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

 

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Patriots QB Tom Brady 'never would have imagined' playing 20 NFL seasons

Patriots QB Tom Brady 'never would have imagined' playing 20 NFL seasons

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has accomplished so much in his NFL career, and the six Super Bowl rings he owns probably are his greatest achievement. Given the physical nature of pro football, and how hard it is to play for five, 10 or even 15 seasons, Brady's longevity should also go down as one of the most impressive bullet points on his Hall of Fame resumé.

Brady is in the midst of his 20th (!) NFL season. He's still one of the league's top-tier quarterbacks, too. The 42-year-old veteran has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,743 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions to help New England start the season 6-0 for the first time since 2015.

When you watch Brady play in 2019, it's clear he still loves the game very much.

"I love playing football, so those three hours and being on the practice field, I really love," Brady said Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "To play 20 years in the NFL, I mean, I never would have imagined, and I'm sure nobody else would have ever imagined that. I love being out there. Every year has its challenges. To get to go play on 'Thursday Night Football', 'Monday Night Football' -- we've got a Sunday night game coming up -- when you're the only team playing, it's always a great feeling. 

"Again, it's been -- to just play a sport I dreamed of playing has been a dream come true. And everyone always asks, 'What are you going to do when you're done? What are you going to do when you're done?' The reality is that I never thought of doing anything else. I never had to think about doing anything else. I've just thought about playing football. Part of it was being very naive that, 'Oh man, I'm going to make a roster and I'm going to play for as long as I want to play.' My life has had a very weird way of working out that way. 

"I'm going to keep going and keep trying to be the best I could be for my team, and try to play at a championship level. Just continue to have fun and support my teammates and do my job as best as I possibly can."

Brady has talked in the past about playing into his mid-40s, and with he and the Patriots continuing to perform at a high level, there's no reason for him to leave the game barring some sort of injury.

The veteran QB still has things to accomplish despite all the success he's enjoyed. Brady has a few records in his sights, including Drew Brees' record for the most career passing yards, and Peyton Manning's mark for the most career passing touchdowns. Brady needs just 13 touchdown passes to claim Manning's record, so we should see that one broken later this season. Another Super Bowl title for the Patriots would be their seventh in team history and set a record for the most championships in the Super Bowl era.

Brady always has done a great job motivating himself, even after winning so many individual awards and championships, and you can bet that competitive fire will burn brightly all the way until the end of his career.

Darrelle Revis praises Tom Brady as 'the ultimate competitor'>>>

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Why have Patriots started fast in 2019? Tom Brady gives fitting answer

Why have Patriots started fast in 2019? Tom Brady gives fitting answer

The New England Patriots have not won fewer than 11 games in any season this decade, and that trend is very unlikely to end in 2019.

The defending Super Bowl champions are 6-0 entering their Week 7 road game against the rival New York Jets on "Monday Night Football." New England is undefeated at this juncture of the season for the first time since 2015.

The Patriots have struggled to start fast several times in recent seasons. Here's a look at the their record through the first four games of the last eight campaigns (including 2019):

2019: 4-0
2018: 2-2
2017: 2-2
2016: 3-1
2015: 4-0
2014: 2-2
2013: 4-0
2012: 2-2

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked Wednesday during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio if there's anything different about the team this season that's leading to the fast start. 

"Our defense has given us, I think, that ability (to start fast this season), because the way they've been playing," Brady said. "They've been playing that way all the way back into the spring. They're just doing a great job. They have a lot of great continuity. The secondary -- look how long they've played together. The group of linebackers -- look how long they've played together. What they're doing to get to the quarterback, and they have such a good mix of players who can rush and cover.

"We've been gettng ahead of teams. Our defense has really been thriving -- leading the league in turnovers, leading the league in sacks, what they've been doing on third downs has been incredible. I think they've just been playing so spectacular that it's given our team a huge boost."

The Patriots defense is off to a historic start. The unit has allowed the fewest points per game (8.0) and yards per game (234.7) of any team through the first six weeks. The pass rush also has been tremendous, and as Brady noted, the defense leads the league in sacks and turnovers (including a league-high 14 interceptions). The Patriots' point differential of plus-142 is the best in the league, and well ahead of the San Francisco 49ers (plus-83) in second place.

New England's fast start has allowed it to build an early lead in the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Patriots fell short of this goal last season, even though it ultimately didn't matter after they beat the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in the AFC Championship Game. But the Patriots should absolutely chase that seed this season because they are almost unbeatable at home. In fact, they've won 19 consecutive games at Gillette Stadium, including the playoffs.

The Patriots' fast start in 2019 should go a long way in ensuring the road to Super Bowl LIV in Miami goes down Route 1 in Foxboro. 

Phillip Dorsett gives encouraging update on his Week 7 status>>>

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