David Tyree

Five Patriots plays among Top 30 on NFL 100 list

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Five Patriots plays among Top 30 on NFL 100 list

Last week, the NFL released all but the Top 30 of its 100 greatest plays as part of its 100th-anniversary celebration. Seven plays involving the Patriots cracked that list.

This week, it was a countdown of plays 30 to 1 and the Pats found themselves well-represented again. 

The list was selected by a panel of 50 voters (the same panel that votes for the NFL Awards and the All-Pro team), including our own Tom E. Curran, who listed his Top 20 plays earlier this summer, here. Voters were given a ballot of 100 plays and asked to rank 50.

The rest of the countdowns on NFL Network continue next week with Greatest Games (Sept. 27 & Oct. 4), Characters (Oct. 11 & Oct. 18), Game-Changers (Oct. 25 & Nov. 1) and Teams (Nov. 8 & Nov. 15).

The No. 1 play was Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" touchdown in the Pittsburgh Steelers' December 1972 playoff victory over the Oakland Raiders.

 

 

Patriots 3 & Out: Who was the best free agent addition this offseason?

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Patriots 3 & Out: Who was the best free agent addition this offseason?

The countdown to the Patriots' Week 1 matchup against the Steelers is on! (OK, fine, there are still 100 days until the Super Bowl champs begin play in the NFL's centennial season, so it's a long countdown, but still...)

Between OTA's, minicamps, free agent signings, and potential contract extensions, there's no offseason for Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry. So every Friday, they're going to tackle three Patriots-related questions. It could be issues facing the 2019 team, it could be league-wide debates, or it could be something a little more off-the-wall. Here we go for the inaugural edition of 3 & Out...

QUESTION 1: The most impactful free agent acquisition the Patriots made will be...

Curran: Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

The Patriots didn’t grab a big-ticket free agent you can easily put your chips on but they have a gaggle of guys who — if things break right — could be major contributors.

Most of them are on defense. Jamie Collins. Michael Bennett. Mike Pennel (I believe Senator Phil Perry already has several Mike Pennel jerseys on order). But I’m going with the former Buc, Jet and Jaguar with the injury history long as your arm.

Why him? Opportunity. Gronk’s gone, but the attractiveness of throwing to a big body down the seam will never go away. ASJ, a 26-year-old taken in the second round of the 2014 draft, has the size, athleticism and body control to somewhat replicate Gronk as a receiver. Are we talking Gronkian numbers? No. But when ASJ finishes with 58 catches for 877 yards and eight touchdowns, remember who told you he would. 

Perry: Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. You know me too well.

My only question is, if you knew where I was headed with this . . . why not go in that direction to begin with and make me squirm to come up with something different? I feel like you would've enjoyed that.

In any event, I appreciate you leaving me the correct choice here. Very kind of you. Pennel has to be the answer if you're playing the odds.

Which free-agent addition has a better chance than Pennel to start Week 1? He's coming off a strong year with the Jets. He received a $500,000 signing bonus. He has a well-defined role as a first- and second-down run-stuffer, and was a pretty obvious fit here as soon as he hit the market. Plus, he plays a position where the Patriots just lost Malcom Brown and where the next best options to start alongside Lawrence Guy are Danny Shelton and David Parry.

Seferian-Jenkins, meanwhile, signed a deal that gives him $50,000 guaranteed. I agree with you that the tight end's ceiling, in terms of overall impact, is higher than Pennel's. But, to me, Pennel looks like a starter from Day 1. I'm not positive Seferian-Jenkins makes the team.

If I was picking a tight end, I'd actually go with Ben Watson. Again, Watson's ceiling may not be as high. But follow the money. He got $600,000 guaranteed — and that was after the Patriots found out he was going to miss a quarter of the season. I can envision Watson having a real role down the stretch in December and January. With Seferian-Jenkins, the picture is a little less clear.

QUESTION 2: What’s been the goatiest play for the Patriots since 2001?

Curran: Despite the success – or maybe because of the success – there are actually a number of candidates for this one. 

In high stakes games between evenly-matched teams, a failure to execute is going to stick out and stick with people. Some large gaffes get lost on the wind — the failed hookup between Tom Brady and Troy Brown in the 2006 AFC Championship which would have given the Patriots first-and-10 at midfield with 2:30 left is an example. Another is rookie Patrick Chung calling for a fake punt in the Patriots 2010 AFC Divisional Playoff loss to the Jets which led to a touchdown.

But this really comes down to two would-be Super Bowl clinching catches not made: Wes Welker’s in the 2011 Super Bowl and Asante Samuel’s in the 2007 Super Bowl.

And I’m going with Welker’s. Was it a difficult catch? Yes. Was it a bad throw? No. It’s where it needed to be given the gap between the corners in the area and the approaching safety, Kenny Phillips. The pushback to put the lion’s share of the missed connection on Brady is predictable. People both locally and nationally begrudge the amount of praise he gets.

Why? I don’t know. Fatigue? But anyone saying that incompletion was Brady’s “fault” isn’t clear on football geometry. The ball was where it had to be. And Welker had both hands around it. Not the case with Asante. 

Perry: I have a hard time choosing between the two "goatiest" you mention.

Two drops. Welker is a receiver. Should've had it. Samuel is a corner. You don't excuse the stone hands . . . but you get it; he played on that side of the ball for a reason.

