The New England Patriots are a National Football League team based in Foxboro, Massachusetts
- Founded: 1960, as a charter American Football League member. Joined the NFL in the 1970 merger.
- Formerly known as: Boston Patriots (1960-1970)
- Head coach: Bill Belichick (since 2000)
- Home stadium: Gillette Stadium (since 2002)
- Former stadiums: Foxboro Stadium (1971-2001), Harvard Stadium (1970), Alumni Stadium (1969), Fenway Park (1963-1968), Nickerson Field (1960-1962)
- Uniform colors:Navy Blue, Red and silver.:Helmet design: A man's face in silhouette, wearing a red-white-and-blue tricorn hat. The man's sideburns and stylized hat led to the nickname "Flying Elvis"
- Super Bowl Championships won (2): XXXVI (2001 Season), XXXVIII (2003 Season)
- Super Bowl Appearances (5): XX (lost), XXXI (lost), XXXVI (won), XXXVIII (won), XXXIX (February 6, 2005)
- Division Championships won (8): 1963, 1976, 1986, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004
- Wild Card Playoff berths (3): 1985, 1994, 1998
The early years
The Boston Patriots played in the first-ever game in the American Football League, against the Denver Broncos on September 9, 1960. Although the team made only two AFL playoff appearances, it had numerous stars. In 1963, eleven Patriots made the AFL All-star team, including Gino Cappelletti, Nick Buoniconti, and Babe Parilli. In the late 1960's, fullback Jim Nance became a powerful offensive weapon for the Patriots, gaining 1,458 yards in 1966 and 1,216 in 1967, when he was the American Football League's MVP.
In 1970 the Patriots became a member of the NFL pursuant to the merger of the AFL and NFL that had been agreed to three years earlier, but their first experience therein was anything but pleasant as they finished 2-12 and in sole possession of the newly-merged league's worst record. The following season, after bouncing around between four different stadiums in their first 11 years, Foxboro Stadium (originally called Schaefer Stadium) opened. Since it was located several miles outside Boston, the team was renamed the New England Patriots. Also new in 1971 was a new quarterback, first-round pick Jim Plunkett, taken with the draft's first overall selection, which the Patriots received for having finished worst overall in 1970.
During this time the Patriots consistently had losing records, and went through three coaches in four seasons. In 1973 the team hired Chuck Fairbanks to lead it. Through the mid-1970s, the team showed signs of life, if only briefly. The Patriots finished 7-7 in 1974, but with injuries to Plunkett in 1975, slumped to 3_11 that season. Plunkett was traded to the San Francisco 49ers after the season, and eventually won a Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders.
The draft picks acquired in the Plunkett trade, used to select defensive backs Mike Haynes and Tim Fox set the stage for the team's first winning season in the NFL. Steve Grogan became New England's quarterback for the 1976 season. The Patriots finished 11-3 and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1963. The opponent was the Oakland Raiders, whose only regularly season loss had come at the hands of New England. The game was close and was settled in the final seconds with a touchdown run by Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler. Many Patriots fans to this day think that touchdown should never have happened, blaming a roughing-the-passer penalty earlier in the drive that should not have been called. The referee, Ben Dreith, was not allowed to officiate Patriots games again.
1977 was a disappointing season, aided by contract holdouts by offensive linemen John Hannah and Leon Gray. The Patriots finished 9-5, one game out of first place, and out of the playoffs. 1978 almost became an even bigger disappointment. In a preseason game against the Raiders, wide receiver Darryl Stingley was paralyzed by Oakland's Jack Tatum, who has never apologized for the incident. The Patriots rebounded and finished 11-5, tops in the AFC East, but a bizarre incident hours before the last game of the season shocked the team. Coach Chuck Fairbanks announced he would be leaving the team to take a job at the University of Colorado. Owner Billy Sullivan suspended Fairbanks and hired Ron Erhardt on the spot to coach the final game. The stunned team lost its first round playoff game to the Houston Oilers.
The Patriots became poster children for late-season failure through the late 1970s. In 1979 the team lost three games in December to finish 9_7 and out of the playoffs. In 1980, with star running back Sam Cunningham holding out all season, the Patriots started 6_1 but finished 10_6, again out of the playoffs. With these performances in mind, a local sportswriter intimated that the team suffered from the "Bozo Syndrome," meaning that they played "like clowns in the clutch." The Patriots completely collapsed in 1981, finishing 2_14, including two losses to the Baltimore Colts which were the only two games the Colts won that year. Coach Erhardt was fired and replaced by Ron Meyer. In 1982, a snowplow-aided 3-0 late-season win over the Miami Dolphins put the Patriots in the playoffs, but the first_round rematch in Miami was easily won by the Dolphins.
