Patriots

The NFL's Greatest Play? Here's 20 of them from Tom E. Curran

The NFL's Greatest Play? Here's 20 of them from Tom E. Curran

I didn’t include the final play from the Greatest Game Ever Played Or Bart Starr capping the iconic Ice Bowl with a quarterback sneak. I didn’t include the Butt Fumble, the Miami Miracle, the River City Relay or Billy Sims’ karate kick run.

As iconic, outlandish, memorable or indelible as those plays are, they just didn’t make the cut. Your results may vary.

With the NFL entering its 100th season, the league partnered with the Associated Press and asked a panel of 50 voters (the same panel that votes for the NFL Awards and the All-Pro team) to make their selections on a series of polls. The first one was Greatest Play. We were provided with a list of 100 plays and charged with whittling those down to 50.

We’ll also vote on Greatest Teams, Greatest Games, Game Changers and Greatest Characters.

Since any list like this is going to be subjective based on the voter’s definition of “great”, no two lists will be identical. I’d be surprised if many of us even agreed on the top five. It was left up to us. And, knowing how much people will care about this ranking when it’s unveiled, it was both daunting and an honor.

When I made my selections, I gave the most weight to the importance of the game and when the play occurred in said game. So I’m Super Bowl-heavy at the top.

Next, I weighed the play for improbability/degree of difficulty. Call it the “Fall Off The Couch” quotient.

I gave added importance to the plays that “launched” something. Say, a dynasty. Like The Catch, Adam Vinatieri’s kick through a blizzard to tie the Snow Bowl and the Immaculate Reception.

After that, I was going by feel. The most incredible plays (Odell Beckham’s catch), the most stunning plays (Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary against the Lions) and plays that summed up the essence of some of the game’s legendary players (Jim Brown’s 5-yard gain where it took most of the Cowboys defense to bring him down, Gale Sayers’ 85-yard punt return for a touchdown, Jerry Rice’s one-handed catch against the Rams, Barry Sanders undressing the Cowboys).

The omissions are what drove me crazy. Some were easy to excise. Garo Yepremian’s gaffe in Super Bowl VII. Jim Marshall’s wrong-way jaunt for the Vikings in 1964. Refrigerator Perry bulldozing in from the 1 in Super Bowl XX. The Butt Fumble. We remember them but they weren’t “great.”

But Derrick Henry’s 99-yard touchdown run? De’Andre Hopkins tipping the ball to himself for a toe-tap touchdown? John Mackey and Mike Ditka bulldozing humans like they were toys? Steve Gleason’s blocked punt for the Saints in the first game in the Superdome post-Katrina? A case could be made for any of those – and some others – bopping off Leon Lett getting tracked down by Don Beebe at the end of a Super Bowl blowout, for instance, which I had at 32.

The Patriots were involved in 11 of the 100 plays on the list. Malcolm Butler’s pick, Julian Edelman’s catch, Vinatieri’s Snow Bowl kick, Randy Moss’ one-handed catch over Darrelle Revis, the Butt Fumble and Ben Watson’s chase-down of Champ Bailey were all there. So were the Helmet Catch, Miami Miracle, Philly Special, Mario Manningham’s catch in Super Bowl 46 and Barry Sanders spinning Maurice Hurst like a top.

One oversight, in my opinion, was failing to include Tom Brady to Randy Moss in the 2007 season finale that clinched the 16-0 season and set the touchdown pass and touchdown reception record. Another would be Vinatieri’s game-winner in Super Bowl 36 but kicks – made and missed – were virtually absent except for the Snow Bowl.

But there won’t be a fanbase in the league that isn’t left wondering, “Hey, what about (fill in the play)!?” That’s bound to happen when you take 100 years worth of football and try to catalog the best of the best ever.   

Here’s my Top 20 (click to watch each play): 

1. Malcolm Butler’s interception in SB49

2. Santonio Holmes game-winning catch in SB43

3. Rams WR Kevin Dyson tackled at the 1 on the last play of SB34

4. The Immaculate Reception

5. Snow Bowl Kick

6. The Catch

7. James Harrison’s Immaculate Interception in SB43

8. Joe Montana to John Taylor in SB23

9. Helmet Catch

10. Edelman’s Catch in SB51

11. Minneapolis Miracle in 2018

12. Sea of Hands

13. Music City Miracle

14. The Original Hail Mary

15. Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary vs. Cardinals

16. Lynn Swann’s tip catch in SB10

17. Elway to Mark Jackson to complete The Drive

18. OBJ’s one-handed catch

19. Tony Nathan’s Hook and Lateral

20. Philly Special

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

 

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Bill Belichick was there. Josh McDaniels was there. The Patriots had a large contingent down in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl practices (the game will air Saturday on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m.), which should come as no surprise.

