What was the highlight of the 2013 regular season for the Patriots?
Rick: The highlight of the season was the Sunday night game against the Denver Broncos. With all the storylines surrounding this game, including Wes Welker's return, the Patriots got off to a horrible start turning the football over repeatedly to face a 24-0 hole. Normally, against Peyton Manning, that’s a wrap. However, this was the moment where the Patriots offense came to life and was able to turn a 20+ point deficit into an overtime win against a rival. Plus, it helped that Wes Welker’s muffed punt in OT led to the victory and prevented what the whole world didn’t want to see. A Brady-Manning tie. Even with the injuries on defense, the Patriots still were able to stifle Manning. That could be the moment this team dwells upon should they head up to Mile High to play the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
Raj: I'm going to sound really bias here but it has to be that comeback win against Denver. I'm not saying this because I was there. But coming back from 24-0 down to win 34-31 in OT against one of the NFL's best teams is just unthinkable. To add to that, 99% of the fans stayed and bared the single-digit weather. For the Patriots to put on that type of comeback in front of their fans like that is probably a highlight they will remember forever. As we all (hopefully) know, that was New England's biggest comeback in franchise history. So without a doubt, this is THE highlight for the 2013 season and possibly one of the biggest highlights for the Patriots in the 21st century.
Derek: I'm gonna switch it up here and go with the victory over the Saints as the season's top moment. The Denver/Manning/Welker rivalry angle is hard to overcome, but you rarely get a picture-perfect ending to a game like the Patriots experienced against New Orleans. It was twelve weeks ago, so you may not remember the exact state of the Patriots heading into that game. They had lost Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly in back-to-back weeks. They were starting two unknowns in Chris Jones and Joe Vellano. They were coming off a dismal loss to the Bengals in which they looked completely inept and Tom Brady saw his touchdown streak snapped and seemingly everyone was questioning whether or not he was washed up. We had been teased with the possible return of Gronk all week, only to have him inactive. The Saints were scorching hot and undefeated. Nobody, and I mean, nobody gave the Patriots much of a shot, if any shot at all. I'm the most optimistic of fans you'll come across and even I felt the chips were simply stacked too high against the Patriots.
So what happens? Aqib Talib plays out of his mind and shuts down Jimmy Graham. The Patriots manage to rally and gain a lead, only to watch it slowly slip away when Jerod Mayo sustains a season-ending injury, Talib tweaks his hip, and Danny Amendola gets knocked out with a concussion. Trailing, late in the game, the defense made several tremendous stops, only to have the offense fail to capitalize on them with costly drops and turnovers. Finally, Brady got the ball in his hands one last time and marched his team down the field to set up a game-winning touchdown throw to the rookie, Kenbrell Thompkins with 5 seconds remaining in the game.
In many ways, that game was a microcosm of this 2013 season. Despite the odds, this Patriots team has proven to be indescribably resilient, achieving what many would consider to be the impossible. It was the proudest moment of this season that should fill every Patriots fan with pride.