New England Patriots

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Posted by kaori 04/05/2009 @ 20:12

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New England Patriots

New England Patriots helmet

The New England Patriots, commonly called the "Pats" by sports writers and fans, are a professional American football team based in the Greater Boston area, playing their home games in the town of Foxborough, Massachusetts. The team is part of the Eastern Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The team changed its name from the original Boston Patriots after relocating the team to Foxborough in 1971, although Foxborough is a suburb of Boston, 22 miles (35 km) away.

An original member of the American Football League (AFL), the Patriots joined the NFL in the 1970 merger of those leagues. The team advanced to the playoffs four times before appearing in Super Bowl XX in January 1986, losing to the Chicago Bears. The team also appeared in Super Bowl XXXI in January 1997, losing to the Green Bay Packers.

Between 2001 and 2005, the Patriots became the second team in NFL history (after the Dallas Cowboys) to win three Super Bowls in four years (Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX), and the eighth to win consecutive Super Bowls. The Patriots, however, were defeated by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, after winning the first 18 games of their 2007 season. Under quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots have also compiled the two longest winning streaks in NFL history, an 18-game streak in 2003-2004, and a 21-game streak in 2006-2008 (the NFL excludes playoff games from their records).

On November 16, 1959, Boston business executive Billy Sullivan was awarded the eighth and final franchise of the developing American Football League (AFL). The following winter, locals were allowed to submit ideas for the Boston football team's official name. The most popular choice—and the one that Sullivan selected—was "Boston Patriots". Immediately thereafter, Boston Globe artist Phil Bissell developed the "Pat Patriot" logo.

The Patriots time in the AFL saw them struggle most years as they never had a regular home stadium. Nickerson Field, Harvard Stadium, Fenway Park, and Alumni Stadium all served as home fields during their time in the American Football League. They did play in one AFL championship game, following the 1963 season. They lost to the San Diego Chargers 51–10. They would not appear again in an AFL or NFL post-season game for another 13 years.

When the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, the Patriots were placed in the AFC East division, where they still play today. The following year, the Patriots moved to a new stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, which would serve as their home for 30 years. As a result of the move, they would change their name from the Boston Patriots to the New England Patriots. During the 1970s, the Patriots had some success, earning a berth to the playoffs in 1976—as a wild card-team—and in 1978—as AFC East champions. They lost in the first round both times. In 1985, they returned to the playoffs, and made it all the way to Super Bowl XX, which they lost to the Chicago Bears 46–10. Following their Super Bowl loss, they returned to the playoffs in 1986, but lost in the first round. The team would not make the playoffs again for eight more years. They changed ownership three times, being purchased from the Sullivan family first by Victor Kiam in 1988, who sold the team to James Orthwein in 1992. Orthwein intended to move the team to his native St. Louis, Missouri, but sold the team two years later to current owner Robert Kraft in 1994.

Though Orthwein's period as owner was short and controversial, he did oversee major changes to the team. Former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells was hired in 1993, and the drastic changes were made the same year to the Patriots uniforms, changing their primary colors from their traditional red and white to blue and silver, and introducing a new logo. Parcells would bring the Patriots to two playoff appearances, including Super Bowl XXXI, which they lost to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 35–21. Pete Carroll, Parcells's successor, would also take the team to the playoffs twice.

The Patriots current coach, Bill Belichick, was hired in 2000, and a new home field, Gillette Stadium was opened in 2002. Under Belichick, the team won three Super Bowls in four years, and finished the 2007 regular season with a perfect 16–0 record, becoming only the fifth team in league history to go undefeated in the regular season, and the only one since the league expanded its regular season schedule to 16 games. After advancing to Super Bowl XLII, the team's fourth Super Bowl in seven years, the Patriots were defeated by the Giants to end their bid for a 19–0 season. With the loss, the Patriots ended the year at 18–1, becoming only one of three teams to go 18–1 along with the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears. Those teams, however, won the Super Bowl.

The New England Patriots feature 13 former players in their team hall of fame, established in 1991. A committee of media and staff selected 11 players for enshrinement between 1991 and 2001, before a six-year span of no selections. In 2007, in advance of the 2008 opening of the Hall at Patriot Place, the Patriots introduced a new nomination committee to select three candidates, with the winner of an internet fan vote being enshrined in the hall of fame. Former owner Billy Sullivan was inducted by owner Robert Kraft in March 2009 as a contributor.

The Patriots NFL Cheerleaders are simply known as The Patriots Cheerleaders. In 2005, cheerleader Kristin Gauvin won Miss Massachusetts, in part from her local commitment with the Patriots.

During each game, about 10 men dressed as minutemen line the back of each end zone. When the Patriots score a touchdown or field goal, the militia behind the opposite end zone fire a round of blanks from flintlock muskets. After the point-after-touchdown (PAT) attempt, the men fire their guns to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. ESPN named this one of the top ten celebrations in the league in 2007.

As of 2007, the Patriots' flagship radio station is WBCN 104.1FM, owned by CBS Radio. The larger radio network is called the "Patriots Rock Radio Network", whose 35 affiliate stations span 7 states. Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti are the longtime announcing team.

Any preseason games not on national television are shown on CBS affiliate WBZ-TV. These games were broadcast on ABC affiliate WCVB-TV for a number of years until the change to WBZ in 2009. Don Criqui has been the play-by-play announcer the last several years, with Randy Cross as a color commentator and Mike Lynch as a sideline reporter.

Former Patriots preseason announcers include Don Gillis (1972-1973), Len Berman (1974-1978), Roger Twibell (1979-1981), Jim Kelly (1983), Bob Lobel (1985-1991 & 1994), Bob Neumeier (1991 & 1994), Mike Crispino (1992), Michael Barkann (1993), Jim Nance (1977-1979), Tim Mazzetti (1983), Gino Cappelletti (1985), Reggie Rucker (1986), Sam Rutigliano (1987-1988), Jon Morris (1989), Steve Grogan (1991-1993), Tim Fox (1991-1993), and Jerry Glanville (1995-2002).

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2007 New England Patriots season


The 2007 New England Patriots season was the 38th season for the team in the National Football League and 48th season overall. The Patriots finished the regular season 16-0, improving on their 12–4 record of 2006, when the team finished in first place in the AFC East but lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship. The Patriots clinched the AFC East before their eleventh game (in Week 12), the fourth time since the NFL introduced the 16-game schedule in 1978 that a team had clinched a division title by its eleventh game. The team then went on to finish with the first 16-0 regular season record in NFL history, and the first undefeated regular season in the NFL since the 1972 Miami Dolphins finished 14-0. Their two playoff wins to reach Super Bowl XLII, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, made them the first professional team since 1884 in any of the four major American sports (football, basketball, baseball, hockey) to win the first 18 games of their season.

In Week 2 of the season, head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots were penalized by the NFL for their involvement in the videotaping of opponents' defensive signals from an unauthorized location in their Week 1 game against the New York Jets, referred to in the press as Spygate.

The Patriots lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, leaving the 1972 Dolphins as the only undefeated champions in NFL history. The Patriots ended the season at 18-1, becoming only one of three teams to go 18-1 along with the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears, both of whom won their respective Super Bowls.

On the evening of May 27, 2007, 24-year old defensive end Marquise Hill and his friend, Ashley Blazio, fell off a jet ski in Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans. Neither of them wore personal flotation or tracking devices. According to Hill's agent, who spoke with Blazio, Hill "ended up saving her life, keeping her calm until she could grab onto a buoy." Blazio was rescued and sent to Tulane Medical Center. Coast Guard units searched the area. Hill's body was found by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries around 2:15 PM CDT on May 28.

Hill's funeral, paid for by the team, was attended by many members of the Patriots team and staff, as well as by Hill's former coach Nick Saban.

For the 2007 season, all members of the Patriots wore a black #91 decal on the backs of their helmets. A friend of Hill's since high school, fellow Patriots defensive lineman Jarvis Green supported Hill's fiancée Inell Benn and son Ma’Shy financially following Hill's death. Green also wore Hill's old shoulder pads for the Patriots' October 14 game against the Cowboys, which Benn attended.

Unlike previous offseasons, head coach Bill Belichick's 2007 coaching staff remained generally unchanged. Wide receivers coach Brian Daboll left to become the quarterbacks coach for the New York Jets and was replaced by Director of Pro Personnel Nick Caserio. Former Duke University offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien was also hired as an offensive assistant. A former special teams contributor for the Patriots, linebacker Don Davis retired and joined the coaching staff as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Offensive coaching assistant Mike Judge also joined Harvard University as a wide receivers coach.

Free agency saw the departure of two 2006 starters for the Patriots: tight end Daniel Graham signed with the Denver Broncos, and linebacker Tully Banta-Cain signed with the San Francisco 49ers, while running back Corey Dillon, the Patriots' leading rusher in 2006, asked to be released; the Patriots released him on March 2. Safety Tebucky Jones was also released early in the offseason. Another departure came when punter Todd Sauerbrun signed with the Denver Broncos. When Sauerbrun was signed by the Patriots in December 2006, he agreed to a right of first refusal, meaning that the Patriots could match any offer by any other team made in the subsequent offseason. When the unrestricted free agent signing period came, the Broncos tendered Sauerbrun, and the Patriots exercised their right and matched the offer. However, the Broncos argued that the Patriots had not filed the proper documents required for that right, and ordered a hearing before an NFL special master. The Broncos won this hearing and Sauerbrun was allowed to sign with the Broncos. After spending all of training camp with the team, veteran punter Josh Miller was released on August 16.

In the first week of free agency, the Patriots traded their second- and seventh-round picks in the 2007 NFL Draft to the Miami Dolphins for wide receiver Wes Welker. A restricted free agent, Welker signed a five-year contract with the Patriots to complete the trade.

During the second day of the draft, the Patriots added yet another wide receiver, this time trading a fourth-round draft pick (which the Patriots acquired the day before from the San Francisco 49ers with the 49ers' 2008 first-round pick in exchange for the Patriots' original 2007 first-round pick) to the Oakland Raiders for Randy Moss, who agreed to take a pay cut of over $6 million.

The offseason also brought the arrival of seven unrestricted free agents to the Patriots. On offense, the Patriots added running back Sammy Morris, tight end Kyle Brady, as well as wide receivers Donté Stallworth and Kelley Washington. On defense, they added linebacker Pro Bowl linebacker Adalius Thomas and cornerbacks Tory James and Eddie Jackson.

Free agents or potential free agents Heath Evans, Billy Yates, Larry Izzo, Rashad Baker, Gene Mruczkowski, Junior Seau, Randall Gay, Troy Brown, and Vinny Testaverde were all re-signed. Defensive end Ty Warren also received a long-term contract extension.

The Patriots used their non-exclusive franchise tag on cornerback Asante Samuel; Samuel signed it on August 28, with the stipulation that the team would not use it again on him when he became a free agent again after the season, after the two sides failed to reach a long-term contract agreement with the team by the July 16 deadline.

During the preseason, on August 7, the Patriots traded an undisclosed pick in the 2008 NFL Draft to the Chicago Bears for cornerback Dante Wesley, but since Wesley was cut, the Bears did not receive that pick.

The Patriots traded their original fifth-round pick to the Oakland Raiders during the 2006 season for Doug Gabriel. They also traded Patrick Cobbs to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ross Tucker to the Cleveland Browns prior to the 2006 season for late-round conditional draft picks, but neither players made their respective rosters, so the Patriots received no compensation.