Just look at how the Patriots have drafted of late. 

In 2019, they selected Jarrett Stidham, Byron Cowart and Jake Bailey -- all of whom participated in the Senior Bowl. They also signed undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers, who played in the game. 

In 2018, they grabbed Isaiah Wynn in the first round, Duke Dawson, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Braxton Berrios after they'd competed in the Senior Bowl.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Three of their four draft picks from 2017, plus two undrafted rookies, were in the Senior Bowl. 

From 2013-16, they brought aboard 20 Senior Bowl participants as rookies.

"The great thing about the Senior Bowl is that you're seeing some of the best players," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said last spring. 

"There have actually been some underclassmen who have been incorporated into that mix. So you're seeing them against good competition and it's a different dynamic or different situation that they've been placed in. You're kind of taking them out of their environment that they've been in and kind of giving them something new and seeing how they handle it against good people."

The small-school players -- or the players who are asked to do something they didn't do much as collegians -- are the ones who have an opportunity to really land on radars during Senior Bowl work. For the Patriots, who constantly harp on the benefit of having seen players work against great competition on a regular basis when they hail from an SEC program, seeing some of the best in the country work against one another matters.

"It’s one thing if they do it against a lower-level team," Caserio said back in 2016, when asked about the Senior Bowl. "I mean, look, not all teams are created equal. Not all conferences are created equal. That’s just a fact. We can’t control that. So when you can see them actually play against really good players or good players that are at a comparable level of competition that they’re going to see every Sunday, that has to be a part of [the evaluation], no question."

The next year, the Patriots took two Senior Bowlers from smaller programs: Youngstown State's Derek Rivers and Troy's Antonio Garcia. 

"Where [the Senior Bowl] probably helps a little bit is players on a lower level that maybe haven’t competed against the same level of competition," Caserio said back in 2017. "Obviously, they’re making a big jump. . . Garcia was down there. That’s going to be a big jump in competition because this is what they’re going to be playing against. 

"With all due respect to whatever conference Youngstown State is in, there’s not a lot of NFL players in that conference. I mean, that’s just the way that it is. You’re going to have to see him against NFL competition, which the Senior Bowl is usually a pretty good indication of that because you’re talking about the top seniors in the country. It’s a part of the process. You’re not making a decision based off of that, but maybe a player who doesn’t have as much experience against that level, you’re going to see how he fares, and then you just kind of continue to move forward."

Some small-school prospects who may have caught Belichick's eye this week? 

Dayton tight end Adam Trautman was already considered one of the better tight ends in the draft class and seemed to only help his stock.

Safety Kyle Dugger -- who hails from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University -- impressed. Ditto for Division III offensive lineman Ben Bartch out of Saint John's, who saw rushers from Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and other high-end programs and reportedly held his own.

Perhaps the most recent success story out of Senior Bowl week for the Patriots wasn't with a small-school prospect, though. It might've been with Shaq Mason, a guard coming out of a run-heavy system at Georgia Tech. The Patriots simply hadn't seen him do much in the way of pass protection for the Yellow Jackets.

But Mason got to the Senior Bowl, took to the coaching he received, and the Patriots took notice. 

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

"The thing I’ll say about Shaq," Belichick said after drafting Mason in 2015, "is just watching him at the Senior Bowl, I mean it was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was, four or five practices, whatever it was down there. His stance is different. You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position. I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them. And it was different than what they did at Georgia Tech."

Big school. Small school. Everyone had something to gain in Mobile this week. And that includes the Patriots. That's why -- with more time off this year than recent years -- they were well represented down there.


 

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

The New England Patriots reportedly have made an addition to their coaching staff.

According to Jim McBride of The Boston Globe, they've hired ex-Los Angeles Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Fisch's official role with the Patriots offense is to be determined. But now that there's an opening at wide receivers coach with Joe Judge joining the New York Giants, Fisch could be a candidate for the job.

He brings plenty of experience to the table having coached Denver Broncos wide receivers in 2008 and Michigan receivers from 2015-16. Fisch also coached Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks in 2010 and was the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator from 2013-14.