Socci’s 3-and-out: A big hand for the Pats’ best one-handed grabs
November 14th, 2022
Justin Jefferson somehow came down with possession for the Vikings in Sunday's victory at Buffalo. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)
Ever since Odell Beckham Jr. hung in the air, fully reaching up and back to snag the nose of the football with his right thumb, index and middle fingers like a three-prong grabber in an arcade to complete ‘the catch’ of 2014 — and arguably all-time — one-handed receptions of varying degrees of difficulty have become almost commonplace.
Receivers routinely practice the one-handed play, often catching balls in warmups with the nonchalance of Jackie Bradley Jr. pocketing a batting-practice pop-up or assuredness of Doug Mientkiewicz plucking a cross-diamond throw from Orlando Cabrera. For instance, retired Patriot Julian Edelman’s pregame warmup included a succession of red-gloved one-handed catches. He’d stab a throw with his right hand, then spear the next with his left hand. Almost as if there was nothing to it.
As often as we now see what used to be uncommon, once in a while a receiver using only one hand will make an extraordinary play that at least approaches the improbability of the OBJ spectacle against the Cowboys. On Sunday, we saw two in the same game.
The first was made by Stefon Diggs, elevating to palm a Josh Allen laser beam in the third quarter of Buffalo’s eventual loss to Minnesota.
In a game like none I’ve ever seen before — game-clinching goal-line stand, game-losing fumble to follow, game-tying field goal to stave off defeat, game-ending interception to guarantee defeat — the acrobatic exploits of Diggs and Jefferson made me think of the best one-handed catches I’ve called on the radio.
A Gift From Gronk
Dec. 24, 2017 – Patriots vs. Bills
In Week 16 of 2017, the Pats hosted the Bills in a Christmas Eve matinee. They had a 10-3 lead and 1st-and-10 from Buffalo’s 17-yard line, as Rob Gronkowski lined up outside Danny Amendola and opposite Bills safety Micah Hyde midway through the second quarter. While Hyde maintained contact with Gronkowski running down the left sideline, Tom Brady lobbed a toss toward the big tight end’s outside shoulder, two yards short of the near pylon. Opening up off a leap with a 180-degree turn, Gronkowski reached out with his huge right hand, pulled the ball into his body and, as he continued whirling into the end zone, stepped with his left foot just inside the paint for a score. The Pats went on to win, 37-16.
Rob Gronkowski’s one-handed grab gave the Pats a 17-3 lead over Buffalo in Week 16 of 2017. (Screen Shot: CBS)
Jonathan Jones' Chicago Heist
Oct. 21, 2018 – Patriots at Bears
Early in the fourth quarter of a Week 7 encounter at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 2018, the Bears had a 1st-and-10 from the Patriots’ 35-yard line, trailing by a 31-24 score, when receiver Anthony Miller broke free behind the coverage deep down the left side. Cornerback Jonathan Jones recovered just in time, as quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s slight under-throw left enough hang time for him to close on Miller, launch off his back foot and snatch the ball with his right hand. The Pats prevailed, 38-31, after Trubisky’s last-second ‘Hail Mary’ was caught by Kevin White, who was tackled at the 1-yard line.
Jonathan Jones outran the ball and took a possible touchdown away from the Bears in 2018. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Another From An All-Time Great
Nov. 2, 2014 – Patriots vs. Broncos
In one of a handful of star-studded matchups of the Patriots and Broncos as part of the Brady-Manning era in the NFL, the eventual Super Bowl champs staged a 43-21 blowout in Week 9 of 2014. Tom Brady passed for 333 yards and four touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski caught a team-high nine passes for 105 yards and a score. But the play of the game was a grab by Gronk just outside the end zone. Ahead 37-21, Brady dropped back off a play-action fake, while Gronkowski ran down the middle of the field. Brady initially looked right with a pump, but recoiled after seeing a Broncos defender and, flat-footed, floated a high ball behind Gronk, who leaped and extended his left hand to snare it. He then brought the ball down over safety T.J. Ward, before crashing to the turf inside the 5-yard line.
Gronkowski makes a remarkable catch amid a 43-21 blowout of the Broncos in 2014. (Screen Shot: CBS)
Bob Socci is in his 10th season calling play-by-play for the Patriots Radio Network on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Follow him on Instagram @BobSocci.