The Top Ten Boston Sports Moments Of The 21st Century

The New England region has been fortunate enough to witness some of the greatest athletes in the history of sports right in front of their eyes.  Fans in Boston have proclaimed their city as Title town, and with nine championships in the last fifteen years, it's very hard to argue that they are wrong.  In honor of the New England Patriots' most recent Super Bowl triumph, I have come up with a list of the top ten Boston sports moments of the 21st Century.  Here are my top ten: 

10. Nathan Horton’s Overtime Goal vs. Montreal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2011:  

The Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup run was one of the most exciting playoff runs in NHL history.  Twenty-five games were played, one hundred and thirty-four goals were scored, and six overtime periods were necessary.  Of those six overtime periods, none would prove more memorable than game seven against Montreal in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins’ rivalry with Montreal may not have reached its peak in 2011, but it was certainly at its modern-day climax. Heading to Montreal for game three following two losses in Boston, the Bruins needed to rebound quickly.  They did so by winning three straight, but the Canadiens were able to force a game seven in Boston.  Tied at three, Nathan Horton sent Carey Price and company packing in overtime, as the Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference semi-finals. The game displayed the resiliency and mental toughness that the Bruins would continue to show as they went on to claim Stanley Cup glory in Vancouver.  Frankly, one could argue Montreal was by far their toughest Eastern Conference opponent of the playoffs.

9. Curt Schilling's Bloody Sock Game in Game Six of the 2004 ALCS:  

Curt Schilling’s borderline Hall of Fame career was highlighted by his electrifying playoff performances, as he boasted an 11-2 record and a 2.23 ERA in his nineteen games of postseason action.  Although the playoffs brought the best out of Schilling, none of his playoff starts will ever compare to his game six performance against the Yankees in the ALCS. Everyone knows the story, the Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees and battled their way back to eventually claim the American League pennant.  Maybe it was not the single most important performance of the playoffs, but the seven innings Schilling dealt at Yankee Stadium was certainly the most bold performance arguably in MLB history.  Having battled an ankle injury that only worsened following his start against the Angels in the ALDS, Schilling fought off the pain as his ankle proceeded to bleed for all to see.  Nevertheless, he earned the Red Sox the winin a historic effort, and no all you conspiracy theory clowns, it wasn’t ketchup.  

8. The Bruins' Game Seven Comeback vs. Toronto in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2013:    

More than likely hockey fans will never again see what they saw the Boston Bruins do against the Toronto Maple Leafs in game seven of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2013.  With 14:31 left in the game, Nazem Kadri scored what was the apparent game winner against the Bruins.  The air was taken out of the TD Garden, and there was no hope.  With 10:42 to go, Nathan Horton scored what seemed to be a consolation goal that made the game 4-2, but there still was no hope.  1:22 remained, and the Bruins faithful were convinced the season was about to end, but as Milan Lucic wristed a loose puck into the back of the net, fans began to beg the question, “what if…?”  With fifty seconds remaining, Patrice Bergeron – of course, tied the game in the wildest comeback in NHL history.  Bergeron would go on to put it beyond a shadow of a doubt with the overtime winner that will haunt Leafs fans for the foreseeable future.  For Bruins fans, well, we stillcan’t believe it, but it happened.

7. The Celtics Twenty-Four Point Comeback in Game Four of NBA Finals in 2008:

A blast from the past, the Celtics and Lakers faced off in the finals for the first time since 1987.  With Kobe Bryant and Paul Piece at the peak of their powers, both led their respective teams to the number one seed, and ultimately the finals.  Down 45-21 with over six minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Celtics looked to be in for a long night against the Lakers in game four of the NBA Finals.  The Celtics led 2-1 in the series, having won the first two games at home, but lost the first game at the Staples Center.  Halfway through game four, it looked as ifthe series would be tied by the end of the night.  Roughly forty minutes in, the game looked tobe a never-ending struggle for Boston as they slowly crept back from 24 down, but could never seem to challenge for the lead. Towards the end of the third quarter, that all changed as the Celtics went on a 23-5 run to draw the game within two. It was Eddie House that gave the Celtics the 84-83 lead with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and they never looked back.  The resiliency of this Celtics team was on full display.  Although they lost the next game in Los Angeles, the Celtics would go on to win in game six in Boston, and Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce were crowned champions for the first time in their careers.

6. The Snow Bowl vs. the Oakland Raiders in 2001:     

Call it lucky, call it unfair, call it whatever you want, the result is never going to change despite the tears that are still shed to this day by Raiders fans and former players. The “Tuck Rule” game launched the dynasty that is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.  The game was a rather boring one until the end, as the Patriots and the visiting Raiders had difficulty getting anything going on offense.  Brady struggled in the first half of the game as he was held to under 100 yards passing and threw an interception.  With twelve minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Raiders clung to a 13-3 lead over the Patriots.  With roughly eight minutes remaining, Brady capped off his sixty-seven yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run.  The Patriots got the ball back again still down three points, and then the play that change the NFL forever – NFL Rule 2, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2.  It looked clear that Brady fumbled the football as Charles Woodson forced the ball out of his hand and the Raiders recovered.  The game looked to be over, but referee Walt Coleman deemed that “the quarterback’s arm was going forward” and that it was an incomplete pass.  Adam Vinatieri proceeded to kick a forty-five yard field goal through thick snow to tie the game, and ultimately hit a twenty-three yarder in overtime to win the game.  The rest is history. 

