When a player like Kevin Faulk retires it’s hard to go through the stats and numbers to sum up what that player meant to the franchise. You can look through Faulk’s career numbers and maybe say his best seasons were:
- 2003 - 1,351 all purpose yards
- 2008 - 1,161 all purpose yards
But there’s so much that those numbers don’t cover. Faulk was the patriarch of the swiss army knife in the Belichick Pats offense. He could run, he could catch, he could return kicks and punts, and he could even throw a bit (2-for-4, 21 yards career, including one to Tom Brady). On that side of the ball he summed up everything the Patriots ask of their players like no one else.
If you want an accurate depiction of what Faulk meant to the Patriots I think the best way to do so is to look at three specific plays that really sum it up.
Game One: 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff: Patriots @ Chargers
The Patriots had been sloppy all day but managed to make just enough plays to stay in it against a Chargers team everyone thought was headed to the Super Bowl. Late in the fourth quarter the Patriots trailed by 8 until, just five plays after Troy Brown had saved the season by stripping an interception from Marlon McCree’s hands, Tom Brady found Reche Caldwell in the end zone to pull the Pats within two points.
With under five minutes to go the Patriots needed the two-point conversion to tie the game and save their season. The play? A direct snap to Faulk that worked more than a few times in his career.
In a gotta-have-it playoff moment it was Faulk the Patriots turned to, and he came through.
Game Two: 2007 Patriots @ Colts
After losing the 2006 AFC Championship in Indy, then returning to the site of the crime with an 8-0 record the next season, the Patriots wanted to make a statement vs. Peyton Manning and the Colts.
The Colts were the first team to shut down the Pats explosive offense, holding a 20-10 lead with under 10 minutes to go in the game. After a Welker score the Pats trailed by three, until a short dumpoff was turned into a 13-yard game winning touchdown by Faulk after he sliced through the Colts defense.
Nothing about Faulk’s numbers stand out from the day, 29 yards rushing on 7 carries and 20 yards receiving on 3 catches, but in the most important moment it was Faulk who made the play to seal the win for the undefeated Patriots.
Game Three: 2009 Patriots @ Colts
Sadly I’m going to end this one on a play that didn’t turn out the way us Patriots fans wanted it to. We haven’t rehashed 4th and 2 much in these parts recently but in hindsight it really says a lot about Faulk.
We all know what the situation was. The Pats led 34-28 late in the fourth quarter when they faced a 4th and 2 at their own 28. They decided to go for it in one of the most controversial coaching decisions of Bill Belichick’s career.
With the game on the line, and Wes Welker seemingly open, it was still Faulk that Brady threw to. And it was a tough catch, but one that he held on to. Unfortunately he was spotted just short, though I’m sure plenty of Pats fans still think he got the yardage for the first down.
It’s hard to truly describe what made Kevin Faulk one of the key cogs in the Patriots dynasty, but those of us who watched the games know that when we needed a play number 33 was a go-to guy. His leadership and versatility are woven into the foundation of the Patriot way, and helped set a standard that is still being lived up to today.
Even in failure these plays show the kind of player Kevin Faulk was for the Patriots; the kind of weapon you could trust to make the biggest plays in the biggest moments on the biggest stages.
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