As of the Patriots' first training camp practice at Gillette Stadium on July 27, they had the NFL maximum of 80 players signed to their roster. First-round pick Brandon Meriweather, who was not signed until after training camp began, did not count against that limit until his signing. Asante Samuel also did not count against the limit, as he had not signed yet signed his franchise tag tender and was not in training camp. Finally, the Patriots received five total roster exemptions for the NFL Europa allocations of Brian Barthelmes, Danny Baugher, and Tom Malone (one for each player, plus two bonus exemptions because of the time Baugher and Malone spent on practice squads in 2007).

In the Patriots' fourth matchup with the Jets in 20 games, head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots traveled to Giants Stadium to face his former defensive coordinator in Jets head coach Eric Mangini to open the season. The Jets reached Patriots territory on their opening possession, but were forced to punt. The Patriots then began a 12-play, 91-yard drive that ended in a 11-yard Wes Welker touchdown reception to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Kelley Washington forced a fumble on Jets returner Justin Miller after a 26-yard return, but tight end Chris Baker recovered the ball at the Jets' 33-yard line to retain possession. The Jets went three-and-out, but the Patriots punted back to the Jets despite a 19-yard Donté Stallworth catch to begin their next series. Three plays later, Jets quarterback Chad Pennington was sacked by linebacker Mike Vrabel and defensive lineman Ty Warren, forcing a Jets punt on the final play of the first quarter.

Starting from their own 42-yard line after the punt, the Patriots reached the Jets' 25-yard line, where kicker Stephen Gostkowski lined up for a 42-yard field goal attempt. However, the snap was fumbled by holder Matt Cassel, and recovered by Cassel to turn the ball over on downs. The Jets responded with a 10-play, 66-yard drive, tying the game at 7-7 on a 7-yard pass from Pennington to wide receiver Laveranues Coles. Several plays into the Patriots' ensuing drive, before and after the two minute warning, wide receiver Randy Moss caught passes of 33- and 22-yards from quarterback Tom Brady to put the Patriots in the Jets' red zone. Brady then connected with tight end Benjamin Watson on a 5-yard touchdown pass that was reviewed by the booth but upheld, giving the Patriots a 14-7 lead going into halftime.

Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs returned the opening kickoff of the second half 108 yards for a touchdown and a new NFL record for the longest kickoff return in the league's history; at the time, it also tied the existing record for longest play in NFL history (a record broken a few weeks later by Antonio Cromartie). Nine plays into the Jets' next drive, Pennington was sacked by defensive lineman Jarvis Green and was injured; Kellen Clemens entered the game but the Jets were forced to punt two plays later. Four plays later, Brady hit Moss for a 51-yard touchdown reception that extended the Patriots' lead to 28-7. However, the Jets came back with a 9-play, 70-yard drive that was capped off with Coles' second touchdown grab of the day, this one from one yard out, to cut the Patriots' lead to 28-14. The Patriots received the ensuing kickoff with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter and would not surrender the ball until there was just under seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, ending the 17-play drive with a 22-yard Gostkowski field goal that extended the Patriots' lead to 31-14. The Jets then went three-and-out, and punter Ben Graham's 36-yard punt gave the Patriots the ball at their own 47-yard line. On a 1st-and-goal from the Jets' 1-yard line, fullback Heath Evans could not score; the Patriots challenged that the ball did in fact break the plane of the goal line but the play was upheld. On the next play, following the two-minute warning, Evans did in fact score on a 1-yard run, increasing the Patriots' lead to 38-14. The Jets' next drive stalled on a Vrabel strip-sack of Clemens that the Jets recovered, but ended on a failed fourth down conversion from the Jets' 38-yard line. The Patriots then kneeled down once to end the game and give them their first victory of the season.

On September 10, Bill Belichick was accused by the Jets of authorizing his staff to film the Jets' defensive signals from an on-field location, a violation of league rules. The Jets confiscated the video camera used by video assistant Matt Estrella to film the signals during the game and filed a complaint to the league office, detailing the accusations.

On September 13, Belichick was officially fined $500,000, while the Patriots were also fined $250,000, and forfeited their first round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. If the Patriots had missed the playoffs, they would have instead forfeited their second and third round selections in the 2008 draft. Goodell said that he fined the Patriots as a team because Belichick is effectively the team's general manager as well as head coach, and exercises so much control over the Patriots' on-field operations that "his actions and decisions are properly attributed to the club." Goodell considered suspending Belichick, but decided that taking away draft picks would be more severe in the long run.

Belichick later issued a statement in which he apologized for what he called a "mistake" in his interpretation of the rules. However, he denied ever using videotape to gain an advantage while a game was underway.

The Patriots' home opener was a rematch from the 2006 divisional playoffs, against the Chargers on Sunday Night Football. For the second consecutive week, the game began with a touchdown on the Patriots' first series: this time, Brady hit Watson for a 7-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead. On the first play of the ensuing Chargers possession, their first, linebacker Rosevelt Colvin intercepted a Philip Rivers pass, but it did not translate into points for the Patriots as Gostkowski then missed a 41-yard field goal attempt on the Patriots' resulting series. After a Chargers three-and-out, the Patriots capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 23-yard Moss touchdown reception, putting the Patriots ahead 14-0. Colvin then added a sack and forced fumble to his game statistics, as he strip-sacked Rivers after the Chargers reached the Patriots' 34-yard line and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork recovered the fumble for the Patriots' second forced turnover of the game.

On the Patriots' next drive, which spanned into the second quarter, Brady was strip-sacked by linebacker Shawne Merriman at the Chargers' 29-yard line, but Brady recovered his own fumble to retain possession for the Patriots. Six plays later, a 24-yard Gostkowski field goal extended the Patriots' lead to 17-0. After a Chargers three-and-out, the Patriots were pushed back to their 10-yard line after another Merriman sack of Brady. The Patriots would punt back to the Chargers, but on a 3rd-and-1 from the Patriots' 37-yard line, Rivers was intercepted by linebacker Adalius Thomas, who returned it 65 yards for a touchdown, giving the Patriots a 24-0 lead. The Chargers were unable to get past midfield on their next drive and punted, giving the Patriots the ball at their own 20-yard line with just under three minutes to play in the first half. A 25-yard defensive pass interference penalty on Chargers safety Marlon McCree would help the Patriots reach the Chargers' 26-yard line, but Brady was intercepted by safety Clinton Hart at the Chargers' 10-yard line. The Chargers then ran one play to end the half.

Receiving the kickoff to begin the second half, the Chargers embarked on a 16-play, 72-yard drive, reaching Patriots territory on a 22-yard third down reception by tight end Antonio Gates. Ten plays later, fullback Lorenzo Neal caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to put the Chargers on the scoreboard at 24-7. The Patriots responded by going 75 yards on seven plays, taking a 31-7 lead on a 24-yard Moss touchdown reception, his second of the night. Three plays later, Rivers was intercepted by Patriots safety James Sanders at the Patriots' 38-yard line, but the play was nullified by a 37-yard defensive pass interference penalty on Hobbs. Rivers completions of 19 yards to wide receiver Malcom Floyd and 12 yards to running back Michael Turner helped put the Chargers in the Patriots' red zone, where Rivers completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Gates on the second play of the fourth quarter to cut the Patriots' lead to 31-14..

On the ensuing kickoff, Chargers wide receiver Kassim Osgood forced a fumble of Hobbs after a 31-yard return that was recovered by Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer at the Patriots' 31-yard line. However, Rivers was sacked twice for losses of 10 yards each on the next two plays, the second of which was a strip-sack by Colvin that was recovered by offensive lineman Kris Dielman; the Chargers punted on 4th-and-30. Starting from their own 9-yard line with more than 13 minutes remaining in the game, the Patriots did not surrender the ball back to the Chargers until there was less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter. This 15-play, 91-yard drive culminated in a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Sammy Morris, extending the Patriots' lead to 38-14. The Chargers could not convert a first down on their next possession, giving the ball back to the Patriots to end the game.

The 0-2 Bills, who had not beaten the Patriots since Week 1 of the 2003 season, faced off against the Patriots in Foxboro. On the opening drive of the game, Wilfork was penalized for roughing the passer for a late hit on Bills quarterback J. P. Losman. Two plays later, Hobbs sacked Losman, causing a fumble that set-up a 24-yard Gostkowski field goal. Trent Edwards replaced Losman at quarterback for the Bills on their next possession. Losman was later diagnosed with a sprained MCL. The Bills took the lead on a 12-play drive finished off with an 8-yard Marshawn Lynch touchdown run, but these points proved to be the only of the game for the Bills. In the second quarter, the Patriots drove to the Bills' 3-yard line, but a Brady fumble on a rushing attempt kept the Patriots from scoring. Entering halftime, the Patriots held a 17-7 lead after touchdown receptions by Moss and Watson. A 4-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney and a 4-yard touchdown run by Morris increased the Patriots' lead to 31-7 by the fourth quarter. A 45-yard touchdown catch by Moss finished the scoring, giving the Patriots their third 38-point offensive performance of the season as they improved their record to 3-0.

Coming off a divisional home win over the Bills, the Patriots traveled to Paul Brown Stadium for a matchup with the Bengals. In the first quarter, the Patriots began the game's scoring with a 31-yard Gostkowski field goal after driving to the Bengals' 16-yard line on the opening drive. Later in the quarter, a 49-yard Morris run set up a 1-yard touchdown pass to Vrabel. In the second quarter, a Brady interception to Leon Hall at the Patriots' 37-yard line led to a 1-yard T. J. Houshmandzadeh touchdown catch from Carson Palmer, cutting the Patriots' lead to 10-7. The Patriots extended that lead to 17-7 on the next drive, going 62 yards over more than six minutes and ending in a Moss touchdown catch from 7 yards out. The Bengals then drove to the Patriots' red zone, but with less than 2 minutes remaining in the half, Asante Samuel intercepted Palmer at the Patriots' 2-yard line to prevent the Bengals from scoring.

The Patriots' first drive of the second half, an 81-yard drive, was capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Morris. On the Bengals' ensuing drive, three Houshmandzadeh receptions helped bring the Bengals to the Patriots' 22-yard line before a 40-yard Shayne Graham field goal cut the Patriots' lead to 24-10. The fourth quarter began with 36-yard Gostkowski and 48-yard Graham field goals to keep the Patriots' lead at 14 points. On the Patriots' penultimate possession of the game, an 85-yard drive ended in a 14-yard Moss touchdown reception. After a 17-yard Houshmandzadeh catch on the next play, an interception by Randall Gay, his first since 2004, gave the Patriots the ball to end the game for their fourth win of the season.

Returning the Foxboro, the Patriots faced off against the Browns, coached by their former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. The Patriots opened the game with a 14-play, 78-yard drive culminating in a Gostkowski 20-yard field goal. After a 65-yard drive brought them to the Patriots' 1-yard line, the Browns failed to score on two downs before quarterback Derek Anderson threw an interception to linebacker Junior Seau on third down. A Samuel interception on the Browns' next drive set up a 34-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Stallworth. In the second quarter, another Seau interception set up a 7-yard touchdown reception by Watson.

