From Heartbreak to Triumph: 5 Most Memorable New England Patriots Moments
Summer is slowly winding down which can mean one thing: football is right around the corner. The defending champion New England Patriots are set to kick off the regular season on September 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. With mere weeks until the Patriots prepare to defend their title, we’ve taken a look at five of the most controversial and triumphant moments in the franchise’s 57 year history.
“Roughing the Passer” During Dream 1976 Season
Looking back on all that the Patriots have accomplished this millennium, it’s hard to believe that the team used to be a perennial punching bag in the early days of the NFL. The Patriots rattled off seven losing seasons in a row in the late sixties to early seventies but in 1976 they had an improbable turnaround. After finishing 3-11 the season prior, New England posted an 11-3 record and made the playoffs for only the second time in the team’s history. Chuck Fairbanks’ squad led the Oakland Raiders by four points late in the AFC Divisional round before a controversial roughing the passer call bailed out Ken Stabler and the Raiders. Oakland went on to score a late touchdown, vanquishing the hopes of Patriots fans.
Mo Lewis’ Hit on Drew Bledsoe in 2001
On September 23, 2001, an early-season Sunday Night Football matchup between the Jets and Patriots changed the course of the franchise and set Tom Brady on a collision course with destiny. Then starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who led the Patriots to the Super Bowl back in 1997, was rolling out of the pocket late in the game and got absolutely leveled by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. Lewis’ hit caused severe internal bleeding for Bledsoe, who later found out that the injury could have killed him. Tom Brady was the next man up after Bledsoe went down, and the Michigan man never relinquished the starting job. After an inauspicious 0-2 start to the year, the Patriots went on to win their first Super Bowl that February. Brady has gone on to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history and shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 40.
The Tuck Rule Game
Just four months after Drew Bledsoe’s serious injury thrust Tom Brady into the starting quarterback role, the Patriots faced the Oakland Raiders in the Divisional Round and were able to exact revenge for their controversial game three decades earlier. With 1:50 seconds left in the game, Raiders corner Charles Woodson sacked Tom Brady and caused a fumble that was recovered by Oakland. The play was reviewed by the officials who ruled that it was an incomplete pass instead of a fumble due to the fact that Brady had made a tucking motion with the ball that was considered to be the start of a forward pass. The call was known colloquially as the “tuck rule” and after the controversial call in the Patriots favor, New England tied the game late and won in overtime on an Adam Vinatieri field goal in the snow. The tuck rule play was one of the moments that galvanized New England en route to their upset victory over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
In 2007, after winning three championships in the span of four seasons, the New England Patriots were at the center of a controversy due to the fact that they videotaped the New York Jets defensive signals during an NFL game. This practice is against the league’s rules, and the controversy surrounding the videotaping was dubbed “Spygate” by the media. The Patriots were punished heavily by the league for their actions, with coach Bill Belichick being fined $500,000 and the team forced to vacate a first-round draft choice. Spygate did a number on the team’s public image around the league and made the Patriots into the team that everyone still loves to hate, some ten years later.
Malcolm Butler’s Interception in Super Bowl XLIX
Despite their three years of dominance in the early 2000s, the Patriots had not won a Super Bowl in almost a decade when they squared off with the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. New England had previously lost their last two Super Bowl appearances against the New York Giants in 2007 and 2011, and it looked as though the team would never get over the hump again. Despite playing a stellar game against a talented Seahawks team, New England found themselves against the ropes once again after a circus catch from Jermaine Kearse. Seattle had the ball with 26 seconds to go and the ball on the one-yard line but they threw an ill-advised pass that was jumped by Malcolm Butler for a game-clinching interception. The undrafted rookie’s unlikely play was all that separated New England from a potential hat-trick of Super Bowl losses under coach Bill Belichick.