The Greatest Games the New England Patriots Have Ever Played
I was recently surfing around the world wide web and found a site debating as to whether or not the now infamous "4th and 2" game was the greatest game the readers had ever seen.
I'd say nowhere close myself, but to be fair this site was mostly in like German or something, so I don't expect the folks to understand the game entirely, or have seen quite as many as most of us on this side of the pond have.
The point is, it got me thinking, what was the greatest game ever? More specifically, what was the greatest game the Patriots have ever been a part of?
I figured I'd chat with some friends on the issue, and do some research on games before my time, and bring it to you, the Bleacher Report audience, to see what you think.
The end result is what follows: 10 great games that the Patriots took part in, in no particular order. I'd love to hear what you the readers think, which of these games (or a game not included on this list, although I think I've got 10 of the best here) in your opinion?
I had to combine two games here, in the interest of putting 10 slides up vs. 11, then 12, then 13, there are just a lot of great games I feel might qualify for this list.
These two games are somewhat related, as the first ever preseason and first ever regular season game played in the American Football League, or the AFL.
The Patriots were part of both of these games, as visitors in Buffalo for the first-ever preseason game on July 30, 1960. They beat the Bills in War Memorial Stadium by a score of 28-7, in front of 16,474 fans who had come out to cheer on the Buffalo team.
On Sept. 9, 1960, the Patriots hosted the Denver Broncos in the first-ever AFL regular season game, and unfortunately lost this hard fought game 13-10 in front of a home crowd of 21,597.
This Patriots team was led by one of the first players they signed, DE Bob Dee, who scored the first points in AFL history after jumping on a fumble in the Bills' end zone and putting the first six points of the game on the board.
Dee would play in 112 consecutive games, and would eventually have his number (89) retired after being named a part of the Patriots' 1960's All-Decade team.
Nov. 30, 2003 The Goal Line Stand
Leading 38-34, the Patriots find themselves in a great position to run out the clock and win a hard fought game in Indianapolis, but the offense sputters.
Tom Brady throws two incomplete passes, fumbles the ball, and another incomplete pass (a penalty on the Colts after the first incomplete pass extended this drive to five total plays including the punt) the Patriots were forced to punt, giving the ball to Peyton Manning and the Colts with 2:57 remaining in the game.
This was more than enough time for Manning to engineer a drive and bring the Colts down the field to score the touchdown they needed and win the game.
Getting the ball on the NE 48, Manning set out to do just that, driving the Colts down to the 2 yard line before encountering any real sort of resistance from the defense.
On first-and-goal from the 2, Edgerrin James picks up a yard before Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel bring him down. On second-and-goal, James runs again...only into Bruschi and Rodney Harrison this time for no gain.
The Colts then take a timeout to draw up a play, and then Manning comes out and throws an incomplete pass intended for Moorehead.
This brings up 4th and Goal, and the Colts need a touchdown. They're down four, so a Field Goal won't do the trick here.
Manning hands the ball off to James again, who runs up the middle directly into Willie McGinest, losing a yard on the play as McGinest makes the game-winning tackle.
Dec. 21, 1996 "Win and You're In"
After finishing the previous season 6-10, there weren't too many people who held out much hope for the Patriots in the 96-97 season.
Hopes were further dashed as a controversy between the owner (Robert Kraft) and the head coach (Bill Parcells) played out in a very public manner.
Despite all of this however, the Patriots found themselves entering the final game of the season with a 10-5 record and in a prime position to clinch both the AFC East and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
All they would need to do was beat the 6-9 New York Giants: a task that would prove far easier said than done.
The Giants came out strong and went into the locker room at halftime with a 22-0 lead.
Now I'm not sure what Parcells said in that locker room, but whatever it was the Patriots came out fired up, scoring 23 unanswered points to win the game, seize the division, and earn a first round bye in the playoffs.
On top of the win, rookie WR Terry Glenn made 8 catches for 124 yards which was enough to set a rookie record for receptions in a season (90).