In the second half, the Browns got onto the scoreboard with a 42-yard field goal by Phil Dawson, the only points from either team in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Browns capped off a 55-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to wide receiver Tim Carter. The ensuing 71-yard Patriots drive ended with another touchdown catch by Watson, this one from 25 yards out. After an exchange of punts gave the Browns the ball at the Patriots' 35-yard line, Anderson hit tight end Kellen Winslow II for a 14-yard touchdown, cutting the Patriots' lead to 10. On the next and final Patriots series, an 11-play, 64-yard drive ended with an incomplete pass to Kyle Brady from the Browns' 4-yard line. The final points of the game were scored on the next play when Gay stripped Winslow and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Patriots a 34-17 win. With three touchdown passes on the day, Brady tied Steve Young's 1998 record of five consecutive three-touchdown games to start the season.

In what was, at the time, the most-watched NFL regular season game since 1996, the Patriots faced the Cowboys, the NFC's only remaining unbeaten team. The Patriots' first drive of the game spanned 74 yards and ended in a 6-yard touchdown catch by Moss from Brady. Their lead increased to 14-0 after another Brady touchdown pass, this one from 35 yards out to Welker. However, in the second quarter, after a 38-yard field goal by Cowboys kicker Nick Folk, defensive end Jason Hatcher forced a Brady fumble on a strip-sack; he recovered the ball and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Patriots' lead to 14-10. The first half scoring ended with a pair of 12-yard touchdown receptions, the first for the Patriots by Welker, the second for the Cowboys by Terrell Owens, to keep the Patriots ahead 21-17.

In the third quarter, an 8-yard touchdown catch from Tony Romo to Patrick Crayton put the Patriots behind 24-21. A 1-yard touchdown reception by Kyle Brady re-gained the lead for the Patriots; the Patriots also added a 45-yard Gostkowski field goal in the third quarter. The lead increased further on a 69-yard touchdown reception by Stallworth, Brady's fifth touchdown pass of the game, a career best for Brady. After an exchange of field goals, the Patriots closed out the scoring with a 1-yard Kyle Eckel touchdown run, giving the team a 48-27 win and a season record of 6-0.

A week after facing the undefeated Cowboys, the Patriots squared off against the winless Dolphins. The Patriots took the opening drive of the game 80 yards and capped it off with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Stallworth. After Dolphins quarterback Cleo Lemon fumbled to give the Patriots the ball on the Dolphins' 28-yard line, the Patriots took a 14-0 lead with a 2-yard touchdown reception by Kyle Brady. The Dolphins cut the lead in half with a 4-yard Lemon touchdown run to end a 79-yard drive, but Willie Andrews returned the ensuing kickoff 74 yards to give the Patriots another 14-point lead with 14:45 remaining in the second quarter. By halftime, the Patriots had scored 21 more unanswered points on 35-yard and 50-yard touchdown catches by Moss (the second following a Joey Porter sack of Brady) and a 14-yard touchdown reception by Welker, to give the Patriots a franchise record 42 points in a half.

In the second half, the Dolphins drove to the Patriots' 19 yard line but a Gay interception retained the Patriots' 42-7 lead, one that remained for the duration of the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Dolphins cut their deficit to 28 with a 1-yard Patrick Cobbs touchdown run. The Patriots replaced Brady with backup Cassel on the next drive, but after Cassel threw an interception to defensive end Jason Taylor which Taylor returned for a touchdown, Brady returned for the Patriots' next possession. That drive spanned 59 yards and ended with a 16-yard Welker touchdown catch, Brady's sixth touchdown pass of the game, a Patriots record. On their penultimate drive of the game, the Dolphins drove 75 yards and ended the game's scoring with a 7-yard Jesse Chatman touchdown run. With their 49-28 win, the Patriots began a season 7-0 for the first time in team history.

At home for the first time in three weeks, the Patriots, looking to remain unbeaten, faced off against the 4-2 Redskins. After spending the first seven weeks of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, defensive end Richard Seymour was activated for the game, but did not start. In their first possession of the game, the Patriots drove 90 yards over more than 7 minutes, finishing the drive with a 3-yard Brady rushing touchdown, continuing a season-long opening drive scoring streak. In the second quarter, a 67-yard Patriots drive was capped off with a 2-yard touchdown reception by Vrabel, his second for the season and the tenth of his career (including playoffs). On the Redskins' ensuing possession, Warren recovered a Vrabel strip-sack of Jason Campbell, setting up a 36-yard Gostkowski field goal. The Redskins turned the ball over again on their next possession on a Samuel interception, only to regain it on the next play after Brady was strip-sacked by Phillip Daniels. The string of turnovers continued as the Redskins drove 20 yards before another Vrabel strip-sack of Campbell was again recovered by Warren. With less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half, the Patriots drove 73 yards, and on a fake spike play from the Redskins' 6-yard line, increased their lead to 24-0 on a touchdown catch by Moss from Brady. That touchdown pass was Brady's 29th of the season, eclipsing his career high set in 2004 and 2002.

On the opening drive of the second half, an 85-yard Patriots drive ended in another Brady touchdown run, this one from 2 yards out. The Redskins committed their fourth turnover of the game on their next possession, as Vrabel strip-sacked Campbell for the third time in the game; this time Colvin recovered the fumble and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown to increase the Patriots' lead to 38-0. In the fourth quarter, a 88-yard Patriots drive finished in a 2-yard touchdown reception by Welker. On their next series, with Cassel in for Brady, a 21-yard pass from Cassel to Gaffney gave the Patriots their 33rd first down of the game, a new single-game franchise record. Two plays later, Cassel ran it in for a touchdown from 15 yards out, and the first rushing touchdown of his career, increasing the Patriots' lead to 52-0; the touchdown was the longest rushing touchdown by a Patriots quarterback in more than 20 years. The Redskins then drove 63 yards and scored their first and only points of the game on a 15-yard Chris Cooley touchdown reception. The Patriots' 52-7 win gave them a 8-0 record heading into a Week 9 matchup against the 7-0 Colts.

For the second time in four weeks, a Patriots game set TV rating records: their game against the 7-0 Colts was the most-watched Sunday afternoon NFL regular season game since 1987, when network records began. After playing four of their last six games in Foxboro, the Patriots traveled to Indianapolis to face the Colts in a re-match of the 2006-07 AFC Championship game in a game some members of the media dubbed "Super Bowl XLI 1/2." On the game's opening series, the Colts drove 52 yards on 14 plays but left the field without scoring after former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 50-yard field goal, his first-ever miss in the RCA Dome. On the ensuing drive, the Patriots failed to make a first down, the first opening drive of the season in which they failed to score. With the ball on their own 9-yard line, the Colts moved to the Patriots' 3-yard line after two Joseph Addai rushes for 33 yards and a 37-yard defensive pass interference penalty on Asante Samuel. After two plays gaining no yards, the Colts were again forced to kick a field goal, this one good from 21 yards out, for the only points of the first quarter for either team.

After nine plays from scrimmage in the first quarter, the Patriots took a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter on a 4-yard touchdown catch by Moss. After a Gostkowski touchback on the next kickoff, the Colts again drove inside the Patriots' 10-yard line on 34 receiving yards by Addai on three catches as well as a 40-yard defensive pass interference call against Hobbs. The Patriots' red-zone defense, that had entered the game ranked last in the NFL, held the Colts to 1 yard on three plays and a 25-yard Vinatieri field goal to make the game 7-6. On the next series, the Patriots drove to the Colts' 23-yard line before a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Matt Light preceded a Brady interception (the third of the season), this one caught by Antoine Bethea at the Colts' 2-yard line. With 1:46 remaining in the first half, the Colts moved the ball to their 27-yard line, and with 28 seconds remaining, Peyton Manning threw a screen pass to Addai, who proceeded to run 73 yards for the touchdown, giving the Colts a 13-7 lead at halftime.

For their first two drives of the third quarter, the Patriots were unable to gain a first down and were forced to punt. The Colts fared similarly, with Manning throwing an interception to Rodney Harrison on his first play of the half. On their third possession of the quarter, facing a 3rd and 7 from the Colts' 41-yard line, Brady scrambled 19 yards for the first down. After catches of 12 and 9 yards from Moss and Kevin Faulk, respectively, the Patriots reached the Colts' 14-yard line but settled for a 34-yard Gostkowski field goal after Laurence Maroney ran for a 2-yard loss on 3rd and 1. A field goal was, once again, the only points of a quarter for either team; the third quarter ended with the Colts leading 13-10.

After a Colts punt and a Moss 14-yard catch on the first play of the 4th quarter, the Patriots had possession at the Colts' 42-yard line. On the next play, Brady was intercepted again by linebacker Gary Brackett, who returned it for 28 yards; after another 15-yard penalty from Light, the Colts took possession at the Patriots 32-yard line. Despite Vrabel sacking Manning on the first play of the Colts' drive, a 17-yard Dallas Clark reception helped set up a 1-yard Manning touchdown run to increase the Colts' lead to 20-10 with 9:42 remaining in the game. Starting from their own 27-yard line, Brady attempted passes to Moss on the first six plays of the drive. The second attempt was completed for 15 yards, while the fourth attempt went for 55 yards and put the Patriots on the Colts' 3-yard line. On the fifth attempt, Moss was penalized 10 yards for offensive pass interference in the end zone. After an incompletion to Moss, Brady hit Welker for 10 yards and then again for 3 yards and a touchdown to cut the Colts' lead to 20-17 with 7:59 remaining. This touchdown also set the Patriots' record for touchdown passes in a single season, breaking Babe Parilli's record of 31. After two offensive line penalties by the Colts pushed them back 15 yards, Colvin strip-sacked Manning at the Colts' 22-yard line, though Colts offensive tackle Charlie Johnson recovered the fumble. After Wes Welker returned the subsequent Colts punt 23 yards to the Patriots' 49-yard line, a 5-yard pass to Moss and a 33-yard pass to Stallworth set up a 13-yard touchdown pass by Faulk to put the Colts behind 24-20 with 3:15 remaining. That pass made this Brady's ninth consecutive game with at least three touchdown passes, breaking Peyton Manning's record of eight. After a Reggie Wayne 24-yard reception brought the Colts to their own 48-yard line, Green strip-sacked Manning three plays later; Colvin's recovery of that fumble gave the Patriots the ball, and set up a situation where a first down would allow them to win the game. Unlike a similar situation in the 2006 AFC Championship, where the Patriots were forced to punt, the Patriots converted on 3rd and 6 with a 10-yard pass to Welker. Brady took three knees to end the game, leaving the 9-0 Patriots the only remaining undefeated team as they headed into their bye week.

Following their bye week, the Patriots traveled to Buffalo to play the Bills, who had won 5 of 7 since their 38-7 Week 3 loss to the Patriots. On the first drive of the game, Gay intercepted Losman to give the Patriots the ball at the Bills' 21-yard line. Two plays later, Maroney ran it in from 6 yards out for a Patriots touchdown. After a Bills punt, the Patriots increased their lead to 14-0 after a 43-yard touchdown reception by Moss from Brady. The touchdown, Moss' 13th on the season, broke Stanley Morgan's franchise record of 12 touchdown passes in a single season. On the ensuing drive, a Green strip-sack of Losman was recovered by the Bills, and two plays later, Roscoe Parrish caught a 47-yard touchdown pass for the only Bills touchdown of the game. The Patriots' next drive went for 72 yards and ended in a 16-yard Moss touchdown reception on the first play of the second quarter. A Bills punt on their next possession gave the Patriots the ball at their own 16-yard line. Aided by catches of 25, 15, 11, and 10 yards by Watson, Welker, Stallworth, and Faulk respectively, the Patriots drove 84 yards in under 7 minutes, capping off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown reception to Moss. That touchdown gave Brady the most career touchdown passes in Patriots franchise history, breaking Steve Grogan's record of 182. Another Bills punt led to the Patriots' fifth possession and fifth touchdown of the half, this time a 17-yard Moss touchdown catch ended another 72-yard drive. Moss' fourth touchdown of the half tied an NFL record for touchdowns for a single player before halftime, and set the Patriots' franchise record for touchdowns by a player in a game. Adalius Thomas also had 2.5 sacks in the half, setting a single-game career high.