5. David Ortiz's Grand Slam vs. the Detroit Tigers in Game Two of the ALCS in 2013:

Coming off one of the most tumultuous seasons in Red Sox history, there were low expectations for the 2013 season.  Under head coach Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox finished 69-93, and the team’s integrity was under scrutiny following a ridiculous fried chicken-eating and beer-drinking incident that occurred in the Red Sox bullpen.  Changes needed to be made, and they were, as former pitching coach John Farrell was hired as the head coach, Mike Napoli, David Ross, Shane Victorino, and Koji Uehara were signed, and underperforming players worked their way back into shape.  Ultimately, the Red Sox found themselves in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers following their 97-65 record in the regular season.  Down 5-1 in g ame two following a 1-0 loss in game one, all the momentum seemed to be swaying in Detroit’s favor.  With the bases loaded, none other than David Ortiz stepped up to the plate and tied the game at five.  The Red Sox would then go on to win the game 6-5, and win the series.

4. Patrice Bergeron’s Second Goal in Game Seven the Stanley Cup Final in 2011:

It had been thirty-nine years since the Boston Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup.  As mentioned previously, Nathan Horton’s goal in game seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals sparked what would be an incredible playoff run, but no series was as intense as the finals.  From Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron like an out of control three year-old, to another two game deficit, and a ten goal game that drastically shifted momentumin Boston’s favor, this was a series to remember.  Game seven in Vancouver was supposed to be the night the Canucks finally did it. The Bruins forced a game seven after a defiant 5-2 win, and many expected Roberto Luongo to respond to the criticism he had received throughout the series like an elite goalie would. He didn’t, and after Boston took a 2-0 lead, Patrice Bergeron came crashing into Luongo’s net after being tripped up.  The puck followed him, and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. 

3. Malcolm Butler's Interception in Super Bowl XLIX:

It’s clear that Malcolm Butler’s name will never be forgotten by all the 12’s out there in Seattle.  In New England, the undrafted free agent out of West Alabama will be known as a Boston sports hero forever.  The Seahawks were of course driving down the field with 2:02 left on the clock in Super Bowl XLIX.  Russell Wilson hit Marshawn Lynch on a long pass down the sideline.  Following what appeared to be a third fluke catch that would cost the Patriots another SuperBowl, the Seahawks had the ball inside the five-yard line.  Marshawn Lynch took the ball down to the one, and with over fifty seconds left, Bill Belichick did not call a timeout.  Instead he allowed Russell Wilson to let the clock bleed down to twenty-five seconds. Wilson stepped back, looked for Ricardo Lockette, and out of nowhere came of all people, Malcolm Butler.  Butler’s phenomenal interception secured the Patriots their first Super Bowl title in ten years.

2. Dave Roberts' steal in Game Four of the ALCS vs. the Yankees in 2004:    

Dave Roberts’ steal was the single most influential moment of the Red Sox’s comeback from three games down in the ALCS.  In fact, it’s fair to say that it was the most influential moment of the entire playoffs in 2004.  Following the steal, one could almost feel the pendulum swing.  That is why reversing the curse in St. Louis is not on this list.  One steal… one moment changed the entire series.  Down 4-3 with Mariano Rivera on the mound, Kevin Millar drew a walk, thus forcing Terry Francona to call on Dave Roberts to pinch run.  Everyone at Fenway Park knew he was going to steal. Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, the fans… everyone knew.  Roberts went anyway, he made it, and from then on, you could feel the momentum shift. Bill Mueller hit a game tying single, David Ortiz won the game in extra innings, and the Red Sox never looked back.

1. Adam Vinatieri's Game-Winning kick vs. Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI:

Entering the game, the Patriots were 14.5 point under dogs to the greatest show on turf.  With Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Tory Holt, and Isaac Bruce leading the most dynamic offense in NFL history, the Rams were looking for back to back titles.  The Patriots looked to be outmatched, but they did not back down from the challenge. Following a Ty Law interception for a touchdown, Tom Brady hit David Patten to go up 14-3 just before the end of the first half.  The Rams eventually came back to tie the game at seventeen a piece with a minute and twenty-one seconds remaining.  With no timeouts, the coaching staff agreed to let Tom Brady throw the ball and get the Patriots in field goal range.  Everyone thought they should play for overtime, including announcer John Madden who expressed these sentiments veryclearly on national television multiple times throughout the drive.  Brady hit J.R. Redmond for a few crucial catches, Troy Brown for a long play to get out of bounds and past the fifty-yard line, and finally Jermaine Wiggins. With seven seconds left, Brady spiked it, and Vinatieri made the 48-yard field goal as time expired.  Before this play, nobody thought any team in New England had a chance.  The Patriots’ first Super Bowl title sparked what is considered the glory days for Boston sports.  After the Patriots' first, eight championships from New England teams in under fifteen years followed, and most likely there are plenty more to come. 

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