New England Patriots: Hippie Award for Clutch Play of the Year revealed


One player went high and the other went low…

…and New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez lost his grip on the football…

Up to that point in the season, the Patriots had been inconsistent – evoking memories of Patriots’ teams past – and the fan base was beginning to become nervous.

The team was supposed to be a juggernaut, an offence that was unstoppable and a defense that featured a front seven that was as athletic and violent as any in the NFL, a defense that bent and allowed many yards between the 20′s but became a stone wall inside the red area…

…a team that had lost 3 of it’s first six games by a grand total of 4 points, which was even more frustrating to the faithful than the losses themselves.

A win at Tennessee opened the season well, but a week 2 home opener turned out to be a nightmare as the Patriots lost the game on a missed field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski after linebacker Brandon Spikes had miraculously caused the Arizona Cardinals Ryan Williams to fumble with seconds remaining to give the Patriots hope… a loss the following week to Baltimore also involved a field goal that may or may not have been good for the game winner.

The Patriots then evened their record with a monumental blowout of Buffalo and then turned in a solid effort in defeating Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to climb above .500…

…then a demoralizing loss to the Seahawks in Seattle dropped the Patriots to 3-3 with the hated New York Jets coming to Foxboro:

Leading 23-13 entering the final frame, the Patriots proceeded to blow that lead.  A Mark Sanchez 7 yard scoring strike to Dustin Keller and a pair of  Nick Folk 43 yard field goals had given the Jets the lead with less than 2 minutes left in regulation…and it was at that point that the season turned for New England

Quarterback Tom Brady led the team on a long last minute drive to set up Gostkowski for a 43 yard field goal of his own to tie the game as regulation time expired.  The Patriots won the coin toss to start overtime, and Brady again let them on a drive – this time from their own 16, culminating in a Gostkowski 48 yard field goal to give the Patriots the lead at 29-26.

The new overtime rules dictate that both teams must possess the ball at least once in the extra period unless the team with the initial possession scores a touchdown, so Mark Sanchez and the Jets came out onto the field, taking over deep in their own territory.

Methodically, Sanchez passed the Jets out from under the shadow of his own end zone and looked destined to tie the game at the very least – and then on a 2nd and 10 from the New York 40 yard line, Sanchez dropped back to pass and was high/low’d by Cunningham and Ninkovich, the high hit by Ninkovich dislodging the ball from the embattled Jets’ quarterback…

…Ninkovich charging after the loose ball and diving on it, ending the game and launching the Patriots on a span that saw them win 7 consecutive games and nine of ten to finish the season, winning the AFC East and a 2nd seed in the conference…

And as Ninkovich returned to the sidelines, coach Bill Belichick, in a rare display of emotion embraced the 4th year Patriot because he knew how much that play meant – as do Patriots fans, as they have voted that play as the Patriots’ clutch play of the year.

Tags: Arizona Cardinals Baltimore Ravens Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Denver Broncos New England Patriots New York Jets Seattle Seahawks Tennessee Titans