The Patriots began the second half where they left off in the first, driving 73 yards in more than 6 minutes for another touchdown, this one a 3-yard reception by Watson. The Bills responded with a 29-yard Terrence McGee kickoff return that led to a 52-yard Rian Lindell field goal to cut the Patriots lead to 42-10. The Patriots' next series, their seventh of the game, also ended in their seventh touchdown of the game, setting a Patriots franchise single-season touchdown record (1961 and 1980, 52). A Welker screen pass went 24 yards to put the Patriots in the Bills' red zone, and a 1-yard Eckel touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Patriots a 49-10 lead. On the second play of the Bills' next drive, Sanders forced a fumble by running back Dwayne Wright after a 5-yard reception, which Hobbs recovered and returned 35 yards for the Patriots' eighth and final touchdown of the game. The Patriots' 56 points tied a franchise record, and were the most points scored by a road team in the NFL since 1973. Their 46-point scoring margin was also the second-largest in team history. The Patriots' 56-10 win brought their record to 10-0, the tenth time since 1970 a team started a season 10-0.

Due to Buffalo's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier in the day, the Patriots entered the game against the 5-5 Eagles as AFC East champions for the fifth consecutive season. Their clinch in the 11th game of the season was tied for the earliest in NFL history.

On the first possession of the game, Eagles quarterback A. J. Feeley, starting in place of an injured Donovan McNabb, threw an interception to Samuel, who returned it for a touchdown. On the ensuing drive, the Eagles responded with a 14-play drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Brian Westbrook; thus, before the Patriots offense had its first possession, the game was tied 7-7. On that possession, Brady threw seven passes, was sacked once, and scrambled for 12 yards, before Evans had a 1-yard touchdown run (the first called run of the game for the Patriots). The Eagles tied the game again on their next possession when wide receiver Greg Lewis caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Feeley. After a successful onside kick attempt by the Eagles led to a three-and-out drive, the Patriots started at their own 20-yard line and moved the ball all the way to the Eagles' 11-yard line before the drive stalled and Gostkowski converted a 23-yard field goal. The Eagles responded with another touchdown pass from Feeley to Lewis, this one from 18 yards out, to end a 68-yard drive. With less than 3 minutes to go in the first half the Patriots were trailing the Eagles, 21-17. The Patriots then converted three third downs on their last possession of the half, and Gaffney caught a 19-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots a halftime lead, 24-21.

After an exchange of punts to begin the second half, Maroney saw his first carries of the game on a drive that appeared to end in a 4-yard Moss touchdown pass before the catch was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty. The next three plays were incomplete passes by Brady, and on fourth down, Gostkowski missed a 32-yard field goal to keep the score at 24-21 in favor of the Patriots. The Eagles responded with a 10-play, 78-yard drive, retaking the lead on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Brown. After an unsuccessful fourth down conversion attempt from the Eagles' 33-yard line, the Patriots defense held the Eagles to a three-and-out, forcing a punt. On a third down in the middle of the Patriots' next drive, Welker, who finished with 13 catches on the night, caught a 16-yard pass that moved the ball into the Eagles' red zone. With 7:24 left in the game, Maroney put the Patriots ahead 31-28 with a 4-yard touchdown run. The Eagles moved the ball to the Patriots' 29-yard line on their next drive, but on 2nd and 4, Feeley was intercepted by Samuel in the end zone with 2:49 remaining in the game. The Patriots, unable to run out the clock, punted, giving the Eagles the ball back with 18 seconds remaining. Feeley's last pass attempt was intercepted by Sanders to seal the Patriots' eleventh win of the season.

For their third night game in as many weeks, the Patriots flew to M&T Bank Stadium to face the 4-7 Ravens. On the first drive of the game, a 42-yard Stallworth reception and three Ravens penalties helped set up a 1st and goal from the Ravens' 3-yard line. The Patriots next four plays gained a net of zero yards, and Gostkowksi kicked a 21-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead. After an exchange of punts, the Ravens took the lead with Kyle Boller completing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason after a 70-yard drive. In the second quarter, Baltimore increased its lead when kicker Matt Stover converted a 29-yard field goal to cap a 12-play, 55-yard drive. On the ensuing drive, the Patriots responded with a 9-play, 60-yard drive that included two more Stallworth receptions and two more Ravens penalties and ended in a 1-yard Evans touchdown run. Two possessions later, with 56 seconds remaining the first half, Brady threw his fifth interception of the season, this one to safety Ed Reed, who proceeded to fumble on the return. Watson recovered the fumble and the Patriots went into halftime in a 10-10 tie.

On the opening drive of the second half, the Ravens drove 73 yards and regained the lead on a 17-yard run by Willis McGahee, his sixth rush of the 8-play drive. The Patriots answered on their next possession with an 11-play, 72-yard drive that included a dump-off pass to Maroney for 36 yards. A 3-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Moss tied the game again at 17-17. In the first minute of the fourth quarter, Baltimore got the lead again, 24-17, as Boller completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Wilcox after an 8-play, 56-yard drive. The Patriots went 3-and-out on their next drive, and a 33-yard Yamon Figurs punt return coupled with a 5-yard Pierre Woods penalty gave the Ravens the ball at the Patriots' 26-yard line with less than 13 minutes remaining in the game. After two McGahee runs for 1 yard and a false start penalty gave the Ravens a 3rd and 14 situation, Boller was intercepted at the Patriots' 1-yard line by Sanders to hold the Ravens scoreless on the drive. Sanders' 42-yard return gave the Patriots the ball at their own 43-yard line, and another Maroney dump-off pass for 43 yards brought the Patriots to the Ravens' 24-yard line. The Patriots then failed to make the first down, and Gostkowski kicked another field goal, this one from 38 yards out, to cut the Ravens' lead to 24-20. The Patriots defense, which gave up almost 60 first half rushing yards to McGahee, held McGahee to 1 yard on the Ravens' next drive and forced a 3-and-out. The Patriots' ensuing drive brought them to the Ravens' 31-yard line before a 10-yard Dan Koppen penalty and incompletion forced another punt. With less than 6 minutes remaining, the Patriots defense again prevented the Ravens offense from completing a first down and got the ball back with 3:30 left in the game.

Starting from their own 27-yard line, the Patriots got to midfield on the second play of their drive with a 23-yard Watson reception. An incompletion and 9-yard Faulk catch brought 3rd and 1, where Brady rushed for 2 yards and the first down. After the two minute warning, another 9-yard Faulk catch on 3rd and 10 gave the Patriots a 4th and 1 from the Ravens' 30-yard line with 1:48 remaining. Brady attempted another sneak and was stopped short of the first, but the play was nullified by a timeout called by Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan just before the snap. A false start penalty by Russ Hochstein on the Patriots' next attempt set up a 4th and 6. Brady scrambled for the first down and Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle was penalized 5 yards for illegal contact to give the Patriots a fresh set of downs from the Ravens' 18-yard line with 1:38 left on the clock. A 5-yard Faulk rush and two incompletions gave the Patriots another fourth down situation. Brady's throw to Watson in the end zone fell incomplete, but the Patriots again received a fresh set of downs after Ravens defensive back Jamaine Winborne was called for defensive holding. On 1st and goal from the Ravens' 8-yard line with 55 seconds remaining, the Patriots took their first lead since the first quarter on a Gaffney touchdown reception that was upheld by official review. After the play, Ravens linebacker Bart Scott received two 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after throwing an official's flag into the stands, and Reed was flagged for being offsides on the extra point, setting up a Patriots kickoff from the Ravens' 35-yard line. After a Gostkowski touchback on the kickoff, the Ravens completed two passes, bringing them to their own 45-yard line with 8 seconds remaining. Boller threw a Hail Mary pass that was caught by wide receiver Mark Clayton at the Patriots' 3-yard line, but he was tackled shy of the end zone as time expired.

The Patriots became the sixth team in NFL history to begin a season 12-0, in a game that was the most-watched program in the history of cable television.

Beginning a stretch of three straight home games, the Patriots faced off against the 9-3 Steelers in their first afternoon game in five weeks. After going three-and-out on their first drive, the Patriots fell behind 3-0 early on a 23-yard Jeff Reed field goal to cap an 8-minute, 15-play Steelers possession. A 39-yard Chad Jackson kickoff return gave the Patriots the ball at their own 48-yard line to begin a 9-play drive that ended in a 4-yard Moss touchdown catch to give the Patriots the lead. Moss' touchdown catch was his 18th of the season, surpassing Curtis Martin for the Patriots' record for touchdowns by a single player in a season. After a Steelers three-and-out the Patriots, on their first offensive play of the second quarter, increased their lead to 14-3 on a 63-yard play action pass from Brady to Moss. A 30-yard Willie Parker run on the Steelers' ensuing series set up a 32-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Najeh Davenport. After a Patriots drive in which a muffed punt recovery by Pittsburgh led to a missed 48-yard field goal attempt by Gostkowski, the Steelers mounted a 12-play drive that lasted almost 6 minutes before a 44-yard Reed field goal cut the Patriots' lead to 14-13. With 2:29 left in the half, a 32-yard Gaffney reception helped the Patriots drive to the Steelers' 24-yard line; after two Brady incompletions Gostkowski kicked a 42-yard Gostkowski field goal, giving the Patriots a 17-13 lead at halftime.

On the Patriots' first drive of the second half, on 1st and 10 from their own 44-yard line, after a Brady lateral pass to Moss fell short, Moss picked it up and threw it back to Brady, who then found Gaffney deep for a 56-yard touchdown. After another Steelers three-and-out, the Patriots' second possession of the half also went for a touchdown, as a 2-yard Welker reception capped a 10-play drive that included one run, a 4-yard Brady scramble. In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, the Steelers moved the ball to the Patriots' 1-yard line, but failed to score on 3rd and goal and 4th and goal. The Patriots took the ball at their own 1-yard line and then began a 6-minute, 12 play drive, passing on every down. Using a no-huddle offense, Welker caught five straight passes to bring the Patriots to the Steelers' 36-yard line. Brady completed four more passes to set up first-and-goal from the Steelers' 10-yard line, but his next three passes were all incomplete, leading to a 28-yard Gostkowski field goal. The Steelers' next possession, a 13-play drive, ended in another failed fourth down conversion. After a Patriots punt, the Steelers ran the ball three times to give the Patriots their 13th win of the season; with the win, the Patriots also clinched a first-round playoff bye.