Rookie Tony Eason became the new quarterback for the 1983 season, but split duties for much of the mid-1980s with Grogan. The team again lost some key games, and finished out of the playoffs at 8-8. In 1984 the Patriots lost three straight games in December, and again missed the playoffs at 9-7.
First trip to the Super Bowl
After struggling to start the 1985 season, new coach Raymond Berry replaced Eason with Grogan. But Grogan broke his leg late in the season, and Eason got the starting job again. New England won six straight games and finished 11-5, with a wild card playoff berth. In the first round the Patriots beat the New York Jets to win their first playoff game since 1963. In the divisional playoff against the Los Angeles Raiders the Patriots forced six turnovers and won 27_20, to set up an AFC Championship showdown against the rival Miami Dolphins. The Patriots had lost 20 straight games in Miami at the time, but won this one, dominating the Dolphins defensively again en route to a 30-14 win. The Patriots made an improbable run to Super Bowl XX, where they faced the Chicago Bears. Unfortunately for New England, the Bears had one of the greatest defenses of all time according to most experts. The Bears had not allowed a point in the playoffs, but the Patriots took an early 3-0 lead after a Walter Payton fumble in the first quarter. But the Bears scored the next 46, including one touchdown by William "Refrigerator" Perry. The final score was 46_10 Chicago.
When John Hannah, still widely considered to be the greatest offensive lineman of all-time, retired before the 1986 season, a lot of people thought the Patriots' offense would collapse. Indeed, the team had the worst rushing offense in the league that season. Eason stepped up the passing game (with Stanley Morgan getting nearly 1500 yards receiving) as New England won the AFC East with an 11-5 record, and traveled to Denver to take on the Broncos in the first round playoff game. A late fourth-quarter touchdown pass from John Elway to Vance Johnson won it for Denver, and the Patriots' fate was sealed. The team did not return to the playoffs for eight years.
Doug Flutie, the future Canadian Football League and Buffalo Bills star, played one game for the Patriots during a players' strike in 1987. Many defensive stars for New England crossed the picket line. Late-season injuries put the Patriots out of playoff contention at 8-7. In 1988 Flutie played five games again before he was replaced by Eason. Neither quarterback could get New England to take the final step to the playoffs, and the Patriots finished 9-7.
In 1989 founder Billy Sullivan sold the team to Remington shaver magnate Victor Kiam. The season was over before it began - three of the team's biggest stars on defense (Andre Tippett, Garin Veris and Ronnie Lippett) were injured in one preseason game. Eason, Flutie and Grogan rotated the starting quarterback job as the Patriots finished 5-11.
1990 became the most tumultuous season in Patriots history. Newspaper reporter Lisa Olson was sexually harrassed by players Zeke Mowatt, Michael Timpson and Robert Perryman following a win over the Indianapolis Colts. Kiam's handling of the situation was called into question, and he ended up selling the team. The Colts win was the only one of the season, with the team finishing 1-15. First-year coach Rod Rust was fired and replaced by Dick MacPherson.
The new owner was St. Louis businessman James Orthwein, who had thoughts of moving the team to his hometown. Hugh Millen took over at quarterback partway through the season, and the Patriots improved to 6-10 with several upsets over playoff teams. Optimism was high entering the 1992 season, but rumors of a move to St. Louis were circulating and the team finished 2-14.
With the first pick in the 1993 draft, the Patriots selected quarterback Drew Bledsoe. This was only part of a major season of change in New England. Bill Parcells was hired as head coach, and even the logo and uniforms changed. Other draft picks such as tight end Ben Coates and linebackers Willie McGinest and Chris Slade, helped the team immediately. After losing the first four games, Bledsoe was injured and replaced with former Dolphins backup Scott Secules, who won one of his two games. Bledsoe came back later in the season and won four in a row to end the season at 5-11, including a dramatic overtime win in the final week to knock the Dolphins out of the playoffs. A move to St. Louis after the season looked imminent, but Orthwein ended up selling the team to Boston businessman Robert Kraft instead.
The Patriots looked flat in the 1994 season until Drew Bledsoe sparked a second-half comeback against the Minnesota Vikings by switching to the no-huddle offense. Bledsoe set single-game records for pass attempts and completions. The Patriots won the game 26-20 in overtime, and did not lose a game for the rest of the regular season. The team finished 10-6 and won a wild card playoff spot. The Patriots were quickly turned away in the first round by the Cleveland Browns _ the last team to beat New England in the regular season, and coached by future Pats hero Bill Belichick. Curtis Martin joined the team for the 1995 season, giving the team a much-needed boost to the running game. Bledsoe went down with injuries though, and the Patriots finished a lackluster 6-10.