Oct 30, 2005 Bruschi's Return
I chose this game (obviously) more for emotional reasons than football importance. For those who don't recall the significance of this game, you'll likely remember the moment that began, what this game ended.
8 1/2 months earlier, ILB Tedy Bruschi had a mild stroke, which led to the discovery of a hole in his heart for which he underwent immediate surgery.
Nobody knew if Tedy would every play again, but sure enough less than a year later there he was, running out of the home team tunnel.
I was there at that game, I actually worked at the stadium and I was just 10 feet inside the tunnel as the team ran out onto the field, with Bruschi introduced last to an enormous standing ovation.
I moved up to the concourse after the coin flip and watched as the crowd erupted every time Bruschi was a part of any play. He recorded a few tackles that night, and truth be told the team as a whole and the defense struggled.
The defense was short Richard Seymour that night and it showed. The team was still able to pull off the win in Bruschi's return however, and overall as a fan it was an emotionally gratifying game.
Jan. 19, 2002 "The Tuck Rule"
In a game that earned it's place in history as the inspiration for the "Tuck Rule," there was certainly no shortage of drama.
Late in the fourth quarter, down 13-10 to the Oakland Raiders and playing in the driving snow, the Patriots were asking young and unproven QB Tom Brady to do what seemed to be the impossible: drive through the snow, and through a very tough Oakland defense led by perennial Pro Bowlers Warren Sapp and Charles Woodson, and win (or tie) the game.
The Patriots began their drive on their own 46, and after two quick plays found themselves in Raider territory at the 42.
While in the act of throwing the ball on the next play Brady was hit by Woodson and the ball was knocked loose and recovered by Oakland.
Upon review the play was overturned and possession was awarded back to the Patriots.
Brady recovered from the mistake by leading New England down the field to the Oakland 29, from where Adam Vinatieri hit a 45 yard field goal to tie the game and bring this game into overtime.
The Pats won the toss and got the ball first in overtime, and then began a 9 minute and 25 second drive that would bring them well into Raiders territory and be capped off by another Vinatieri field goal, this one from 23 yards out and to win the game sending the Patriots to the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh.
Jan. 18, 2004 AFC Championship
In a game with so much offensive talent, nobody really expected defense to dominate. Pro Bowl CB Ty Law had different ideas, however, and he made sure everyone knew it, intercepting Peyton Manning three times.
This game was one of those games for Manning and the Colts where nothing really went right, as their first four drives ended in turnovers.
In the third quarter, however, the Colts finally seemed to develop some interest in making this a game, and got their act together enough to put a touchdown on the board.
They allowed two field goals in the quarter, however, and entered the fourth quarter down 21-7 with the ball in the Patriots' hands.
The Colts were able to score once more in the game, and they only allowed one more field goal but that would leave them down still 24-14, and headed home while the Patriots moved on to Superbowl XXXVIII.
(Troy Brown, pictured above had 7 receptions for 88 yards. Not a great game, but I believe it's a cardinal sin to have a slideshow on Patriot history and not include a picture and blurb about Brown. So this is the obligatory picture and blurb. I hope you enjoyed it.)
November 1963 Road to NE's First (and only) AFL Championship Appearance
Now here is an old game, and one I admittedly did not watch and don't know a whole lot about-mostly due to the face that I was not born until 1981.
This game was however an important game for the Boston Patriots (as they were known then), the first big win for the franchise.
In the 1963 season the Patriots played their home games in Fenway Park, where they fielded a team that played about .500 ball all season.
Their final game on the season would be a loss in Kansas City, which forced a playoff between Boston and the Buffalo Bills for a chance to travel to San Diego to play for the AFL Championship.
Behind solid play by Gino Cappeletti on the offensive side of the ball and Tommy Addison on defense the Patriots would shock the Bills on Buffalo's home turf, beating them 26-8, and earning the franchise's first divisional title.
The Patriots would go on to get essentially beaten down by the Chargers, losing the game 51-10. The game in San Diego would be the last Patriot playoff game until 1976.