Coming off their win over the Steelers, the Patriots stayed at home for an AFC East rematch with the 3-10 Jets. The Patriots punted on their first drive of the game, giving the Jets the ball at their own 3-yard line. After a 1-yard Thomas Jones run, Jets quarterback Clemens threw an interception to Eugene Wilson, who returned it for a touchdown. Clemens was hit by Seymour and suffered an ankle injury on the play and did not return to the game. Wilson also became the Patriots' 21st player to score a touchdown on the season, tying an NFL record set by the Denver Broncos in 2000 and Los Angeles Rams in 1987. On their ensuing possession, the Jets gained 49 yards on an option play to running back Leon Washington, but then failed a fourth down conversion from the Patriots' 17-yard line. With 6:36 remaining in the first quarter, the Patriots began a drive that ended 17 plays later, in the 2nd quarter, on a 26-yard Gostkowski field goal. After a Jets punt, the Patriots moved the ball to their own 40-yard line when a Chris Hanson punt attempt was blocked by David Bowens and returned for a touchdown to cut the Patriots' lead to 10-7. On the Jets' next possession, Washington blocked a Graham punt attempt to give the Patriots the ball at the Jets' 3-yard line. A 1-yard Maroney touchdown run a play later gave the Patriots a 17-7 lead going into halftime. Gostkowski's extra point, his 67th of the season, broke Uwe von Schamann's single-season record of 66 with the Miami Dolphins in 1984.

A Jets punt gave the Patriots the ball at their own 9-yard line early in the third quarter. After two Maroney rushes for a total of 5 yards, a Brady pass on third down intended to Moss was intercepted by Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Jets moved into the red zone, but were driven back on a Thomas Jones run for a 1-yard loss and a delay of game penalty. On third down, Pennington completed a 10-yard pass to Baker, who then fumbled. Wilson recovered it for the Patriots, but a subsequent exchange of punts kept the third quarter scoreless. Another Hanson punt began the fourth quarter, giving the Jets the ball from their own 15-yard line. The Jets then embarked upon a 17-play drive where Pennington completed 10 passes on 12 attempts, none for more than 14 yards. The drive ended at the Patriots' 15-yard line, where the Jets cut the Patriots' lead to 17-10 on a 33-yard Mike Nugent field goal. The Patriots' ensuing drive began with two incompletions intended for Moss. On third down, Brady completed a 16-yard pass to Moss, and then a 46-yard pass to Moss to give the Patriots the ball at the Jets' 14-yard line. A 4-yard Maroney run, incompletion, and sack for a loss of 6 yards set up a 33-yard Gostkowski field goal. The Jets' next possession ended in a 35-yard missed Nugent field goal, and the Jets failed to score on their final drive to give the Patriots a 20-10 win. It gave the Patriots a 14–0 record, tying them with the 1972 Miami Dolphins for the best record to start a season. The win also clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the Patriots.

Playing their third consecutive home game, the Patriots tried to improve their record to 15-0 against the 1-13 Dolphins. For the first time of the season, 15-year wide receiver Troy Brown was active; he saw action early in the game, returning a Dolphins punt on their first drive 10 yards. The Patriots' second first down of their first possession was their 349th of the season, breaking their 1994 franchise record. Six plays later, Brady connected with Moss for an 11-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Patriots lead. After three punts, the Patriots' third drive of the game began on the final play of the first quarter, a 51-yard Maroney rush to give the Patriots the ball at the Dolphins' 28-yard line. After a successful third-down conversion, Brady threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Moss from a yard out to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead. The Dolphins' punted again on their next drive, and the Patriots opened up a 21-point lead with a 59-yard Maroney touchdown run while also setting the franchise record for net yards on a season, breaking the record of 5,965 set in 1978. After the Dolphins' fourth three-and-out of the game, a 38-yard Brandon Fields punt was muffed by Troy Brown and recovered by the Dolphins, who punted again three plays later. After moving the ball from their own 20-yard line to the Dolphins' 48-yard line, Brady completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Gaffney on the Patriots' 71st touchdown of the season, breaking the NFL record of 70 set by the 1984 Dolphins. The Dolphins drove the Patriots' 4-yard line with 21 seconds remaining in the half, but Tedy Bruschi batted down a Lemon pass on fourth down intended for Justin Peelle to preserve the Patriots' 28-0 lead heading into halftime.

On the opening drive of the second half, Welker caught his 101st pass of the season, tying the Patriots individual franchise record Brown set in 2001. On the next play, Brady was intercepted by Jason Allen the end zone on a pass intended for Moss. After a 22-yard Chatman rush began the Dolphins' ensuing drive, the Dolphins punted for the seventh time three plays later. On third down from their own 28-yard line, Brady threw his second interception of the game, this time picked off by linebacker Derrick Pope on a pass also intended for Moss. The Dolphins moved the ball on their next drive from their own 46-yard line to the Patriots' 1-yard line, where Lemon scrambled out of bounds short of the end zone on 4th and goal. The Dolphins challenged the ruling, which was upheld after review. The play gave the Patriots the ball from their own 1-yard line, where a three-and-out set-up a 64-yard Hanson punt from the end zone, his longest of the season. A 22-yard Lorenzo Booker rush on the Dolphins' next possession helped bring the Dolphins' to the Patriots 21-yard line, where Lemon connected with Greg Camarillo to cut the Patriots lead to 28-7. The Patriots committed their fourth turnover of the game when Brady was strip-sacked by Joey Porter to give the Dolphins the ball at their own 28-yard line. Four punts and a scoreless fourth quarter later, the Patriots picked up their 15th win of the season.

The Patriots' 15th win matched the win totals of the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1998 Minnesota Vikings, 1985 Chicago Bears, and 1984 San Francisco 49ers, while their 15-0 regular season start was a first in NFL history. The Patriots' 6-0 record against division opponents was a franchise first. The win also marked the Patriots' 18th straight regular season victory since their December 2006 loss to the Dolphins, tying the Patriots' 2003-2004 NFL record.

In their final regular season game, the 15-0 Patriots traveled to Giants Stadium, trying to win a record 16th game of the season. With the game scheduled to air on NFL Network, not available on some cable providers, the NFL arranged a three-way simulcast of the game with CBS and NBC, the first time an NFL game was broadcast on three networks, and the first national simulcast of any NFL game since Super Bowl I. The New York and Boston television markets both had a fourth channel, a local TV station in each respective market covering the game. In the week leading up to the game, the NFL Network aired a record 65.5 hours of game-specific coverage, including a six-hour pregame special which matched the longest NFL pregame show, including for a Super Bowl, on a single network.

On the second play of the game, the 10-5 Giants moved into the Patriots' red zone on a 52-yard completion from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress. Three plays later, The Giants took the lead on a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Jacobs. The Patriots responded with a pair of 14-yard completions to Moss and Welker; Welker's catch, his 102nd of the season, set a Patriots franchise record. The Patriots then converted a fourth down, and on their next fourth down, they made a 37-yard Gostkowski field goal. The Patriots would regain the ball at midfield following a Giants three-and-out. Completions to Stallworth and Welker put the Patriots in the Giants' red zone, where Brady completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Moss, taking a 10-7 lead on the first play of the second quarter. On the play, three records were affected: the Patriots 560th point surpassed the 1998 Minnesota Vikings’s record of 556 points in a season; the touchdown pass was Brady’s 49th, tying Peyton Manning’s 2004 record; and Moss recorded his 22nd touchdown catch of the season, tying Jerry Rice's 1987 record.

As a result of a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after the touchdown, the Patriots’ kicked off from the 15-yard line. Giants wide receiver Domenik Hixon received it from the Giants' 26-yard line and proceeded to run for a 74-yard touchdown return, retaking the lead for the Giants. Starting from their own 33-yard line, the Patriots moved into Giants territory on a 13-yard Maroney rush and 8-yard Faulk reception. Brady's 8 passing yards on the play gave him 4,557 for the season, breaking Drew Bledsoe's 1994 franchise record of 4,555 yards. After the drive stalled, Gostkowski’s recorded his second field goal for the game, making the score 14-13 in favor of the Giants. Following a Giants punt, the Patriots mounted a drive that resulted in Gostkowski’s third field goal of the night, from 37 yards, after a 3rd down end zone pass to Moss ricocheted off of linebacker Gerris Wilkinson’s helmet. With 1:54 remaining the half and the Giants trailing 16-14, Manning completed five of his first seven passes to move from the Giants' 15-yard line to the Patriots' 3-yard line. On second down with 18 seconds remaining, Manning threw his second touchdown pass of the game, this time to Boss, to take a 21-16 lead at the half.

After the Patriots began the second half with a three-and-out, the Giants increased their lead to 12 points on a 19-yard touchdown catch by Burress from Manning. Facing their largest deficit of the season, the Patriots drove to the Giants' 16-yard line with several Brady completions. A pass interference call against the Giants’ Wilkinson gave the Patriots the ball at the Giants' 1-yard line. After an illegal formation penalty moved the Patriots back 5 yards, a 6-yard Maroney touchdown run cut the Giants' lead to 28-23. Three consecutive drives resulted in punts, and the Patriots gained possession of the ball with less than 12 minutes remaining in the game.

On the second play of the drive, Brady attempted a deep pass to Moss, which was underthrown and dropped. On the next play, Brady attempted another deep pass to Moss, who caught this one for 65 yards, setting two more NFL records: Moss set the record for most touchdown receptions in a season (23) and Brady set one for touchdown passes (50). The touchdown, Brady’s last of the game, also brought Brady’s touchdown-to-interception margin to +42; Peyton Manning held the previous record, +39 during the 2003-2004 season. The Patriots converted the subsequent two-point attempt on a Maroney rush to take a 31-28 lead with 11:15 remaining. On the Giants' ensuing drive, Hobbs intercepted a Manning pass intended for Burress at the Patriots' 48-yard line. After driving to the red zone, a 5-yard catch by Moss marked his 1,493rd reception yard for the season, breaking Stanley Morgan’s 1986 franchise record of 1,491 yards. On the subsequent play, Maroney scored his second touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run to give the Patriots a 38-28 lead. With 4:36 left in the game, the Giants drove the ball to the Patriots' 4-yard line, and two plays later, Manning completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Burress, Manning’s fourth for the game. After the Patriots’ Vrabel recovered the Giants' onside kickoff, the Patriots kneeled three times to end the game.

The Patriots' joined the 14-0 1972 Miami Dolphins, 11-0 1942 Chicago Bears, and 13-0 1934 Chicago Bears as the fourth team to record an undefeated regular season, also setting a record for most regular season wins in a single season. The victory was the Patriots’ 19th consecutive regular season victory, breaking their own record set during the 2003-2004 season. Finally, the Patriots finished the season with a +315 point differential, breaking the 1942 Bears' record of +292.

The NFL Network had exclusive rights to broadcast the Patriots-Giants game, and in the weeks before the game, the network increasingly promoted the game via television commercials on other stations. It was clear the game was one of the most anticipated of the season, and could therefore serve as an important promotion for the NFL Network, which had tried unsuccessfully over the previous year to expand its viewership by becoming included as an "extended basic service" on the major American cable TV providers such as Comcast and Time Warner.

In the end, 15.7 million viewers watched the game on CBS, 13.2 million on NBC, 4.5 million on the NFL Network, and 1.2 million on New York, Boston and Manchester, New Hampshire television stations. The game was the most watched program on television since the 2007 Academy Awards and the most watched regular season NFL game in more than 12 years.