In 1996 the team added wide receiver Terry Glenn, who did the same work to the passing game that Martin did to the running game. On defense, rookie safety Lawyer Milloy made an impact, as did Willie Clay (signed from the Detroit Lions) and second-year cornerback Ty Law. Linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson arrived on the scene to help McGinest and Slade. The Patriots finished 11-5, first in the AFC East, and gained a first-round bye. The Patriots blew out the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-3 in the divisional playoff, and held off the Jacksonville Jaguars 20_6 in the AFC Championship. The team advanced to Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers. But relations between Kraft and Parcells were strained, and may have cost the team a championship. In the days leading up to the game, rumors that Parcells was going to take the vacant head coaching job with the New York Jets were running rampant. The Patriots played the Packers close in the first half, but two long Brett Favre touchdowns and a kickoff return for a touchdown by Desmond Howard sealed New England's fate. The Packers won 35-21.
Parcells did take the Jets job in the offseason, and Pete Carroll was named the new coach. The new regime was immediately derided for botching draft picks, and the Patriots slipped back further in the standings during each of Carroll's years. In 1997 the Patriots still won the AFC East with a 10-6 record, but some key losses (including a loss to Parcells' Jets and a 4th-quarter collapse against the Pittsburgh Steelers) meant the team had to play in the wild card round. After having an easy time with the Miami Dolphins in Foxboro, the injury-plagued Patriots met the Steelers in Pittsburgh for a rematch in the divisional playoff. A late fumble (recovered by future Patriot Mike Vrabel) won the game for Pittsburgh, 7-6.
Parcells convinced several players, including Curtis Martin, to join the Jets in time for the 1998 season. Robert Edwards, a rookie draft pick, was his replacement but his career was over after a breakout rookie season by an injury he suffered in Hawaii while playing a game of flag football on the beach. This took place during Pro Bowl weekend. After stumbling through the first half of the season (5-6 after the first 11 games), Bledsoe, playing with a broken finger, engineered late 4th-quarter comebacks against the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills to save the season. Bledsoe and Glenn were later both knocked out for the season, and the Patriots backed into the last playoff seed with a 9-7 record. Backup quarterback Scott Zolak proved to be no match for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first playoff game.
After not getting a deal from the city of Boston to replace the aging and inadequate Foxboro Stadium, Kraft announced in 1999 he was moving the team to Hartford, Connecticut. After the Hartford plan was scuttled by delays, he eventually built Gillette Stadium next to the old stadium in Foxboro. It opened in 2002.
World Champions at last
With no running game and tough competition in the division the 1999 season was tough for the Patriots. The team started 6-2 but finished 8-8, and Carroll was fired. Luckily for the Patriots, Bill Belichick, hand-picked to be Parcells' successor with the Jets, quit after one day to join New England. After a tough season with lots of close losses, the Patriots finished 5-11.
It looked like a similar result was in the cards for the 2001 season, with Bledsoe injured in Week 2 and Glenn with a drug suspension and contract holdout. Chris Slade had left for the Carolina Panthers, and Coates was long gone as well. Few could have predicted what happened during the rest of the season. Receivers Troy Brown and David Patten had career seasons, first-round draft pick Richard Seymour revitalized the defensive line, and Antowain Smith (a free agent signed from Buffalo) ran for 1000 yards. But the big story was quarterback Tom Brady, who went his first four games (three of them wins) without throwing an interception. The Patriots continued to pick up momentum through the season, and won 6 games in a row to capture the AFC East with an 11-5 record. Even after Bledsoe was healthy again, Brady continued as the starting quarterback.
The Patriots opened the playoffs in a snowstorm against the Oakland Raiders in the last game ever played at Foxboro Stadium. In what Patriots fans saw as justice for Ben Dreith's controversial call in 1976, a Brady fumble was ruled an incomplete pass using the little-known "tuck rule". Kicker Adam Vinatieri tied the game with a 45-yard field goal in the final 30 seconds, and then won it 16-13 in overtime. The team then went to Pittsburgh to face the favored Steelers in the AFC Championship. After Brady was injured in the second quarter, Bledsoe (in his last appearance as a Patriot) came off the sideline and immediately threw a touchdown. With two special teams touchdowns and two Kordell Stewart interceptions in the fourth quarter, the Patriots stunned Pittsburgh 24-17 to advance to Super Bowl XXXVI.