There's little doubt in my mind, though, that the Samuel play had a lower degree of difficulty. The ball was in front of him. He had to jump, but wasn't exactly fully-extended. He put up big interception numbers during his career. Welker and his three-foot wingspan trying to make a leaping back-shoulder catch is a lower-percentage play, in my view.

All that said, neither is my choice. I'm going to go with the Helmet Catch.

The reception itself was remarkable and flukey, but the Patriots had multiple opportunities to stop it before it ever came to be. Jarvis Green had Eli Manning. Richard Seymour had Manning's jersey in his grasp. Samuel stopped his feet during Manning's scramble. Rodney Harrison was there to break up the play and didn't. Historically David Tyree's mini-miracle isn't looked at as a "goat" moment for anyone on that Patriots defense. The focus lands more on the improbability of the play and what the Giants pulled off that night. But I think that it can safely be deemed "goaty," with multiple parties deserving some percentage of the blame.

QUESTION 3: The best alternate uniform for the Patriots would be…  

Curran: We’ve seen the all-white and all-blue color rush. Liked ‘em.

I didn’t love the Patriots traditional uniforms when I was a kid, but seeing them in the snow in 2009 and on Thanksgiving in 2004… I think it changed my mind.

But I think I’d most like to see a blood red, Pat Patriot color rush uniform. I’d like to see that. Yes, I would.

Perry: What an absolutely horrifying thought. I'm calling the police. The only answer is the Pat Patriot red jerseys WITH THE WHITE PANTS. Those were money.

Unfortunately there are some rules when it comes to helmets that complicate things. For safety reasons, the league wants players using only one helmet every year. (Unless you're Tom Brady, and your old helmet has been grandfathered into the rules, and you test out different helmets during a given season for the moment when the league forces you to settle on a new-age helmet once and for all.)

Patriots helmets are gray. Therein lies the issue. The full effect of Pat Patriot is really only complemented by a white lid.

My solution? Paint. Paint the gray helmets white. Peel the Flying Elvis decals off. Slap Pat Patriot on. When the game is over, remove the paint. Replace the decals. Good to go.

Is this totally unrealistic? Probably. Would it be an unreasonable number of man hours for the equipment staff? Certainly. Would be pretty sweet, though.

Tom's rebuttal: DAFUQ?!? That changes everything!

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Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: Helmet Catch and Law’s Super pick

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Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: Helmet Catch and Law’s Super pick

We're into the Top 10 now.

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!

PLAY NUMBER: 8

THE YEAR: 2007

THE GAME:  Giants 21, Patriots 17

THE PLAY: Helmet catch 

WHY IT’S HERE: As it was for the Patriots on play No. 9, the Helmet Catch didn’t deliver the Giants that Super Bowl win. There was a fourth down that New York converted on that drive. There was a coulda-been pick by Asante Samuel. There was a near strip by Adalius Thomas of Eli Manning. There was a third-and-12 conversion when Brandon Meriweather left Steve Smith. But the improbability of Eli Manning’s escape from the grabbing hands of the Patriots, the appearance of the play being over and the fact Eli was just flinging the ball at the roof and the catch itself which required otherworldly effort and a little bit of luck? It caused some buckling. Just with Tom Brady’s fumble being overturned against the Raiders six years earlier and Oakland losing focus, the helmet catch seemed to do the same to New England. The dirty details? It was third-and-5 at the Giants 44 and 1:15 remained. The play gained 32 yards and it came immediately after the Samuel play. If you’re from around here, the worst part is knowing the NFL Network will celebrate and commemorate that play like it’s the damn moon landing until the end of civilization.
 

PLAY NUMBER: 7

THE YEAR: 2001

THE GAME:  Patriots 20, Rams 17

THE PLAY: Ty Law’s pick-6 in the Super Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: From June 8, 1986 – the night the Celtics finished off the Rockets to win the NBA title – until February 3, 2002, New England sports fans absorbed tragedy, futility, soul-crushing defeats, ineptitude and dysfunction. Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots. All of them. There was the senseless death of Len Bias and the tragedy of Reggie Lewis. The ball between Buckner’s legs and the dysfunction of the franchise even as it rolled out talented teams with diva superstars. The Bruins? Really good sometimes. Enough to captivate but never willing or able to spend to get over the top. And the Patriots were a damn laughingstock. So, when Ty Law gave the Patriots a 7-3 lead in the second quarter of Super Bowl 36 against the heavily-favored Rams, the communal sense was, “Are you s*&*&*&*& me?! This really might happen?!!” That thought was comingled with the belief that fate would pull the rug out from under us again. Didn’t happen that day. And it didn’t happen in large part because of the performance of the Patriots secondary which pulverized the Rams receivers to a point where they didn’t want to compete. Law was the best player in that secondary. And he combined shutdown corner skills with Aliquippa, Pennsylvania physical toughness and a self-belief modeled after his hero Muhammad Ali. That Mike Vrabel  - the best scrap heap signing the Patriots ever made – smashing Kurt Warner and forcing the pick, Law was able to swoop in at the Rams 49 and hightail down the sideline and get one finger aloft. It was a No. 1 that could have also signified a new era in New England sports. The first of many championships in the new millennium.