Playing in his first playoff game as a Patriot, Randy Moss, who led the NFL in receiving yards, had one reception. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady set the NFL record for completion percentage in a single game (92.9%) with 26 of 28 completions for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns, while running back Laurence Maroney added 162 total yards (122 on the ground). Overall, New England gained 401 yards and didn't punt the ball until 31 seconds remained in the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville took the opening kickoff and went 80 yards in 9 plays, featuring two receptions by Marcedes Lewis for 57 yards, on the way to David Garrard's 9-yard touchdown pass to Matt Jones. The Patriots then went on a 74-yard drive and scored with Tom Brady's 3-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson. On Jacksonville's next possession, New England lineman Ty Warren forced a fumble while sacking Garrard, and linebacker Mike Vrabel recovered it at the Jaguars 29-yard line. Several plays later, Maroney scored a 1-yard touchdown run to give New England a 14-7 lead.

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew muffed the ensuing kickoff and was downed at his own 5-yard line. The Jaguars then moved the ball 95 yards in 11 plays without even facing a third down and scoring with Garrard's 6-yard touchdown pass to Ernest Wilford. For the third time in a row, New England drove deep into Jacksonville territory. But this time the drive stalled at the 17-yard line and ended with no points when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 35-yard field goal with 53 seconds left in the first half.

On the opening drive of the second half, Brady completed 7 of 8 passes for 54 yards on an 82-yard drive. On the last play, he took a snap in shotgun formation with Kevin Faulk to his right, Brady jumped in the air with his arms raised to make it look like a play used by the Patriots before where Faulk took the direct snap. The Jaguars defense followed Faulk, leaving Wes Welker open in the end zone, and Brady threw him the ball for a touchdown to give the Patriots a 21-14 lead. Jacksonville responded with a drive to the New England 21-yard line, but receiver Dennis Northcutt dropped a pass on third down, forcing them to settle for a Josh Scobee 39-yard field goal, cutting the score to 21-17. On New England's next drive, Jacksonville's Derek Landri was assessed a roughing-the-passer penalty, turning Welker's 6-yard catch into a 21-yard gain. Maroney gained 40 yards with his next two carries, and following two more Welker receptions, Brady threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Watson giving New England a 28-17 lead.

An unnecessary roughness penalty and a 25-yard reception by Reggie Williams on the Jacksonville's next drive set up a 25-yard field goal by Scobee, which cut the Jaguars deficit to one touchdown, 28-20. On the second play after the kickoff, Brady completed a 52-yard strike to Donté Stallworth, setting up Gostkowski's second field goal attempt to put New England back up by two scores, 31-20.

Then, with 3:46 left in the game, Pats safety Rodney Harrison, intercepted a pass from Garrard at the Patriots' 31-yard line, ending any hope of a Jacksonville comeback. Harrison's interception was his 7th career postseason pick, a Patriots record. This was also his fourth consecutive postseason game with an interception, tying an NFL record held by Aeneas Williams.

With this win, the Patriots advanced to the AFC title game for the second year in a row and extended their perfect record to 17-0, matching the final record of the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Despite 3 interceptions from Tom Brady, the Patriots still managed to defeat San Diego, holding them to four field goals while Laurence Maroney rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown for the second game in a row. With this win, the Patriots became the first NFL team to start with a 18-0 record and advanced to their fourth Super Bowl appearance in seven years.

With just over 5 minutes left in the first quarter, Chargers defensive back Quentin Jammer intercepted a pass from Brady on the Patriots 40-yard line, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding. New England responded by driving 65 yards and scoring with a 1-yard Maroney touchdown run to take a 7-3 lead.

Kaeding kicked a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter to cut the score to 7-6, but after a punt, Patriots defensive back Asante Samuel intercepted a pass from Philip Rivers and returned it 10 yards to the Chargers 24-yard line. One play later, Brady's 12-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney increased their lead to 14-6. Later on, a 26-yard run by Darren Sproles moved the ball to the New England 34-yard line. But once again, the Patriots defense kept San Diego out of the end zone, stopping them on 3rd and 1 and forcing them to settle for another Kaeding field goal, making the score 14-9 at halftime.

On the opening drive of the second half, Brady threw his second interception of the game, this one to Drayton Florence at the New England 49-yard line. San Diego then moved the ball to the 4-yard line, but on 3rd and 1, linebacker Junior Seau tackled Michael Turner for a 2-yard loss and the Chargers had to settle for Kaeding's fourth field goal. New England responded with a drive to the San Diego 2-yard line, with Maroney gaining 39 yards on four running plays, but Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie ended the drive by intercepting Brady in the end zone.

On their first drive of the fourth quarter, New England moved the ball 67 yards and scored with Brady's 6-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, making the score 21-12. Following a Chargers punt, the Patriots ended the game with a 15-play drive that took the final 9:13 off the game clock.

After scoring a combined 73 points in their regular season meeting, the teams scored a mere 10 points by the end of the third quarter, with the Patriots leading 7 to 3. The Patriots' record-setting offense gave up five sacks and one lost fumble, while the Giants' offense managed only five first downs in the second and third quarters. Yet in the fourth quarter, quarterback Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes, including the winning drive that culminated with a 17-yard touchdown to Plaxico Burress with 39 seconds remaining. The game marked the first time that a previously undefeated team had lost in a National Football League championship game since the 1942 Chicago Bears as the Patriots fell to 18-1 on the season.

After calling tails to win the coin toss, the Giants started the game with the longest opening drive in Super Bowl history, a 16-play, 77-yard march that consumed 9 minutes, 59 seconds and featured four third-down conversions, the most ever on a Super Bowl opening drive. But New England halted the drive at their own 14-yard line, forcing the Giants to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Lawrence Tynes that gave New York a 3–0 lead.

New England then responded with its own scoring drive as Laurence Maroney returned the kickoff 43 yards to the Patriots' 44-yard line, after which he rushed twice for 15 yards. Quarterback Tom Brady then completed three passes for 23 yards, but after two incomplete passes, New England was faced with 3rd-and-10 on the Giants' 17. However, on that play, New York linebacker Antonio Pierce committed pass interference by striking the helmet of tight end Benjamin Watson in the end zone, giving New England 1st-and-goal at the 1. This set up a Maroney 1-yard touchdown run two plays later, the first play of the second quarter, for a 7–3 lead. The two teams each only had one drive in the entire opening quarter, a Super Bowl record. On the Giants first drive of the second quarter, on 3rd-and-7, receiver Amani Toomer caught in a deep pass from Manning along the left sideline while dragging his feet in-bounds for a 38-yard gain, moving the ball to the Patriots' 19. But three plays later, Manning threw a pass that bounced out of the arms of rookie receiver Steve Smith and into the hands of cornerback Ellis Hobbs for an interception.

The Patriots' ensuing drive resulted in a three-and-out as on 3rd-and-1 James Butler and Michael Strahan tackled Maroney for a two-yard loss and New England was forced to punt.

Then on the Giants' next drive, rookie running back Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled a Manning hand-off and it looked as though Patriots' linebacker Pierre Woods had recovered the ball at the Giants' 30. But after the officials picked through the pile, it was determined that Bradshaw had made the recovery. The Giants maintained possession and wound up punting. New England's next drive ended with consecutive Giants' sacks, the first by linebacker Kawika Mitchell, the second by tackle Justin Tuck.

On the Giants' following drive, New York moved the ball to the New England 25, but linebacker Adalius Thomas sacked Manning and forced a fumble. Smith recovered the ball, however Bradshaw was penalized for illegally batting the ball forward before the recovery. The penalty pushed the Giants out of field goal range, and following an incompletion, they were forced to punt.

After the punt, two 18-yard receptions by Moss and Donté Stallworth moved the ball to the Giants' 44. But with 22 seconds left before halftime, Brady fumbled while being sacked by Tuck and defensive end Osi Umenyiora recovered the ball. The game then went to halftime with the Patriots leading 7-3.

On the first drive of the second half, New England had a 4th-and-2 and chose to punt. However, after the play had been run, Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick challenged that New York had too many players on the field and replay confirmed that was the case as Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn was unable to get to the sidelines as the ball was being snapped. Therefore, referee Mike Carey reversed the play, and the Giants were penalized 5 yards for having too many players on the field, giving the Patriots a first down. The Patriots then drove to the Giants' 25, but Strahan sacked Brady for a 6-yard loss on third down. Then on 4th-and-13, with the ball on the Giants' 31, Belichick decided against a long field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski and tried to pick up a first down instead. Brady's pass to Jabar Gaffney was incomplete as it went out of the back of the end zone and the Giants took over on downs.

On the Giants' first drive of the fourth quarter, Manning completed a 45-yard pass to rookie tight end Kevin Boss. Following three runs by Bradshaw and a 17-yard reception by Smith on third down, Manning finished the 7-play, 80-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to David Tyree, giving New York a 10-7 lead with 11:10 left in the game.

After consecutive three-and-outs by the Patriots and Giants, New England got the ball at its own 20 with 7:54 to play. Brady then completed a 5-yard pass to Wes Welker and a 10-yard pass to Moss, followed by a 9-yard run by Maroney to give the Patriots a first down at their own 44. Brady followed with a 13-yard pass to Welker, a four-yard completion to Kevin Faulk, and then a 10-yard pass to Welker for a first down at the Giants' 29. After that, Brady found Moss for an 11-yard completion and Faulk for a 12-yard completion and New England now had 1st-and-goal from the Giants' 6. Following two incomplete passes, New York cornerback Corey Webster slipped while backing into coverage, leaving Moss wide open in the end zone where Brady found him for a touchdown to give New England a 14-10 lead with 2:42 left in the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Raymond Ventrone tackled Domenik Hixon after a 14-yard return, giving New York the ball on their own 17 with 2:39 left and three timeouts remaining. Following two receptions by Toomer for 20 yards, Brandon Jacobs kept the drive going with a 2-yard run on 4th-and-1. On the next series of downs, Patriots' cornerback Asante Samuel nearly caught a possibly game-ending interception on a ball intended for Tyree, but the ball slipped through his fingertips. On the next play, the Giants faced 3rd-and-5 from their own 44 with 1:15 remaining. Manning spun out of the grasp of lineman Jarvis Green, righted himself, and threw a 32-yard completion to Tyree, who made a leaping catch while covered by Rodney Harrison and maintained possession by pinning the ball against his helmet with one hand as he fell to the ground. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-11, Manning found a wide-open Smith for a 12-yard gain to the New England 13. On the next play, the Giants sent four receivers into the pattern while the Patriots sent six pass rushers after Manning and flipped four pass defenders to the right side of the field - resulting in Patriots' cornerback Ellis Hobbs being isolated on the left side to cover Giants' wide receiver Plaxico Burress one-on-one. Hobbs bit on a fake slant inside (a "slant-and-go" or "SluGo" route) and Manning lofted a pass to the end zone where Burress caught the ball for a touchdown to complete the 12-play, 83-yard drive and give Giants a 17–14 lead with 35 seconds left.

New England began its next possession on its own 26 with 29 seconds remaining and three timeouts, but the Giants' defense didn't allow a single yard—forcing an incompletion on first down, a 10-yard sack by rookie lineman Jay Alford on second down, and then two deep incomplete attempts to Moss, the first that was broken up by Webster, and the second of which, on 4th-and-20, was broken up by Giants' safety Gibril Wilson and caused a turnover on downs with one second remaining. After the incompletion, the game clock briefly read zero (one second was re-added), and coaches, players, reporters, and fans crowded the field as if the game had ended. Belichick hugged Giants' Coach Tom Coughlin at midfield, then an official explained to both coaches that the final second had to be run. The Patriots' defense took the field, and Belichick left for the locker room, not staying for the final play. This early departure was later criticized by some sportswriters.