Brady was back to face the heavily-favored St. Louis Rams, who had beaten the Patriots in the regular season. Belichick's defense held the Rams high-powered offense in check until the fourth quarter, forcing three turnovers (one returned by Ty Law for a touchdown and the other two leading to scores as well). After trailing 17-3 early in the fourth quarter, St. Louis scored two touchdowns to tie it at 17-17 with 1:30 to go. Brady calmly led New England's offense downfield, missing only one pass, when Adam Vinatieri won it with a 48-yard field goal as time expired. After 42 years, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions. Brady was selected Super Bowl MVP. Bledsoe was traded to the Buffalo Bills in the 2002 off-season.
The Patriots started the 2002 season on a high note too, winning their first 3 games. However, injuries and problems with the offensive and defensive lines cost the team down the stretch, and the team finished 9-7. They missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
In the 2003 offseason the Patriots picked up several big-name players in free agency such as linebacker Roosevelt Colvin (Colvin was placed on the injured reserve due to an injury early on in the season), safety Rodney Harrison and defensive lineman Ted Washington. But the surprise release of Lawyer Milloy days before the season opener (immediately dubbed "Lawyergate" by the press) shocked observers, and he ended up with the Buffalo Bills, who beat the Patriots 31_0 in Week 1. The following week the Patriots traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, who had also been shut out in their opener (17-0 at home by Tampa Bay), thus setting up the first NFL game matching two teams that had been shut out the week before since 1991, and the first game in the second week of a season between two teams that had been shut out in the first week since 1932 (the Patriots won this game 31-10). The Patriots only lost one game the rest of the season, despite several injuries. Several big plays marked the team's season: an 82-yard touchdown from Brady to Troy Brown in overtime in Miami, a 4th-quarter comeback in Denver known for an intentional safety, and a goal-line stand in Indianapolis where Edgerrin James was stopped by Willie McGinest on 4th and goal by from the 2 yard line in the dying seconds. The Patriots also shut out 3 opponents: the Dallas Cowboys (led by Bill Parcells), the Dolphins (in a snowy Gillette Stadium), and a revenge 31-0 win over Buffalo in the final game of the regular season.
The Patriots had the NFL's best record at 14-2 and had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The first opponent was the Tennessee Titans. Played in a temperature of 5 degrees F, the Patriots and Titans kept it close until Vinatieri kicked the go-ahead field goal with 4 minutes left. An incomplete Steve McNair pass on 4th down with 1:40 left won the game 17-14 for New England. The Patriots then faced the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC Championship. The New England defense frustrated Colts quarterback Peyton Manning all day, forcing him to throw four interceptions (three to Ty Law) and sacking him three times. Despite only one offensive touchdown by the Patriots, they held on to win 24-14. The Patriots were back in the Super Bowl, this time to face the Carolina Panthers.
Super Bowl XXXVIII was one of the closest championship games ever played. After a defensive battle for most of the first half, the teams traded touchdowns late in the second quarter, then more quick strikes by both teams made the score 14-10 Patriots at halftime. The third quarter was scoreless, but Antowain Smith scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 21-10. Carolina scored two more touchdowns (neither of which were converted) to make it 22-21. A trick pass to linebacker Mike Vrabel in the end zone with just over 2:00 to play put the Patriots back in the lead, but Ricky Proehl tied it up with another touchdown to tie it 29-29. Brady then repeated his role from two years ago, moving the Patriots quickly downfield to force another Adam Vinatieri field goal with four seconds left. The Patriots won their second Super Bowl in three years, 32-29; and Brady was named MVP again. The victory also made the 2003 Patriots the first team ever to win - or for that matter, even reach - the Super Bowl after having been shut out on opening day.
The Patriots made more big moves in the 2003 offseason to make sure a repeat of the disappointing 2002 season did not happen. Their biggest move was obtaining superstar running back Corey Dillon from the Cincinnati Bengals. These moves paid off, as the Patriots finished the regular season at 14-2. On October 10 they set the record for the number of consecutive wins (regular and post_season) in NFL history, at 19, after beating the 0_4 Miami Dolphins 24-10. On October 24 they broke the record for the most consecutive regular season victories at 18 after beating the New York Jets 13-7. They also extended their overall winning streak to 21. The streak finally came to an end on October 31 when the Patriots were beaten by the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-20. On December 12, the Patriots clinched the AFC East division championship for the third time in the past four years. On January 16, 2005, the Patriots advanced to the AFC Conference Championship game by beating the Indianapolis Colts, 20_3. In the Conference Championship on January 23, they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 41-27, advancing to Super Bowl XXXIX to face the Philadelphia Eagles.
Players of note
Pro Football Hall of Famers:
Other notable players:
- New England Patriots official website (http://www.patriots.com/home/default.sps)
- Boston Patriots page on the RemembertheAFL website (http://www.conigliofamily.com/Patriots.htm)
AFL players, coaches, and contributors