Miami Dolphins

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. 

Is Jarrett Stidham better than Tua Tagovailoa? Chris Simms defends bold take

Is Jarrett Stidham better than Tua Tagovailoa? Chris Simms defends bold take

Why didn't the New England Patriots trade up in the 2020 NFL Draft to select Tua Tagovailoa?

If you ask Chris Simms, it's because they already have a better quarterback on their roster.

The NBC Sports analyst is counting down his top 40 quarterbacks entering the 2020 season and pegged Patriots signal-caller Jarrett Stidham at No. 35. Meanwhile, Tagovailoa didn't even crack Simms' top 40.

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So, is Simms saying the Patriots' 2019 fourth-round pick who attempted just four passes last season is superior to a Heisman Trophy finalist who just went fifth overall to the Miami Dolphins?

Why yes, he is.

"(Stidham is) more talented than Tua," Simms said Tuesday on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni & Fauria" radio show. "(Tua) is a creation of Alabama. You don’t think Jarrett Stidham or like Justin Herbert would have set the world on fire if they got to play with four first-round receivers and two first-round tackles?"

Tagovailoa indeed played for a powerhouse Alabama program that appeared in two national championship games and lost just four games total during his three seasons in Tuscaloosa.

Stidham's Auburn Tigers were no slouches, either, but the QB played with far less talent than Tagovailoa and worked with a new offensive coordinator in Chip Lindsey.

So, what's the ceiling for the 23-year-old kid who has to fill Tom Brady's shoes? Simms doubled down on his pro-Stidham take by referencing the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

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"Of the guys I have in the 30s, (Stidham) has the biggest potential to make a big-time jump," Simms said. "People thought I was crazy after Patrick Mahomes’ rookie year and I ranked him like 29 and people were like, ‘Oh my God, you haven’t even seen him play. He was 4-7 at Texas Tech.’ I was wrong to put him at 29. I should have put him at four or five, probably somewhere in there."

Mahomes was the No. 10 overall pick in 2017, but he backed up Alex Smith as a rookie and went somewhat overlooked before blossoming into a superstar.

The Patriots didn't take a QB in this year's draft and have passed on big names like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton in free agency, so perhaps they feel similarly about Stidham.

As for how he stacks up against Tagovailoa? We may find out in Week 1, as the Patriots host the Dolphins in their season opener.

Dolphins' Kyle Van Noy bristles at Patriots comparisons: 'We're our own team'

Dolphins' Kyle Van Noy bristles at Patriots comparisons: 'We're our own team'

You could call the Miami Dolphins "Foxboro South." Just don't call them that in front of Kyle Van Noy.

The veteran linebacker is one of four former New England Patriots who signed with the Dolphins this offseason, joining fellow linebackers Elandon Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill and center Ted Karras.

Miami is also led by an ex-Patriot in head coach Brian Flores, who has loaded his staff with New England alums in defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, tight ends coach George Godsey and quality control coach Mike Judge.

But Van Noy apparently is growing tired of those who believe the Dolphins are trying to replicate the Patriots' model of success.

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“I don’t now how many New England guys there are, but we’re going to get away from that,” Van Noy told the Miami Herald's Adam Beasley in a recent interview. “We’re our own team, this is not the New England Patriots. This is the Miami Dolphins. It’s totally different, and I’m excited for that. New beginnings.

The Dolphins began to forge their own identity late in the 2019 season, going 5-4 down the stretch after losing their first seven games. While Van Noy and his fellow Patriots cast-offs weren't there for that turnaround, the 29-year-old can already sense the team's new attitude.

"We’re the Miami Dolphins. We’re here to represent the people of Miami," Van Noy said. "They want it bad. I can sense that. Miami’s a football town."

The Dolphins fired ex-Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea as their offensive coordinator late in the 2019 season and used their No. 5 overall pick on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, so perhaps they are intent on moving past those Patriots comparisons.

We'll find out immediately if that new approach pays off, as New England hosts Miami in its 2020 season opener.