Prior to the 2007 season the Patriots brought in some new offensive weapons in WR's Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
They would combine these two with Brady's now legendary arm and begin an air assault on the rest of the league that spurned accusations of running up the score in many of their games, and was the centerpiece of an offense the likes of which the NFL had never seen.
The offense would rewrite the record books this year, scoring more points (589) than any other team in history. They were held under 30 only three times during the season, and scored 48 or more on four occasions.
By Week 17 QB Tom Brady was just 2 TD passes shy of setting a new single season record of 50, and he'd only thrown 8 interceptions on the year.
Randy Moss was also two Receiving TD's short of setting the new single season record of 23. Both records would be broken in this game, on a 65-yard pass in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots beat the Giants this game to seal an undefeated 16-game season, a feat that had never before, and has not since been accomplished.
They later faced these same Giants in Super Bowl XLII and inexplicably lost the second meeting, forever tarnishing their regular season accomplishments with this poor performance in the most important game.
(Pictured above Randy Moss tying Jerry Rice's record with his 22nd Receiving Touchdown of the season. Later in the game, he would break that record on a 65-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter)
1985 AFC Championship "Squish the Fish"
The 1985 Championship was the biggest game the Patriots had been a part of for more than 20 years, and certainly since they had joined the NFL, in 1970.
The Patriots had managed to play their way into the conference championship behind the play of two QB's throughout the course of the season; Steve Grogan and Tony Eason, (Eason started this game and had been starting most of the season due to an injury suffered by Grogan in a game with the Jets early in the year) and when they lined up in Miami both were likely aware of New England's record in the city: 0-19.
Despite this fact the Patriots dominated the Dolphins, who never really had a chance in their own stadium and simply stood by and watched as the Patriots walked away with the game 31-14.
The Patriots then found themselves on their way to the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance. Unfortunately, in that Super Bowl they would face Walter Payton and his near perfect (15-1) Bears.
The Bears would surrender an early fumble and give up a 3-0 lead to the Patriots, but would then begin to administer an offensive beating on New England, eventually winning the game 46-10.
(Pictured above: Craig James, RB for the 1985 AFC Champion New England Patriots)
2004 Super Bowl "The Dynasty"
After deciding upon the ninth game, with one slot remaining open I realized I didn't yet have a Super Bowl victory as a part of my top ten. I guess I really should have all three, but what I'm going to do instead is pick my favorite.
They're such obvious picks, it kind of bothers me to use three spots on them, so I'll allow my favorite to represent the group.
I decided to go with the 2004 Super Bowl win in Superbowl XXXIX as it sealed the Patriots' place as one of the greatest dynasties of all time with three rings in four years.
One of the main things that really stands out in my memory about the Eagles and this Superbowl was not the fact that we beat them. It wasn't Terrell Owens, by this time in his career infamous for his antics playing on an injured ankle.
It wasn't the fact that the Eagles signed TE Jeff Thomasen literally off the street off a construction crew in Jersey to a one game contract to play this game due to roster requirements.
It was the mouth of Freddie Mitchell, who refused to stay quiet in the days leading up to the game, routinely calling out the New England defense publicly.
Mitchell would end the game with 1 reception for 11 yards as the Patriots defense remembered his number and did their talking on the field, letting their hits speak the loudest.
The Patriots would intercept McNabb three times in this game, and sack him four times and although the Eagles would keep it close, and lead at points in the game the Patriots would win the game behind a stellar performance from superstar Tom Brady (236 yards, 2 TD's, 0 Ints).
That's All Folks
There we have it, ten of the greatest games in the New England Patriots' storied history. It's hard to pick 10, there have been so many great ones just in my lifetime-and that barely covers half of the team's history!
Which one of these games do you feel was the best? Why? Is there one you liked more than all of these? Comment below and let the world know how ya feel on the subject.
(Pictured above: Kevin Faulk, much like Troy Brown, as one of two lifetime and consummate Patriot players it's almost a cardinal sin to not include a picture of Kevin Faulk and/or Troy Brown in any discussion-especially a slideshow with so much photo real estate-regarding Patriots history.)