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From the Tuck Rule to Edelman's Muff: A History of the Patriots Being Left for Dead in the Playoffs

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Those few agonizing minutes between Julian Edelman seeming to have muffed that punt and the play getting overturned – which felt like hours as the officials went over it frame by frame closer than you examined the Denise Richards-Neve Campbell lesbian make out in Wild Things on VHS – wasn’t the first time the Patriots felt dead in a postseason game. Hell, it was only one of about a dozen such moments just in this years AFC championship game. But the Patriots have crawled out of tougher crypts than last night’s.

As a matter of fact, them coming back from the dead in the playoffs is pretty much the defining characteristic of The Bradichick Dynasty. Even in years where they didn’t end up winning the championship, the Zombie Pats have snuck up on opponents who’d left them for dead and eaten their brains so many times it’s become a way of life.

Here are one man’s list of their Top 10 Back from the Dead moments, in chronological order:

2001: The Tuck Rule

The one that started it all. It’s standard operating procedure when talking about it to say The Tuck Rule had never been invoked before this, which is a flat out lie. It wasn’t common, but it was called. In fact, it went against the Patriots earlier in the season when they lost to the Jets, a game remembered now only for the hit on Drew Bledsoe that knocked him out of the game and Tom Brady into history. My favorite little detail of this one is that the Patriots were out of time outs. And the play happened at 1:50 of the 4th quarter, so the turnover was automatically reviewed by rule. Meaning that if it had happened 11 seconds earlier, Belichick wouldn’t have had a timeout to challenge the ruling and the call would’ve stood. Forever. My second favorite aspect is I met this older guy at one of my book signings (cha-ching) who told me he was working on the chain gang at the stadium that night. And when the officials gave the ball back to New England they forgot to move it up to the original line of scrimmage until the chain gang pointed it out. That was a difference of five yards. Adam Vinatieri’s kick was good by three yards. I told him “Sir, you’re Forrest Gump.” Best game ever played in the old stadium. And the last.

2001: The Rams Comeback

Granted the Rams never took the lead. But you can’t have more momentum than they had once they tied it up on a Ricky Proehl catch and run. The Patriots took over on their 17 with 1:21 left and the world expecting them to play for overtime. But to their everlasting credit, they realized that Mike Martz offense had found a gear and nothing was going to stop it if they lost the coin flip or had to punt. Charlie Weis gave Brady a speech about taking care of the ball. But to Bledsoe’s own everlasting credit, he pulled his replacement aside and said “Fuck that. Go out there and sling it.” And he did. That’s Proehl at the end of that clip saying, “Tonight a dynasty is born, baby!” He was off by one sideline, but he was right.

2003: The Panthers Take the Lead

Remember when I said you couldn’t have more momentum than the Rams did at the end of that game? I lied to you. Allow me to contradict myself, because the Panthers had a flowing lava river of red hot momentum, with three straight touchdowns in the 4th quarter. No play soiled more pants and sofa cushions in New England than a shocking 85-yarder to Mushin Muhammad to put them on top for the first time all game. The Pats quickly responded with a touchdown pass to Mike Vrabel. Then it became The Comeback Part II: The Wrath of Ricky, as ironically enough, Proehl scored for Carolina like to tying the Super Bowl at the end was becoming his thing. And the result was the same. Brady. Drive. Vinatieri. Kick. Ring. No Super Bowl had ever ended with a score on the final play and the Patriots had done it twice in three years.

2006: Marlon McCree Intercepts Brady

We all remember this one for the very classy LaDainian Tomlinson’s very classy meltdown at the end because the Patriots were using his teammates disrespectful (and copyrighted) “Lights Out” dance to disrespect his team. But there was so much more to it. It’s possible the Patriots have never been so outplayed while still finding a way to win. The low point was a Brady interception with his team trailing 21-13 and 6 1/2 left. Marlon McCree got the pick and then tried to run it back, only to be stripped by Troy Brown who was playing to the whistle. With a fresh set of downs, Brady finished off the drive with a touchdown pass to Reche Caldwell to tie it. Then, after the Pats defense produced a 3 & out, another drive that led to a field goal by Stephen Gostkowski for a final of 24-21. The Chargers are still waiting for their revenge. But they have Brown’s hustle and situational awareness to blame for losing.

2011: The Ravens are a Chip Shot Away from Overtime

23-20. The Ravens rush Billy Cundiff onto the field. The play clock is winding down. Cundiff shanks it wide left in a way that never had a chance. And I remember feeling like Jules and Vincent when the kid comes out of the bedroom firing the entire clip in his hand cannon and they start checking themselves for bullet wounds. My favorite part of this was after the game John Harbaugh complaining the Pats cheated. He said Cundiff was 60 yards away warming up instead of standing by ready to take the field because the scoreboard said it was 3rd down. A few problems with his logic. One, the teams do not control the scoreboard, the NFL does. Two, he was basically admitting his team lacked the ability to count to four. And three, ignoring the fact both sidelines have guys standing there with big orange “4”s on the top of a tall stick. Cundiff is Einhorn. Einhorn is Cundiff!

2014: The Ravens Lead by 14. Twice.

The Patriots erase not one but two two-touchdown deficits. First with perfectly legal Ineligble Receiver formations they had previously cleared with the league. And as they lined up in them, the official literally coached the Ravens defense by pointing to Shane Vereen and saying “Don’t cover 34!” Which they promptly did. And left Michael Hoomanawanui alone to run free. The second 14-point lead was closed by the first Julian Edelman pass attempt of his career. Ever the gracious loser, Harbaugh got the Rules Committee to outlaw the formation. Then used some of his own Ineligble Receiver formations. Stay classy.

2014: Seattle Has 1st & Goal from the 5.

No Fun Fact: The 33-yard catch by Jermaine Kearse, tumbling, rolling, off his hands, off his shoulder, in one nostril, out the other and back into his hands – the one he would’ve run in for the score if Malcolm Butler hadn’t kept his wits about him and shoved him out of bounds – happened at the same end of the same stadium where the David Tyree catch happened. As my brother Jack looked at me and screamed “GOD HATES US!!!” He might, but not enough to have kept Dont’a Hightower from tackling Marshawn Lynch at the 1 or prevent Pete Carroll from letting off the loudest wettest brainfart in history. On second thought, The Almight put Butler in the right place at the right time. He loves us.

2016: 28-3

Right after that Pick-6, I was hovering above my body, looking down at myself on the sofa. My party guests had all left when Tevin Coleman’s touchdown made it 28-3 with 17 minutes left. When they were lining up with a minute to play and needing a 2-point conversion to send it to overtime, there was a shaft of light with all my ancestors beckoning me into their warm embrace. Then they won the coin toss. There’s a pattern here.

2017: Down 10 to the Jaguars.

The Patriots again go deep into the playbook with a double pass from Danny Amendola across the field to Dion Lewis, who after a long run behind blockers, fumbles. Recovered by Jacksonville. But the Pats make a stop. On the subsequent drive  they convert on a 3rd & 18 to Amendola. Danny Playoff ends up scoring two touchdowns in the 4th against the best defense in the NFL for the win.

2018: Edelman’s Non-Muff.

I think his beard put up a deflector shield. And the Dynasty that was born in 2001 continues.

#StillHere. Buy some shirts.