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Outplay of the Patriots in primetimein U.S.

                                               We Are All Patriots
Greetings, Pats Nation. It’s officially the Fourth of July, American Independence Day, and that’s relevant for a league based in the United States. But it’s especially relevant for us, for this fan base. After all, we are all Patriots.
So how do we make this a Fourth of July Patriots countdown? Well, in the U.S., when we celebrate the Fourth, we put aside our differences and our problems, and we light fuses on things to make them explode. I’m not talking about offensive fireworks here. Football is an emotional game, and I’m thinking of instances that caused me, personally, to explode in some exuberance. Cheers that sound like firecrackers; jumping out of my seat like a bottle rocket being shot off.
 
Fourth of July fireworks Patriots
Credit: Wikimedia
A few caveats first. As with any countdown, this list is based on my personal experience and feelings. It is highly discussion. I’d love to hear about your own fireworks moments. I’m basing this on games from 2009-2015, regular season only. Playoff games are a little too obvious. Why that starting point? It was my first year of college, and that’s when I started being able to see more games, as well as when I became more demonstrative (read: loud) in my cheering. Finally, I will base this only on games that I’ve seen. If I missed something you think is obvious, don’t be mad; I probably just missed that moment. (Or maybe I forgot. I’m only human, and it doesn’t matter. This is a low stakes ranking where discussion is encouraged.)
I have a couple honorable mention types, first. One—and how’s this for honesty—one of my loudest cheers came in the 2011 game against the Giants, when Brady led a struggling offense down the field, and hit Gronk on 4th down to retake the lead. The Patriots did not win that game, but I won’t deny that I cheered as if they had in that moment. Two, in the 2013 comeback against the Broncos, the entire second half was a crescendo of cheering, so I left it off. It didn’t have that single moment, it had several.konga
Okay, explanations and qualifiers are out of the way. We good? Great. Have a seat, crack open a Bruschi (see what I did there?), and let’s celebrate in style.
6. New England Patriots 27, New York Jets 25 (2014)
The Patriots were just hitting their stride after that debacle in Kansas City. The Jets came into town on a five-game losing streak. Even with Stevan Ridley and Jerod Mayo having gone out on IR just a few days before, no one anticipated this game being as close as it was. Sure, it was a Thursday night game, but the Pats were home. A Shane Vereen diving touchdown off a Brady bomb on the first series made it seem like the game was gonna stick to the script.
The Jets, specifically Chris Ivory, refused to let it happen that easily, though. I thought the Pats had turned the corner, but there I was in the fourth quarter, unable to believe there’d be a loss to the Jets in store. Danny Amendola began the turnaround of his Patriots career with a 19-yard touchdown after a quiet season thus far. Those proved the be the points the Jets couldn’t match.
They gave it their best, though. At the end of the game, Nick Folk was set to give New York the win with a 58-yard field goal. He’d kicked the Jets to a win the year before, after tackle Chris Jones had been penalized for pushing a teammate forward into the opponents’ formation in what was, at the time, a new, rarely called rule. It was poetic, then, and oh-so-sweet that Jones would be the one who blocked Folk’s attempt this time around. It was a moment more than worthy of a loud, relieved cheer.
5. New England Patriots 20, Dallas Cowboys 16 (2011)
The New England defenses of 2010 and 2011 (and 2012 to an extent) were infamously porous. But there were occasional stretches where they held their own (and points were never a big issue, of course, partly thanks to an offense that made other teams one-dimensional); this game was in one of those stretches. The offense struggled mightily, but the defense stepped up and kept the game in reach.
Part of the reason for that struggle was the Dallas defense. The Cowboys didn’t have the best record at the time, but their losses had been close. They were more than game for a battle, even forced to wear their supposedly unlucky dark blue jerseys. Rob Ryan was a big factor, having thrown off the Pats in Cleveland the year before. He coached to his résumé in this.
So, too, did Tom Brady. We’ve seen it time and time again, so much so that we’ve probably lost sight of just how remarkable it is. Down 16-13 against a defense that had stifled his team all day, Brady drove the length of the field and tossed a game-winning touchdown to Aaron Hernandez. It might be nice, maybe, if someone who hasn’t been convicted of murder had caught that pass. But that’s not the way it went, and if you just watch them as players on the team you like, it was an awesome moment. I cheered loud enough that my roommate checked on me.
4. New England Patriots 27, New York Giants 26 (2015)
This game was an exorcism, plain and simple. The Pats came into the game 8-0, but the record wasn’t really relevant. There were exciting plays and big moments, sure, and they’re probably still pretty fresh in our minds. They weren’t what this game was about, either.
This game was about watching Brady throw an interception at the goal line on a pass that was behind Brandon LaFell. Rather than taking a comfortable lead, the Patriots allowed the Giants to hang around. Pats Nation, as a collective one, shook its head and whispered, “No…”
This game was about watching Odell Beckham, Jr., have in his hands the touchdown pass that would’ve put the game all but out of reach. Pats Nation saw the Super Bowl XLII catch by Plaxico Burress, the 2011 regular season catch by Jake Ballard, the Super Bowl XLVI catch by Mario Manningham—all of these flashed before our eyes. And then Malcolm Butler knocked the pass loose. In a game of inches, seconds stretched out over an eternity. The Giants still took the lead, but kicking a field goal kept the Pats in it.
Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does. There was a brief interception scare, but he managed to drive the then Edelman-less offense close enough to give Stephen Gostkowski a crack at ending it. The kick split the uprights from 54-yards out. It wasn’t a Super Bowl win, but it was more than just a regular season win. I didn’t cheer quite so much as crumple in relief.
3. New England Patriots 31, Indianapolis Colts 28 (2010)
The Colts game into this game beaten and battered, but they still managed to carry a mystique into Foxboro, and that doesn’t happen too often. After losing at every possible opportunity to the Bill Belichick-coached Patriots, Peyton Manning had found his groove. The Colts took the win over their rivals in 2005, twice in 2006, 2008, and 2009.
 