The officials cleared the field, and restarted the clock. Manning took a knee, allowing the clock to expire, and consequently sealed the historic Super Bowl XLII championship for the Giants, while also ending the Patriots' prospects of a 19–0 season.

Eight Patriots were elected to the 2008 Pro Bowl, the most since 1985. Quarterback Tom Brady, offensive tackle Matt Light, guard Logan Mankins, wide receiver Randy Moss, cornerback Asante Samuel, linebacker Mike Vrabel, and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork were all named as starters, while center Dan Koppen was named as a reserve.

Of those eight, five—Brady, Light, Moss, Samuel, and Vrabel—were selected to the NFL's All-Pro first team with Moss being a unanimous selection, and Brady receiving all but one-half vote (the other half was given to Brett Favre). Wilfork, Mankins, Koppen, and wide receiver Wes Welker were named to the second team.

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2003 New England Patriots season


The 2003 New England Patriots season was the 34th season for the team in the National Football League and 44th season overall. The Patriots finished the regular season 14–2, improving on their 9–7 record of 2002, when the team finished in second place in the AFC East and missed the playoffs. After starting the season with a 2–2 record, the team did not lose another game. Due to multiple injuries, the Patriots started 42 different players during the season, an NFL record for a division winner until the Patriots started 45 different players in 2005. With the first seed in the AFC playoffs, the Patriots advanced to and won Super Bowl XXXVIII, their second Super Bowl win in three seasons.

Following the release of Lawyer Milloy the Patriots met the Bills in Buffalo, and Milloy was there after signing a deal with the Bills. Drew Bledsoe threw for one touchdown while Tom Brady was picked off four times; in the second quarter defensive lineman Sam Adams ran an interception for a 37-yard touchdown. Brady was also sacked twice, once by Milloy, in a 31–0 Bills rout.

The Patriots began a 21-game winning streak in hosting the Titans. Nursing a shoulder injury, Brady threw for a comparatively modest 219 yards and a 58-yard score to Troy Brown. The game lead changed seven times as Steve McNair threw for 360 yards and rushed in two touchdowns while Patriots running backs Antowain Smith and Mike Cloud rushed for 153 yards and three scores and rookie Bethel Johnson ran back a fourth-quarter kick 71 yards, setting up Cloud's second touchdown. The decisive score came when McNair was picked off by a hobbling Ty Law for a 65-yard touchdown and a 38–30 Patriots triumph.

Battling the Dolphins for the division lead, the Patriots erased a 13–6 gap with a Brady touchdown to David Givens in the third. The Dolphins marched down field late in the fourth; during this drive a Ricky Williams first down run was protested by the Patriots who felt Williams' knee touched the dirt infield at Pro Player Stadium, but the challenge was denied. The Dolphins attempted a 35-yard field goal at the two-minute warning, but the kick was blocked by Richard Seymour. The Dolphins smothered the Patriots' final drive attempt (the decisive play came when former Patriot Terrell Buckley stopped Kevin Faulk for a four-yard loss) and the game went to overtime. Controversy ensued on the coin flip for overtime; referee Gerald Austin used a silver dollar; the coin came up Lady Columbia (which is "heads" on a silver dollar) but Patriot captains Brady and Seymour protested that it came up "tails." The Dolphins drove downfield but a 35-yard field goal try missed; after forcing a Patriots punt Jay Fiedler was hit by Tedy Bruschi and lobbed a 60-yard pass picked off at the Patriots 18-yard line by Tyrone Poole. Brady then ended the game with an 82-yard touchdown strike to Troy Brown and a 19–13 final.

The Patriots made their only appearance on Monday Night Football of the season in this matchup against the Broncos, who had beaten the Patriots in 13 of the two teams' 15 previous meetings. The Broncos held a 24–23 lead in the fourth with backup quarterback Danny Kanell starting and despite injuries to Ed McCaffrey and PK Jason Elam. Backed up to their one-yard line, the Patriots were forced to punt, but with so little room to work, they snapped the ball through the endzone for a deliberate safety. Thus getting a free kick, the Patriots pinned the Broncos near their own goalline and forced a Denver punt. In the final two minutes, the Patriots drove downfield and Tom Brady fired an 18-yard touchdown strike to David Givens. Kanell threw a long pass that was intercepted by rookie Asante Samuel with seven seconds left, securing a 30–26 Patriots win.

Facing their future defensive coach Dom Capers, the Patriots made their first trip to Houston since 1988 and a 31–6 loss to the Oilers at the Astrodome. The Patriots led 10–3 at the half, but Adam Vinatieri missed a 38-yard field goal try at the end of the half, his first miss inside a dome in his career. Tony Banks erupted to three second-half touchdowns as the Texans' defense bullied the Patriots into two fumbles and a Tom Brady INT. Trailing 20–13 in the final minutes of regulation the Patriots drove down field; at the Texan' 4-yard line Brady was chased out of the pocket and threw a pass caught in the endzone in mid-air by Daniel Graham. In overtime a 37-yard Vinatieri field goal try was blocked, but the Texans were forced to punt. Late in overtime the Texans' Marlon McCree picked off Brady at his 5-yard line but a holding penalty nullified the turnover, and Vinatieri kicked the game-winner with 41 seconds left in overtime and a 23–20 Patriots win.

The regular season finale saw the Patriots hosting the same Bills that blanked them 31–0 in September. Revenge drove the Patriots as Tom Brady threw four touchdowns, all in the first half, and despite an ugly hit in the legs by Lawyer Milloy in the second quarter. Adam Vinatieri missed a third-quarter field goal but connected from 24 yards out in the fourth. Drew Bledsoe never got untracked and was pulled in the fourth quarter for Travis Brown, who got to the Patriots redzone at the end of the fourth quarter but was intercepted in the endzone by Larry Izzo. The Patriots' 31–0 win bookended the season.

In one of the coldest games in NFL history, with temperatures reaching 4 °F (−16 °C), the Patriots survived both the cold and NFL co-MVP Steve McNair, relying on yet another game-winning field goal from kicker Adam Vinatieri late in the fourth quarter and a key defensive stand.

Tom Brady stormed out the gates with a 19-yard completion to Kevin Faulk with his first pass attempt. A few plays later, the Titans defensive scheme confused him and caused him to burn a timeout, but it was well spent. On the next play, he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Bethel Johnson. McNair struck back with a 15-yard completion to Derrick Mason and a 24-yard pass to running back Eddie George, moving the ball to the Patriots 22-yard line. Roman Phifer almost ended the drive by intercepting a pass from McNair, but lineman Richard Seymour was penalized for roughing the passer and the Titans got the ball back with a first down on the New England 9-yard line. Two plays later, Chris Brown scored a 5-yard touchdown run to tie the game.

After the ensuing kickoff, Brady completed two passes to Dedric Ward for 30 yards on a 38-yard drive to the Titans 26-yard line. The drive ended with no points when Vinatieri missed a 44-yard field goal attempt, but on the next play, safety Rodney Harrison intercepted a pass from McNair and returned it 7 yards to the Patriots 43-yard line. Brady subsequently completed four of six passes for 49 yards and rushed for 3 on the way to a 1-yard touchdown run by Antowain Smith to retake the lead less than two minutes into the second quarter. Later in the period, the Titans drove 51 yards in nine plays to the Patriots 13-yard line, featuring a 29-yard completion from McNair to Mason. But New England's defense kept them out the end zone and blocked Gary Anderson's 31-yard field goal attempt.

Early in the third quarter, McNair led the Titans on a 70-yard scoring drive, completing 5 consecutive passes for 59 yards and capping it off with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Mason. The rest of the third quarter was scoreless, but midway through the fourth quarter, Troy Brown's 10-yard punt return gave the Patriots great field position at the Titans 40-yard line. The Patriots gained only 13 yards on their ensuing possession, but it was enough for Vinatieri to make a 46-yard field goal, giving New England a 17–14 lead with 4:02 left in regulation.

The Titans took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the Patriots 33-yard line. But two penalties, a 10-yard intentional grounding call and a holding penalty, pushed them back 20 yards. McNair threw an 11-yard completion on the next play, but after that, Drew Bennett dropped a potential first down catch on fourth down and 12, and the Titans turned the ball over on downs with 1:38 left.

New England's defense dominated the Colts, only allowing 14 points, intercepting 4 passes from Peyton Manning (3 of them by Ty Law), recording 4 sacks (three by Jarvis Green), and forcing a safety. Although New England's offense fared no better and only scored one touchdown, Vinatieri's 5 field goals made up for the difference as the Patriots won, 24-14, to advance to their second Super Bowl appearance in 3 seasons.

The Patriots took the opening kickoff and scored on their first drive, advancing the ball 65 yards in 13 plays. Tom Brady completed four passes to receiver David Givens for 40 yards on the drive, including a 7-yard touchdown pass, and converted a fourth down on his own 44-yard yard with a 2-yard run. Manning seemed ready to counter, driving the Colts 68 yards to the New England 5-yard line, but on third down and 3, his pass was intercepted by Rodney Harrison in the end zone. After the interception, the Patriots drove 67 yards to the Colts 13-yard line where Vinatieri's 31-yard field goal increased their lead to 10–0.

The Patriots defense continued to dominate the Colts in the second quarter. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Law intercepted a pass from Manning and returned it 6 yards to the 41-yard line. The Patriots then drove 52 yards and increased their lead to 13–0 with a second Vinatieri field goal. Brady completed three passes for 42 yards on the drive, including a 17-yarder to Givens and a 16-yard completion to Troy Brown on fourth down and 8. For the first time in the entire postseason, the Colts were forced to punt on their next drive. Apparently, they were very out of practice, because the snap from center Justin Snow sailed over the head of punter Hunter Smith. The ball went into the end zone, and Smith was forced to knock it out of bounds for a safety, making the score 15–0.

The Colts had a great opportunity to score when rookie defense back David Macklin recovered a fumble from receiver Bethel Johnson three plays after the free kick, giving Indianapolis a first down on the Patriots 41-yard line. But five plays later, Harrison forced a fumble while tackling Marvin Harrison, and cornerback Tyrone Poole recovered it.

Trailing 15-0 at halftime, the Colts finally managed to build some momentum in the third quarter. First, Dominic Rhodes gave them great field position by returning the second half kickoff 35 yards to the 49-yard line. Then running back Edgerrin James spearheaded a 52-yard scoring drive, carrying the ball on 7 of 12 plays for 32 yards and capping it off with a 2-yard touchdown run to cut the score to 15–7. But the Patriots took over the rest of the period. After Patrick Pass returned the ensuing kickoff 21 yards to the 43-yard line, Brady completed passes to Larry Centers for 28 yards, Brown for 17, and Kevin Faulk for 8, setting up Vinatieri's third field goal to increase their lead to 18–7. Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Indianapolis was forced to punt. Antowain Smith then rushed four times for 53 yards on New England's next possession, advancing the ball to the Colts 3-yard line where Vinatieri kicked his fourth field goal. Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Law recorded his second interception from Manning on the Colts 31-yard line. But this time, the Patriots failed to score because defensive back Walt Harris picked off a pass from Brady in the end zone.

