The New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills played Monday night. And one of the teams won (it was not the Bills, because they are the Bills), and one of the teams lost (it was the Bills, because they are the Bills). Many other things happened as well (points were scored, tackles were made, penalties were called, passes were caught, etc.; it was a football game, obviously). But they will all, by week’s end, have vanished into the atmosphere, forgotten by basically everyone, of that I am certain. Except for one.
Because there was one single play that happened during the game that, as soon as it happened, was clearly excellent, and clearly the kind of thing that (certain type of) people remember forever.
It was a punt.
Or, more accurately: It was a thing that a player attempted during a punt.
What happened was: It was the first quarter of the game, and the Bills had the ball and, after gaining a first down, were attempting to put together a drive. The drive, as you can imagine, turned to rotten pudding very quickly. They ran on first down for a loss of several yards, and then a pass on second down was almost picked off, and then a pass on third down was completed, but it was 6 yards short of the first-down marker (lol), so they were forced to punt. And that’s when things got great.
(I’m going to include pictures of the play that I took of my TV with my phone because I couldn’t find a clip of the moment anywhere on the internet. Sorry.)
Bills punter Corey Bojorquez got a decent amount of his foot on the ball, sending it something like 50 yards down the field, coming down right at the 12-yard line. The guy who was back to receive the kick for the Patriots (Julian Edelman, a human hustle stat) recognized that it landed at such an angle that it was going to bounce its way into the end zone, so he moved away from the ball and let it do what he knew it was about to do. What he did not know, though—what maybe nobody knew, and certainly what I did not know—is that Andre Holmes, an invisible receiver who has been in the league for seven seasons now and was out on the field playing special teams for the Bills, is a goddamn fireball.
As mentioned, when the ball hit the field, it did so at the 12-yard line. Holmes, who was the gunner on the left side of the play, was 13 yards away, back out by the 25 yard line. (See above.) It’d have been so very easy for him to have slowed down a bit and let the ball tumble into the end zone. But that’s not what he did. Instead, with a clear path between him and the ball, he turned on the big engines, sprinting at hyperspeed to try to stop it before it crossed the goal line.
The ball bounced once and did exactly what it looked like it was going to: squirt forward toward the end zone. No matter, though. Holmes accelerated. The second bounce saw the ball catch the turf in a way that, rather than sending it on what appeared to be its obvious path, made the ball’s trajectory slightly higher than anticipated and slowed it down some, suddenly giving Holmes the tiniest, most infinitesimal, most impossibly small sliver of hope. He accelerated more. The ball bounced a final time, inches in front of the goal line, and by this point (it seemed like) everyone in the stadium was suddenly extremely invested in the outcome of the play. A chatter had grown into a yell had grown into a roar had grown into a potential earthquake.
When the ball hit that several-inches mark, Holmes was at his max speed and still 6 yards behind the play. He managed to get three more steps down before gravity was able to grab hold of the ball, pulling it back toward the earth. (The picture above is of him taking the first of those three steps.) On his third step, he planted his toes just as close to the goal line as the ball had gotten, then dove into the end zone, swiping at the ball as his body rocketed past it, hoping he’d be able to knock it back into the field of play so it could be downed by a trailing teammate. And listen, if you’ve gotten this far into the article and it doesn’t feel seem what Holmes was in the middle of doing is fucking incredible, that’s only because I must’ve done a poor job of explaining it, because that’s precisely what it was: fucking incredible.
Remember in Furious 7 when Vin Diesel and Jason Statham drove their cars head on into each other? That’s what Holmes did here. Remember in Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol when Tom Cruise rode that car off the ledge and crashed it face-first into the concrete several hundred feet below? That’s what Holmes did here. Remember in Thelma & Louise when Louise drove her car clean the fuck off the cliff? That’s what Holmes did here. It was a total-body sellout. He somehow convinced himself to run as fast as his incredibly strong, incredibly powerful legs could go, and then he convinced himself to dive head first onto the ground, and then he convinced himself to try to knock the ball backward so that the greatest quarterback of all time might have to go 95 yards to score a touchdown instead of 80 yards.
When the play was over, after the home crowd had “Ahhhhhhhhhhh-wwwwwwwwed!” itself and the ball had bounced down, Holmes was all the way at the back of the end zone, his body flattened out and, for all the world, appearing extremely lifeless. This is where he was, and what it looked like:
He slid that whole way, across the whole back of the end zone; that’s how fast he was going when he dove. The end zone is 30 feet long, and he slid at an angle across nearly the entirety of it; that’s how fast he was going when he dove. It looked like when someone crashes in motorcycle street racing and skids across the pavement, which is remarkable considering that he was (a) on turf, and not on the pavement; and (b) running, and not on a motorcycle.
Holmes ended up missing the ball, but that hardly seems relevant here. He’d gone for it. He’d really, really gone for it. And I don’t know how much more you can ask of a player, or a person. Everything else from this game will eventually be deleted from memory. This part won’t.