The AH situation has seemingly put us all in a somber, negative mood. Let's see if we can change that. Instead of talking about the Pats' most devastating losses, let's talk about their greatest victories! Here's my top 10:
1.) SB 36: Patriots 20, Rams 17: The so-called "Greatest Show on Turf" got the turf slammed down their throats by a physical, opportunistic Patriots' defense. The Patriots, 14 point underdogs, stunned the football world, as QB Tom Brady was introduced to the Nation.
The Rams had fought back from a 14 point deficit to tie New England, 17-17, with 1:21 remaining. The Patriots took over at their own 17 yard line. I can remember sports commentator John Madden saying in a somber voice that, with no time outs and such relatively poor field position, that the Patriots should run out the clock, and play for OT.
But, Tom Brady said nay! Following the advice of Drew Bledsoe to "just sling it", he led the Pats into Adam Vinatieri FG range. He initially picked up a first down with an innocent 8-yard dump to J.R. Redmond for a first down. He then hooked up with Redmond again two plays later for an 11-yard reception and another first down at the New England 41. Time was now the Patriots' biggest opponent. Brady threw incomplete, then connected with Troy Brown over the middle, and Brown managed to turn up field and get out of bounds at the St. Louis 36 for a 23-yard gain. Now, with only 21 seconds left, Brady threw a short pass in the right flat to tight end Jermaine Wiggins, who fought his way to the Rams' 30-yard line. Brady calmly spiked the ball to stop the clock with seven seconds to play.
"When Adam hit it, it was so true," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "It was so high and so far"...And...so damned GOOD!!! http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=220203017
2.) 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game: Patriots 16, Raiders 13, OT: This is arguably the game that started the ball rolling for our great football franchise. In a blizzard, in the final game at the old Sullivan Stadium, a/k/a Shaeffer Stadium, the Pats settled a 25 year old score, by coming from behind to nip the Raiders in OT.
Known as the "Tuck Rule" game, the Pats got a second life, due to this obscure and little known rule...as what appeared to be an obvious Tom Brady fumble and game clinching Raider recovery, was instead ruled an incomplete pass. Other than the tuck call, the key play in the game was a miraculous, 45 yard Adam Vinatieri FG, that he knifed through the wind and the blinding snow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BchXvzs8s0
The 25 year score?? When referee Ben "#@%&###@" Dreith threw a very, very late, and highly controversial flag on Sugar Bear Ray Hamilton for roughing the passer, in the closing seconds of the 1976 Pats @ Raiders Divisional playoff game, to rob the Patriots of an upset win.
3.) 2001 AFC Championship Game: Patriots 24, Steelers 17: Coming off an inspiring come from behind win over the Raiders in a blizzard, the Pats went into Pittsburgh, where the Goths were listed as a 9.5 point favorite. So confident were the Steelers, that they had already packed their bags for a SB trip to New Orleans, to face "the Greatest Show on Turf" Rams. But, for the Goths, it was not to be. Despite losing om Brady to a second quarter ankle injury, the Patriots dominated the game...which was not as close as the final score indicates: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/234348-2001-afc-championship-game-the-beginning-of-new-england-dominance
The key plays of the game were a brilliant 50 yard Troy Brown punt return, right down the middle of the field, for a TD...and a blocked Steeler FG, which was returned for a TD.
4.) 2003 AFC Championship Game: Patriots 24, Colts 14: The Patriots picked off Peyton Manning four (4) times, including three by CB Ty Law, in trouncing the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were favored to beat the Patriots...despite the fact that this game was being played out in the cold, in Foxborough. The Pats would go on to defeat the Carolina Panthers in SB 38, while the Colts whined for rule changes, following this manhandling by the Pats: http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/recap?gid=20040118017
5.) 2004 AFC Championship Game: Patriots 41, Steelers 27: Avenging a humiliating Haloween night loss, on national TV, to the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the regular season, the Patriots annihilated the Goths in their own frosty cold backyard. Adam Vinatieri set the pace early with a 48 yard FG. But, the key offensive play of the game was a 60 yard laser from Brady to Deion Branch...which was one of the greatest passes Tom Brady has ever thrown, throughout his illustrious career. A Rodney Harrison pick-6 pretty much but this game on ice, thereafter: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=250123023
6.) 2004 AFC Divisional Playoff Game: Patriots 20, Colts 3: Despite having their whines answered by the NFL Rules Committee, the Colts were no match for Kevin Faulk, Corey Dillon, Ted Bruschi, and the physical Patriots. Memorable plays were a clutch conversion on a 3rd and long, on a Brady to Faulk completion...which got the Patriots out of a deep field position hole. There was also a power and finesse Dillon run that all but iced the game, and Tedy Bruschi tearing the football away from Colts RB Dominic Rhodes, after Rhodes caught a short Manning pass. Full tilt...full time!!: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=250116017
7.) SB 38: Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29: In one of the greatest SB games ever played, the Patriots outlasted the Carolina Panthers, in Houston. Adam Vinatieri's 41 yard FG with 4 seconds remaining to play gave the Pats the win. The Patriots allowed several big plays to Carolina, which allowed them to hang around, and almost pull the upset: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=240201017
Some of you may be wondering why I have this SB win and the SB 39 win over Philly so far down on my list? The reason is that, during the early part of the Pats' decade of dominance, the AFC was a much stronger conference than the NFC...and teams like the Colts and Steelers appeared to pose a much greater challenge for the Pats, than did their eventual SB opponent.
8.) SB 39: Patriots 24, Eagles 21: In a game that really should have been a blow-out, the Patriots, as they did the year before with Carolina, allowed the Eagles to hang around, before finally putting them out of their misery, in Jacksonville. This win made the Patriots a legitimate dynasty: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=250206021
9.) 2006 Divisional Playoffs: Patriots 24, Chargers 21: Yes...this is the year that the depised Indianapolis Horsefaces were handed a trip to the SB by NFL, and their stooges running around in zebra suits. But, the game before that thievery in Indy, played in San Diego, was something to see. In 2006, the 14-2 San Diego Chargers were the best team in the NFL. Had they beaten the Patriots in this game, there's no doubt in my mind that they would have gone on to win the SB. But, incredibly, the Chargers gave this game away via dumb penalties, and fumbling away what should have been a game clinching interception. As the Oakland Raiders learned in 2001, you can't give Tom Brady a second chance to beat you. The game ended with the Patriots celebrating at mid-field...catching the eye and the ire of RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who seemingly to this day is whining about how he was disrespected by the Patriots: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=270114024
10.) 2011 AFC Championship Game: Patriots 23, Ravens 20: With this win over the hated Buzzards, the Pats punched their ticket to SB 46, in Indy. Veteran WR Lee Evans had what appeared to be a game winning TD pass batted from his hands in the closing seconds...and was followed by a botched, badly hooked to the left Billy Condiff FG attempt...which left the Buzzards doing what they do best...whine: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=320122017