Patriots

Michael Thomas has priceless story about intercepting Tom Brady in NFL debut

Michael Thomas has priceless story about intercepting Tom Brady in NFL debut

Imagine being an undrafted rookie defensive back making your NFL debut just days after signing with a new team.

And then imagine being thrust into a one-possession game, trying to protect a lead with under two minutes to play and seeing Tom Brady staring you down.

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That's exactly the scenario Michael Thomas found himself in back in December 2013 — and not only was the stage not too big for the then-23-year-old, he delivered both a game-saving pass breakup and a game-clinching interception against arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

Thomas recalled the amazing sequence of events this week when he served as a guest columnist for Peter King's Football Morning in America column

After starting the week on the 49ers practice squad, Thomas was signed by the Dolphins but didn't join his teammates for the first time until Wednesday, four days before Miami faced New England at Sun Life Stadium. Initially happy to just make a special teams tackle — which meant his name would show up on the stat sheet — injuries to the Fins' secondary forced Thomas into action on defense.

"The DB coach comes up to me and says, 'Mike? That’s your name right, Michael Thomas? I see you played slot in college. You’re going to have to play slot again.' Okay. So Tom Brady sees that and literally every play he’s coming to me."

The Dolphins had taken a 24-20 lead with just 1:15 left, but Brady smelled blood in the water, attacking the rookie and the rest of the Miami defense while driving the Patriots downfield and into the red zone.

"They’ve got a first down at the 19-yard line with 27 seconds left and I’m guarding (Danny) Amendola and he’s running a go route to the end zone. I look up and the ball’s coming. Amendola actually gets it in his hands in the end zone but I fight until the end, fight until we get to the ground and the ball pops out. It’s an incomplete, the crowd goes crazy, and now I’m juiced."

Preventing the go-ahead score would have been enough of a memory for a rookie making his NFL debut, but Thomas came up big one more time three plays later. With the Patriots facing a fourth-and-five from the 14-yard line and only seven seconds left on the clock, the spotlight found Thomas once again as Brady targeted Austin Collie.

"It’s like a movie scene. Everything is in slow motion. I leap up in the air and catch it and after I fall down in the end zone it hits me. I just caught the game-winning interception! That’s Tom Brady! I just won the game! All my teammates are jumping up and down, cameras are in my face, the crowd is going crazy, I start crying and yelling for my mama. It was absolutely like a movie."

Game over. Miami wins, 24-20. The loss was a crucial one for the Patriots, who finished the season at 12-4 but ended up as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, one game behind the Broncos.

Thanks to the loss, New England had to go to Denver for the AFC Championship Game, which they lost 26-16. Were it not for Thomas' heroics, the Patriots would have hosted the conference title game, and that could have been enough to tilt the scales in their favor, as they had defeated the Broncos in Foxboro earlier that season. 

Considering the impact of the game and the unbelievable sequence of events, it's no wonder that Thomas recalls his NFL debut in such vivid detail. 

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Finally, the New England Patriots are back on the field at Gillette Stadium.

The new-look Pats had their first practice of 2020 on Wednesday, which means training camp position battles are officially underway. The obvious position battle in camp will be at the quarterback position between Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham, but there are many more intriguing battles to keep an eye on.

In a brand new Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry break down the positions where these battles will take place.

Patriots Talk Podcast - Training Camp Preview: Burning Questions. Bold Predictions | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

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Perry named the Patriots' three most notable position battles, starting with the QB position. While it's technically a battle between Newton and Stidham, some believe it's a foregone conclusion Newton will be the Week 1 starter.

"You have the quarterback spot with Cam vs. Stidham. Let's move past that, we've talked enough about that, we both think Cam is going to win the job. Not a real battle, per se," Perry said.

"Let's go back to the outside linebackers. This is a four-way cage match between Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Shilique Calhoun, and Brandon Copeland. My guy is going to be Anfernee Jennings, but I do think that's a battle. Whatever that opposite John Simon edge spot is called, somebody's got to fill it.

"Number three, let's talk special teams ... who is your returner? Is it Kyle Dugger, your first draft pick in this year's draft? Is it J.J. Taylor? Fun as hell to watch, would be fun as hell to watch in the kicking game. Or is it last year's guy, Gunner [Olszewski]? They don't want to give it to Julian Edelman, we know that, so one of those three guys I think will win it."

For Curran, it's a newly-added safety who will have his attention in camp.

"I'm going to head over to the secondary for the position battle that I'm interested to watch," Curran said. "I have a good feeling of who's going to shine there and it's my defensive dark horse for this camp and this season -- it's going to be Adrian Phillips at the safety spot holding off a young Kyle Dugger.

"I think Adrian Phillips is going to be an absolute eye-opener at the safety position ... Adrian Phillips is a talented player, he's closer to [Patrick] Chung than he is Devin McCourty. He's going to be a really good player for the Patriots this year. But I'm going to be real interested to see how Dugger competes ... he's an athletic unicorn."

Curran and Perry also discuss the burning questions surrounding the Patriots, why the Pats should explore using the triple option, bold predictions for the 2020 season, and much more.

Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

One of the New England Patriots' 2020 draft picks has decided to retire before his rookie season began.

The team announced Thursday it has placed offensive lineman Dustin Woodard on the reserve/retired list.

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Woodard, who played college football at the University of Memphis, was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round (230th overall) of April's draft. The 22-year-old center/guard was one of three offensive linemen taken by the Patriots in the 2020 draft, along with guard Michael Onwenu (sixth round) and tackle Justin Herron (sixth round).

Why is Woodard retiring? ESPN's Mike Reiss reported additional details:

The Patriots signed center Tyler Gauthier on Wednesday in a move that adds some depth to the position following Woodard's retirement. Woodard had a chance to make the roster as the backup center behind starter David Andrews.