James Sanders Patriots
Credit: Press Herald
That ’09 loss was a gut-punch that turned Manning into a horror movie villain. No matter how comfortable the lead, he just wouldn’t stay down. Brady played this 2010 edition of the NFL’s best annual matchup almost flawlessly, but I guarantee you couldn’t find a Patriots fan who thought, at any point, the team had scored enough.
Like clockwork, Manning led his team to a touchdown to cut into the New England lead. Another cut it down to three points. Pats Nation was not a confident bunch when the Colts had the ball and trailed by a field goal.
With seconds ticking away and the Colts in field goal range, Jermaine Cunningham become the unlikeliest of heroes. The second-round bust never quite panned out as a pass rusher, but on this day, on one particular play, he got just enough pressure to influence Manning’s throw. James Sanders was there to come down with the ball, and to drive the stake into the hearts of the Colts and their comeback hopes. I cheered and violently (stupidly) beat my fists against my legs in jubilation. They were sore the next day.
2. New England Patriots 30, New Orleans Saints 27 (2013)
Take the Cowboys comeback we talked about above, but make it more dramatic. A touchdown pass with even less time remaining, in a situation where a field goal wouldn’t have helped.
But first let me say, in the interest of full disclosure, that I thought this game was over. I was watching the end sullenly, because I always watch Patriots games to the end, even if it’s bitter, but I didn’t have any hope. The 2013 squad was a ragtag bunch to be sure, but they hadn’t yet instilled in me that never-say-die attitude that would become their calling card.
The offense had been struggling from the start of the season. Wes Welker was gone, taking his reliability with him. Aaron Hernandez had gone from promising pass catcher to prison inmate, and Gronk still wasn’t available. The receivers were young and/or unestablished, and every win at the beginning of this season felt like a struggle.
Brady squandered away a shot near the end of the game with an awful interception, but the defense gave him another try. And Tom Brady did…well, you know how it goes. Everyone came together to contribute; even Austin Collie played a role on the final drive (you can look it up, I’ll wait). But it still didn’t seem like there was enough time.
There was. Brady to Kenbrell Thompkins from 17 yards, 5 seconds left on the clock. I was in a situation where I had to keep quiet, but I definitely jumped out of my seat.
1. New England Patriots 25, Buffalo Bills 24 (2009)
Surprised? Me, too, a little. The Pats took on the Bills in their AFL unis on Monday Night Football, in Tom Brady’s first game back after the ACL injury stole him from us in 2008. (This wasn’t the plan, but fitting that my number one would feature the Patriots wearing Pat Patriot—the minuteman—on their helmets for a Fourth of July list, no?)
It was a bumpy year for a Brady, with a bumpy start to it. But all we needed to see was some of that old magic, just enough to let us know a year off couldn’t erode it. The Bills weren’t cooperating, though. They took a 24-13 lead, and there wasn’t enough time left. I know that I keep writing “there wasn’t enough time” even though I know full well that Tom Brady quarterbacks my team.
But what you have to understand, what I’m sure we all do, is that this comeback should’ve been impossible. This was the kind of situation where you cheat on Madden, knock down the difficulty, find a cheap way to get the ball back, and go to your best plays over and over. Even after the Brady to Ben Watson touchdown made it 24-19, it wasn’t likely that the Pats would get the ball back with enough time do anything. Something crazy would have to happen.
Then Leodis McKelvin fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff. Gostkowski recovered it.
Tom Brady Patriots excitement
Credit: Patriots Life
The opponent wasn’t as great a force in the league as previous ones on this list. The actual moment itself, the second touchdown to Watson, wasn’t as thrilling as other last-minute comeback-completing scores. It wasn’t as down-to-the-wire. But this was the first Patriots game I watched as a college kid, after a year without Tom Brady. This was the game that was going to close the book on the 2007 season and allow me to finally move on.
Instead I had to watch the Bills outplay the Patriots in primetime, and relief at avoiding a loss came into play.
So all of these combined factors contributed to my reaction when the Pats took the lead for good. I jumped out of my chair. I shouted with joy. I clapped. I stomped my feet in this weird, almost-football-drill movement. No other regular season Patriots game has caused me to react with such raw, unfiltered emotion, with such fireworks.

Wherever you’re located, Pats Nation, I hope you find yourself happy and safe on this Fourth of July. Tell me your experiences if you’d like. Reminisce fondly. Continue to generally ready yourself for another NFL season. Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I jogged my memory of these games with the AP stories of them, which I found on the Patriots website. I’m not gonna pretend I’m that sharp on the details. Anyway, hope you enjoyed. As always, thanks for reading.
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