Any run to a Super Bowl is full of key moments and season-defining plays. With the New England Patriots set to take on the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, here’s a look at a few of the moments that led them there.

Special teams in the Windy City

The Patriots arrived in Chicago on Oct. 21 still looking for their first road win after lopsided losses in Jacksonville and Detroit. Thanks to a pair of big plays on special teams, they got it.

Early in the second quarter, with the Bears holding a 10-point lead, Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kick 95 yards for a touchdown. With the game tied 24-24 late in the third quarter, Dont’a Hightower blocked a Chicago punt. The ball was picked up by Kyle Van Noy, who went 29 yards for the go-ahead score in an eventual 38-31 New England win.

Devin McCourty’s Pick-six

Ahead of division rival Buffalo throughout the game, the Patriots were unable to put the Bills away. Buffalo marched into Pats’ territory in the fourth quarter, down 18-6 and still very much in the game. Then Derek Anderson’s pass intended for Charles Clay ended up in the hands of McCourty, who went 84 yards for the interception return touchdown.

The play was the Pats’ only interception return for a touchdown this season, and showed an ability to close out an opponent that until then was a question mark.

The Miami Mistake

In Miami, it will be called the Miami Miracle and be remembered as the highlight of a lost season. In New England, the play that gave the Dolphins that improbable 34-33 win on Dec. 9 will go down as a moment that could have derailed the season for many contenders.

Other teams have struggled getting past a disastrous fluke play. Bring the Music City Miracle up in Buffalo and prepare to duck. The Patriots lost the next week in Pittsburgh, but the Miami Mistake was quickly an afterthought.

Josh Gordon comes and goes

Gordon was a Patriot for just 11 games, but it’s undeniable he made an impact in that short time.

Gordan had 40 catches for 720 yards, an average of 18 yards per catch, as well as three touchdowns. When Gordon was suspended indefinitely for violating the terms of his reinstatement, many felt the Patriots would struggle to find open receivers.

The emergence of Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett in the playoffs – when the Patriots needed them most – set those fears to rest.

Charging past Los angeles

In the AFC semifinals against the Chargers, New England scored a touchdown on each of its first four possessions and five of the first six. After giving up a touchdown on the Chargers first drive, the Pats surrendered 51 yards the rest of the half.

New England led 35-7 at the half, and what was expected to be a close conference semifinal game became a rout. It was simply the most dominating half of football played by the Patriots in many years.


At his inevitable Pro Football Hall of Fame induction, Tom Brady’s highlight reel could be a feature-length epic. A few of the passes Brady completed on this drive should be included.

With the score tied 31-31, the Patriots won the coin toss and took the ball first in overtime. It started with a 10-yard pass to Hogan on the left sideline. On third down and 10, a 20-yard completion to Julian Edelman. Another third down and 10, another completion to Edelman, this time for 15 yards. Yet another third and 10, this time for 15 yards to Rob Gronkowski.

From there, three straight runs by Rex Burkhead. The final play of the game was a 2-yard touchdown run by Burkhead. The overhead camera shot shows the incredible hole made by fullback James Develin to spring Burkhead with a block to would slow down a charging rhino.

When Burkhead crossed the goal line, the Pats were going to the Super Bowl for the third straight season.

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