The New England Patriots are the team that got amazing Boston sports' decade started. They were the NFL dynasty of the past 10 years—with three Super Bowl championships and a perfect regular season, there isn’t much more that the region could ask of the franchise. Yes, that fourth Super Bowl win against the Giants would’ve been incredible, but it still was an absolutely magical decade for the Patriots.
So without further ado, here are the top 10 Patriot moments of the decade.
Games in the snow are always memorable. This season, against the Tennessee Titans in week six, the Patriots won by a margin of victory not even seen in their dominant 2007 perfect regular season (they also had not shut anyone out that season). Tom Brady took advantage of an already bad pass defense that was weakened even further due to a few injuries in the Titans’ secondary and threw for six touchdowns—five of which were in the second quarter, setting an NFL record. Six different Patriots scored and the defense didn’t allow leading rusher Chris Johnson into the end zone. It was a dominating all-around performance from the Patriots and a message to the league that the Patriots were still a force to be reckoned with.
9. Brady Returns:
Following the perfect regular season (with one Giant loss in the Super Bowl) the Patriots were poised for revenge. That idea was thwarted in week one when Tom Brady was hit by Kansas City’s Bernard Pollard in the knee and suffered a torn ACL and MCL. While Matt Cassell performed admirably in his place, the Patriots missed the playoffs so seeing Brady return to the field in a week one Monday night contest against division rival Buffalo brought joy to every Patriots fan.
Brady didn't disappoint as he threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:06 of the game to lead the Patriots to victory, 25-24. It hasn’t been Brady’s best season, but he is back and the Patriots are AFC East champions and back in the playoffs.
8. Pats keep Colts out of end zone:
The Patriots and Indianapolis Colts have enjoyed a strong rivalry in the past decade and when the two teams meet up, it usually results in an instant classic.
One of the more astonishing finishes from this rivalry came thanks to the Patriots’ defense on Nov. 30, 2003. In a characteristically offensive-fueled game, the Patriots were winning 38-34. With under a minute left, the Colts had the ball on New England’s two-yard line. Two Edgerrin James rushes resulted in one yard gained and on third down, Peyton Manning threw an incomplete pass. Then on fourth down, Willie McGinest broke through the offensive line and tackled James in the backfield, sealing the win for the Patriots and stopping one of the best offenses of the decade from getting into the end zone while only two yards out.
7. Super Bowl XXXIX:
You know you’ve had a great 10 years when a Super Bowl win is only the seventh best moment. The last Super Bowl the Patriots won this decade was a tight 24-21 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles and a remarkably recovered Terrell Owens, who had missed the past four games with a broken leg.
Another Vinatieri field goal proved to be the game winner, but this time it wasn’t in the dying moments of the game. No, this time it was to give the Pats a 10-point lead which they would have to hold onto for nearly nine more minutes. The Eagles scored a touchdown to bring the margin to three points with just under two minutes left. However, when the Eagles ultimately got the ball back, Rodney Harrison intercepted a Donovan McNabb pass with nine seconds left to seal the victory. This win cemented the Patriots’ dynasty.
6. Tuck rule:
Oakland Raiders fans still cry foul about this call. In a blizzard in 2002, the Patriots and Raiders were dueling in the divisional round of the playoffs. Down by three, Tom Brady dropped back to pass but was tackled by Charles Woodson and lost the ball, which was recovered by the Raiders. However, after a review of the play, the officials ruled that Brady’s arm was coming forward when he lost the ball, thus making it an incomplete pass.
Given new life, the Patriots marched down the field and Adam Vinatieri kicked a dramatic, line drive 45-yard field goal through the driving snow to tie the game. In overtime, the Patriots would win the toss, drive down the field, convert on a fourth down, and Vinatieri would win the game with a 23-yard field goal.
5. Super Bowl XXXVIII:
The Patriots victory over the Carolina Panthers is widely considered one of the best played Super Bowls of all-time. Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri exhibited once again how clutch they were, as Brady calmly led the Patriots into field goal territory and Vinatieri won the game with a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left. The championship was New England’s second in two years.
4. Dec. 29, 2007:
Week 17 of the 2007 regular season was a memorable night. That night the Patriots beat the Giants at Giants Stadium 38-35 in a very well played game by both teams. The win pushed the Patriots’ record to 16-0, the first—and only—team to finish a regular season 16-0. (The Dolphins did it with 14-0 in 1972 and went on to win the Super Bowl.)
It was an individual record-breaking night as well. Tom Brady broke the single season record for touchdown passes (50), previously held by none other than Peyton Manning and Randy Moss broke the single season record for touchdown receptions (23). The team also set the record for most points scored in a single season (589). Through all the records and the perfect regular season, the Patriots were sitting on top of the world.
3. Hiring Belichick:
Many consider Bill Belichick the best coach in the game today. He has been a huge reason for the Patriots’ success this entire decade. What made his hiring in 2000 even sweeter for the Pats was that they stole him from division rival, the New York Jets. It cost them a first round draft pick, which the Jets used to trade up and select DE Shaun Ellis—a fine choice—but Belichick has led the team to a 112-47 record, 14-3 in the playoffs, seven AFC East championships, and three Super Bowl wins in four appearances. He also has won two AP NFL Coach of the Year awards. For the entire decade Belichick has turned this franchise around into what they are today: perennial winners.
2. Drafting Tom Brady:
Who would have guessed that the sixth round pick in the 2000 draft would have become a Boston sports icon? Brady was drafted with the 199th overall pick and began his career as a fourth-string quarterback. He climbed up the depth charts his rookie season to backup and when starter Drew Bledsoe was injured in 2001, Brady took over.
Improbable as his story already was, what happened after he took over was just unreal: three Super Bowl championships, two Super Bowl MVP’s, five Pro Bowls, one NFL MVP, and one AP Male Athlete of the Year. While getting Belichick to coach was important to put a winning structure in place, you need players to execute, and no one has shined brighter this decade than Tom Brady.
1. Super Bowl XXXVI Champions:
The beginning of a dynasty. In 2000, the Patriots finished 5-11, last in the AFC East, but in 2001 they turned things around going 11-5 and winning the AFC East. An incredible run of eight straight wins, including the playoffs, landed the Patriots in the Super Bowl against heavily favored St. Louis Rams, “The Greatest Show on Turf”. Everyone remembers the New England Patriots being introduced as an entire team rather than individuals.
The game was an exciting one. The Patriots blew a 14-point lead, but with seven seconds left in a tie game, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard game-winning field goal. It was the Patriots first Super Bowl win ever.