulk ripped off 12 yards. On the next snap, Brady hit him for 14 yards down to the Eagles 2 and Corey Dillon finished it off from there. The Eagles did get a late score to make it 24-21. The Patriots scooped up the onsides kick though and - with the game winding down and the Patriots trying to kill clock – they handed three times to Faulk then dropped a punt at the Eagles 4 and sealed the win with a pick. It was symbolic of how far the team had come that Faulk – four years after getting bludgeoned by the Bucs in that season opener – was the guy taking those handoffs to ensure the Pats third Super Bowl win in four seasons.
In the lost season of 2009 the Patriots were a team in need of a personnel enema. A lack of seriousness and selfishness had crept in. It wasn’t new to hear players grumble about how hard-assed the program was. It was new to hear it voiced openly with a “What’s he gonna do, cut me?” tone attached. Looking back, it makes sense. Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour were all out the door. Tom Brady had missed the previous season with his ACL. The team changed quickly. But Faulk quietly went about his business as he had since Belichick came in. He didn’t upbraid teammates – at least to my knowledge – but instead tried to do what he’d always done. And when the games came, he was a last bastion of reliability. Which brings us to one of the most famous coaching decisions in NFL history. Fourth-and-2. Playing the Colts, the Pats burped up a huge lead, the defense was getting barraged, nobody was making plays on offense, Belichick decided to go for it. Put it in Faulk’s hands. We know how that play went and the second-guessing that ensued. The bigger point of including this is that, regardless of the result, when Belichick was going to make a seismic call like this, he wanted it in Faulk’s hands. No matter what else was going sideways that year, at least he knew the effort and dependability of 33.
The NFL’s over-the-top commercialization and dramatization of the NFL Draft reached a crescendo this year when the perpetually out-of-touch Commissioner opined that Laremy Tunsil’s gas-mask bong video and resulting drop was good drama for the fans. Around here, the draft was pretty low-key. Knowing Roger Goodell would drive a knife in the back of any players he was embracing for the satisfaction of his billionaire bosses kinda took the shine off of it. New England had been appropriately neutered with the confiscation of its first round pick. Then Kevin Faulk took the stage with a Tom Brady jersey. With Goodell stooge Troy Vincent standing there, Faulk said, “With the 78th pick of the 2016 NFL draft, the New England Patriots and Tom Brady select Joe Thuney, linebacker, North Carolina State.” Thuney is an offensive lineman. But no matter. Point made.