New England Patriots: 10 Best Moments of 2012

Patrick Buscone@pbuscone10Senior Analyst IDecember 30, 2012

New England Patriots: 10 Best Moments of 2012

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    Besides a Super Bowl loss, the New England Patriots have had a great year of 2012. Like every other year, the Patriots seemingly did one thing and one thing only: win. 

    However, in all of their wins, the Patriots provided us with great excitement. Throughout the year, there was a plethora of great moments in Patriots' football. 

    For 2013, all we really want is a Super Bowl ring. But for now, let's take a look back on 2012 and reminisce about the great moments. 

10. Patriots Clinch Another AFC East Title

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    We are a bit spoiled in New England. On the list of top moments for most teams in the NFL, clinching a division title would likely be near the top. For the Patriots, though, winning the AFC East for the fourth straight year clocks in at No. 10.

    It just seems routine at this point. Winning the division was merely par for the course. Thus, it is only the 10th best moment of 2012 for the Pats. 

9. Gronk Caps of His Career Year

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    Technically, the majority of Rob Gronkowski's success in the 2011-2012 season came in 2011, including his breaking the record for most touchdown receptions by a tight end. However, he capped off his 2011-2012 in 2012 with a bang. 

    On the first day of 2012, Gronk capped of his incredible sophomore season with a 100-yard, two-touchdown performance. These games were routine for Gronk in 2011 and 2012 when he was healthy.

    Now, we are all hoping that we will see more of this in 2013 from a healthy Gronk. 

8. Tom Brady Shows Andrew Luck the Ropes

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    It doesn't matter who the quarterback is in Indianapolis, the Patriots and Tom Brady will bring their A-game regardless. With the "new Peyton Manning" in town, Tom Brady and the Patriots just had to show this young gun that it's not all fun and games in the NFL.

    Andrew Luck had a rough day, losing a fumble and throwing three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, one by Patriots newcomer Aqib Talib, and the other by rookie Alfonzo "the Fonz" Dennard (I'm desperately trying to get this nickname to stick). 

    Meanwhile, Brady threw three touchdowns, two to Rob Gronkowski. And the Patriots won in a blowout, so it was certainly a fun game indeed.

7. Pats Prove They Can Win Overseas as Well

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    It was a successful trip across the pond for the Patriots in 2012. In fact, their win against the Rams was so effortless that the Pats' starters could have sat and had a couple cups of tea in the second half, while the London Silly Nannies finished the game. 

    During their time in London, though, it was Rob Gronkowski who stole the show with one of his best games of his young career (146 yards receiving, two touchdowns) and arguably his two best celebrations. 

    He followed his second touchdown off with a gaudy dance and a signature spike. As great as that celebration was, though, his finest performance came after his first touchdown when he strutted back and forth like a soldier at Buckingham Palace before shaking the city of London with a thunderous spike. 

    Gronk may have not helped any American stereotypes abroad with his celebrations, but he did all he could to help the Patriots enhance their reputation overseas.

6. Rob Ninkovich Seals the Win Against the Jets

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    There are few things better than watching the Patriots beat the Jets—especially when it's in dramatic fashion. In this case, the Patriots certainly did not disappoint. 

    After letting a 10-point lead slip through their fingers, the Patriots needed a Stephen Gostowski field goal to send the game into overtime. Then, after another Gostowski field goal in overtime, the Patriots needed a big play from the defense.

    Well, they got exactly what they were looking for from Rob Ninkovich, who ended the game by sacking Mark Sanchez and recovering the fumble he forced on the play. Winning plays like these have defined the Patriots for the past decade and they continued to do so in 2012.

5. Devin McCourty Clinches the Win Against the Bills

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    The Patriots never make it easy. Just when you think they have the game won, they let the other team back in it. I will say this for the Pats, though; as much as they have a tendency to keep us from relaxing, they also reward us with exciting endings to games, usually. 

    This was exactly the case in the Patriots' Veterans Day game against the Bills. After leading by two touchdowns in the second quarter, the Bills came storming back and were within 15 yards of beating the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

    McCourty put an end to the hopes of the Bills by picking Ryan Fitzpatrick off in the end zone to seal the win. Another win by the Patriots and another winning play by another Patriots player. Just like clockwork. 

4. Patriots Show Who the Best Team in the AFC Is

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    It's not often that the Patriots come into a game as the underdog. Against the Texans in early December, however, this was the case. The Texans came in with just one loss while the Patriots had three. The Texans were the best team in the AFC, while the Patriots weren't.

    It was the biggest game in Texans' history, yet the Patriots were still the underdogs. In the end, the Pats blew out the Texans with ease and reminded everyone that the AFC is still theirs. In 2013, we will likely see a rematch of this game in the playoffs. 

3. Patriots Eat the Jets for Thanksgiving Dinner

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    We will look back in history at that 53-second span in the second quarter of the Jets-Patriots Thanksgiving game as the end of the Jets franchise as we know it. With three of the craziest plays I've ever seen, the Patriots killed the Jets of the past few years.

    Fireman Ed quit partway through the game. And since the game, the Jets have proceeded to make a mockery of themselves. In the process, they benched Mark Sanchez, passed on playing Tim Tebow and, in the process, have driven both of them out of New York for the New Year. 

    It will be a sad day when the Jets are forced to make positive change for next season. But, hey, it was worth it for that 53-second span featuring a long Brady touchdown pass, a fumbled kickoff-turned-gift-wrapped touchdown for Julian Edelman and, of course, #buttfumble. Gotta love the Jets.  

2. Patriots End the Tim Tebow Era

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    We've already detailed how the Patriots basically killed the Jets franchise. That's not all they did in 2012, though. They also ended the Tim Tebow era in the NFL.

    Coming into the game, Tebow was flying high as the savior who had worked his late-game magic to lead the Broncos to a first-round playoff victory over the Steelers

    It didn't take the Pats long to bring Tebow and the Broncos back down to earth. In their 45-10 playoff trouncing of the Broncos, the Patriots exposed Tebow's biggest deficiencies as a quarterback, like the fact that he can't really throw the ball.

    Tebow finished 9-of-26 passing for 136 yards and one fumble. Meanwhile, Tom Brady had a slightly better game with 26-of-34 passing for 363 yards and six touchdowns. 

    With the blowout win, the Patriots moved onto the AFC Championship and Tim Tebow moved on to his next mission: warming the bench behind Mark Sanchez. 

1. Billy Cundiff Sends the Patriots to the Super Bowl

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    The final minute of the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens was one of the most nerve-racking minutes as a Patriots fan (and trust me, there have been a lot of nerve-racking minutes).

    In the split second Lee Evans had the ball in the end zone, I felt the bitterness of defeat. Then, as Billy Cundiff lined up for the chip shot 32-yard field goal, I was preparing for overtime. 

    But, in the end, I felt the intense surprise and joy when Billy Cundiff shanked the game-tying field goal wide left. Later, I would feel sorry for Cundiff, but in the moment, all I could think was, in the wise words of Rob Gronkowski: "We goin' to the 'ship! We goin' to the 'ship!"

    Regardless of the final outcome of the season, that moment of supreme joy and hope as the Patriots beat the Ravens to advance to the Super Bowl had to be the best moment of 2012 for the New England Patriots.

    Now, here's to hoping that in 2013, an AFC Championship victory will be second of the list of top moments to a fourth Super Bowl victory.