After the turnover, the Colts drove 57 yards to the New England 31-yard line. But then Manning threw his third interception to Law with 8:17 left in the fourth quarter. After forcing a punt, Manning led the Colts back, completing 8 of 9 passes for 64 yards and finishing the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Pollard with 2:22 left in regulation. The Colts failed to recover their ensuing onside kick attempt, but forced a punt with 2:01 left. However, the Patriots defense limited Manning to four consecutive incompletions, causing the Colts to turn the ball over on downs. Then after making Indianapolis use up all of their timeouts, Vinateir's 5th field goal increased the Patriots lead to 24-14. The Colts attempted one last desperation drive, but ended up turning the ball over on downs again with 7 seconds left in the game.

Brady completed 22 of 37 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown, with 1 interception. Smith rushed for 100 yards. Pollard caught 6 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. Rhodes returned five kickoffs for 121 yards, rushed for 16, and caught 2 passes for 17.

Colts players would later publicly complain that the game officials did not properly call illegal contact, pass interference, and defensive holding penalties on the Patriots' defensive backs. This, and similar complaints made by others, would prompt the NFL during the 2004 offseason to instruct all of the league's officials to strictly enforce these types of fouls.

Most of the first half was a defensive struggle, with neither team able to score until late in the second quarter, despite several early scoring opportunities for New England. After Carolina was forced to punt on their opening drive, Patriots receiver Troy Brown gave his team great field position with a 28-yard return to the Panthers 47-yard line. The Patriots subsequently marched to the 9-yard line, but Carolina kept them out of the end zone and Adam Vinatieri missed a 31-yard field goal attempt. The Patriots forced Carolina to punt after 3 plays and again got the ball with great field position, receiving Todd Sauerbrun's 40-yard punt at the Panthers 49-yard line. New England then drove to the 31-yard line, but on third down, linebacker Will Witherspoon tackled Brown for a 10-yard loss on an end-around play, pushing the Patriots out of field goal range. Later on, New England drove 57 yards to the Panthers 18-yard line with 6 minutes left in the second period, but once again they failed to score as Carolina kept them out of the end zone and Vinatieri's 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Panthers defender Shane Burton.

Meanwhile, the Carolina offense was stymied by the New England defense, with quarterback Jake Delhomme completing just one out of his first nine passes, sacked three times, and fumbling once. That fumble occurred 3 plays after Vinatieri's second missed field goal; Delhomme lost the ball while being sacked by linebacker Mike Vrabel, and Patriots defensive tackle Richard Seymour recovered the ball at the Panthers 20-yard line. Two plays later, New England faced a third down and 7, but quarterback Tom Brady scrambled 12 yards to the 5-yard line for a first down. Then wide receiver Deion Branch caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady on the next play.

Branch's touchdown came after 26:55 had elapsed in the game, setting the record for the longest amount of time a Super Bowl remained scoreless. The play also suddenly set off a scoring explosion from both teams for the remainder of the first half.

The Panthers stormed down the field on their ensuing possession, driving 95 yards in 8 plays, and tying the game on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Delhomme to wide receiver Steve Smith with just 1:07 left in the half.

The Patriots immediately countered with a 6-play, 78-yard scoring drive of their own. Starting from their own 22-yard line, Brady completed a 12-yard pass to wide receiver David Givens. Then after throwing an incompletion, Brady completed a long pass to Branch, who caught it at the Panthers 24-yard line in stride before being tackled at the 14-yard line for a 52-yard gain. Three plays later, Givens caught a 5-yard touchdown from Brady to give New England a 14–7 lead with only 18 seconds left in the half. The Patriots decided to squib kick the ensuing kickoff to prevent a long return, but their plan backfired as Carolina tight end Kris Mangum picked up the ball at his own 35-yard line and returned it 12 yards to the 47. Panthers running back Stephen Davis then ran for 21 yards on the next play to set up kicker John Kasay's 50-yard field goal as time expired in the half, cutting Carolina's deficit to 14–10.

The third quarter was scoreless as each team exchanged punts twice. But with 3:57 left in the period, the Patriots put together a 71-yard, 8-play scoring drive, featuring tight end Daniel Graham's 33-yard reception to advance to the Carolina 9-yard line. Running back Antowain Smith then capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on the second play on the final period to increase their lead, 21–10. This was the start of another scoring explosion, one that became one of the biggest explosions in Super Bowl history, with both teams scoring a combined 37 points in the last 15 minutes, the most ever in a single quarter of a Super Bowl.

Delhomme started out Carolina's ensuing drive with a 13-yard completion to wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. After committing a false start penalty on the next play, Delhomme completed a pair of passes to Smith for gains of 18 and 22 yards. Running back DeShaun Foster then scored on a 33-yard touchdown run, cutting the Panthers' deficit to 21–16 after Delhomme's 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete. The Patriots responded on their ensuing possession by driving all the way to Carolina's 9-yard line, but the drive ended when Panthers defensive back Reggie Howard intercepted a third down pass from Brady in the end zone. Then on 3rd down from his own 15-yard line, Delhomme threw for the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history, an 85-yard touchdown completion to Muhammad. Carolina's 2-point conversion attempt failed again, but they took their first lead of the game, 22–21, with 6:53 remaining.

However, New England retook the lead on their next drive, advancing 68 yards with the aid of a pair of completions from Brady to Givens for gains of 18 and 25 yards. Once again the Patriots were faced with third down and goal, but this time they scored with Brady's 1-yard pass to Vrabel, who had lined up in an eligible tight end position. Then on a two-point conversion attempt, running back Kevin Faulk took a direct snap and ran into the end zone to make the score 29-22. Despite amassing over 1,000 combined yards, Kevin Faulk's two-point conversion constituted the only points he scored all season.

The Panthers countered on their next possession. Foster started the drive with a 9-yard run and a 7-yard reception. After that, Delhomme completed a 19-yard pass to Muhammad, followed by a 31-yard completion to receiver Ricky Proehl. Then Proehl, who caught the fourth quarter game tying touchdown pass against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI 2 years earlier for the St. Louis Rams, finished the drive with a 12-yard touchdown reception. Kasay's ensuing extra point tied the game, 29–29, with 1:08 to play in regulation and it appeared that the game would be the first Super Bowl ever to go into overtime.

However, Kasay kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving New England the ball on their own 40-yard line. Brady calmly led the Patriots offense down the field with a 13-yard pass to Brown on second down. An offensive pass interference penalty on Brown pushed New England back to their own 43-yard line, but another 13-yard reception to Brown and a 4-yard pass to Graham brought up a critical 3rd down and 3 from the Carolina 40-yard line. The Panthers defense could not prevent the Patriots from gaining the first down, as Brady completed a clutch 17-yard pass to Branch. On the next play, Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal to give New England the lead, 32–29, with four seconds left in the game. Carolina failed on their last chance, as Rod Smart went nowhere on the resulting kickoff, and the Patriots had won their second Super Bowl in three years. This was the fourth Super Bowl to be decided on a field goal in the final seconds. Super Bowl V was won on a last second kick by Jim O'Brien, Super Bowl XXV as Scott Norwood missed his field goal chance, and Super Bowl XXXVI as Adam Vinatieri made his.

Three Patriots were elected to the 2004 Pro Bowl. Cornerback Ty Law and defensive lineman Richard Seymour were both named as starters, while linebacker Willie McGinest was named as a reserve, replacing the injured Peter Boulware.

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1994 New England Patriots season

Throwback uniform worn for NFL 75th anniversary in game versus Packers.

The New England Patriots finished the National Football League's 1994 season with a record of ten wins and six losses, and finished tied for first in the AFC East division.

1994 marked the debut of Robert Kraft as team owner. A long-time season-ticket holder, Kraft has steadily built up a business empire to where in the late 1980s he was able to purchase the land around Sullivan Stadium and then the stadium itself - which he renamed "Foxboro Stadium" - and thus got control of the lease the team held with the stadium. This gave him a level of control over the team that new owners Victor Kiam and James Orthwein underestimated, to where in January of 1994 they sold the team to Kraft, for nearly $200 million.

The selling of the team to Kraft led to an explosion of ticket sales, to where all home games were sold out well before the season began, a string of home sellouts that continued into 2008.

The team responded to new ownership by rallying from a 3-6 record to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs for the first time since 1986 and only the seventh time in the team's 35-season history.

The debut game of Robert Kraft as team owner. Drew Bledsoe and Dan Marino put on a passing clinic, combining for 894 passing yards and nine touchdowns (two caught by Ben Coates of the Patriots and three snared by Irving Fryar of the Dolphins). The game was Marino's first game back from a ruptured achillies. The Dolphins won 39-35 after Coates fumbled away the ball in the final minute.

The debut home game under Kraft's ownership, the Patriots rallied from down 35-21 in the fourth quarter as a Michael Timpson touchdown catch and Marion Butts rushing score tied the game, but Steve Christie's 32-yard field goal won the game for Buffalo 38-35.

David Klingler threw two touchdowns to Carl Pickens and Steve Broussard ran in two scores for the Bengals, but Klingler was sacked seven times and the Patriots behind Drew Bledsoe's 365 passing yards (233 of them to Michael Timpson with a 34-yard touchdown catch and Ben Coates) and four Matt Bahr field goals overcame the Bengals for a 31-28 win, the Patriots' first under Robert Kraft ownership.

The Packers stormed to a 10-0 halftime lead but two Vincent Brisby touchdown catches and a last-minute Matt Bahr field goal rallied the Patriots to a 17-16 win.

Warren Moon led the Vikings to a 20-3 halftime lead, but in the third Bill Parcells abandoned his gameplan and went to a no-huddle attack. Drew Bledsoe threw touchdowns to Ray Crittenden and Leroy Thompson, the Patriots defense shut down the Vikings, and Matt Bahr kicked the tying field goal with 14 seconds left in regulation. On the coin toss for overtime Patriots captain Vincent Brown protested the Vikings team captain's call because he called after the coin landed on the ground. The Patriots won the re-toss and Bledsoe led the Patriots down field and lobbed a 32-yard touchdown toss to Kevin Turner. The 26-20 win ended a four-game losing streak. Moon threw for 349 yards while Bledsoe (426 yards) set NFL single-game records with 70 throws and 45 completions.

One week after the epic "Fake Spike" meltdown against the Miami Dolphins the Jets' season-ending losing streak continued while the Patriots ended a three-game losing streak to the Jets with a 24-13 win in Foxboro Stadium. The Jets led 13-10 in the third quarter but the Patriots pinned Boomer Esiason at his own goalline, then Ricky Reynolds ran back an interception for a touchdown. A Leroy Thompson touchdown in the fourth quarter finished off the Jets as Esiason ended with just 16 completions for 40 throws. The loss was Jets coach Pete Carroll's last trip to Foxboro until he became Patriots head coach in 1997.

The Patriots fell behind 17-3 in the second quarter, then scored 38 unanswered points for a 41-17 rout. The win knocked the Bills out of the playoffs after four straight Super Bowl trips.

Needing a win to make the playoffs, the Patriots overtook the Bears 13-3, for their seventh consecutive win and ending their regular season at 10-6. It was their first playoff appearance since 1986 and first double-digit win season since that year as well.

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Source : Wikipedia