Readers Say

These are the best and worst moments of the Patriots’ dynasty, according to readers

"The Snow Bowl game that got it all started!"

Patriots fans relive the favorite plays, games, and controversies of the Belichick-Brady era. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

In the last two decades, the New England Patriots have cemented themselves into legendary status, both through their remarkable performances on the field and the media storms they create off of it. For fans of the team, that means there’s always something to talk about.  

This month, the Book Club is diving into the team’s 20-year reign by reading “It’s Better to Be Feared” by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, so we’re spending some time reflecting on the key moments of the dynasty. 

Wickersham’s new book, which came out on Oct. 12, focuses on central figures like Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Robert Kraft. It came together using “hundreds of interviews lasting hundreds of hours” that Wickersham conducted in the decades that he’s been covering the team. 


We asked readers to share their favorite plays, games, and controversies of the Patriots dynasty. Of the 82 who responses to the survey, thirty-two percent said the best controversy of the last 20 years was the infamous “tuck-rule” call against the Raiders in 2002, which cost the Raiders the game and led to years of complaints from their fans. 

Coming in second is Deflategate, a controversy that came at the expense of the Patriots. During the months-long saga from 2015 to 2016, the team was accused of deflating footballs used in a win against the Colts. Peter R., a reader from Sudbury, called the whole ordeal the “biggest waste of time there was.”

Another favorite among Patriots fans was one of the first controversies of the Belichick era when he left the New York Jets after one day on the job as head coach by writing “I resign as HC of the NYJ” on a napkin during a press conference. 

“This one is way too funny and important to not be on top of the list. Dude really wrote it on a napkin,” said Anthony from Hicksville. “The Jets have never recovered.” 


We also asked readers to share the highs and lows of being a Patriots fan in the last two decades. Below, you’ll find a sampling of what they consider to be the team’s best and worst moments. 

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

What’s the best Patriots moment of the last 20 years?

Snow Bowl

“Snow Bowl. Hands down. Took Patriots fans to a new level of euphoria that still has never left me. You don’t apologize for being a Patriots fan for the past 20 years if you were one for the 20 years before that game!” — Darrell L., Littleton, N.H.

“Adam [Vinatieri]’s two field goals in the Snow Bowl. What an awesome last game in that stadium.” — Jay, Dartmouth

“The Snow Bowl game that got it all started! Final game in that stadium.” — Steph P.

Super Bowl XLIX 

“After a decade-long Super Bowl drought, it seemed that they had lost their ability to win in February, despite many successful seasons. Everything came together in that game: a second-half comeback, vintage Brady performance (a preview for things to come), and an iconic defensive stop. While there have been more impressive comebacks in Super Bowls since, this win stands out to me as the one that jumpstarted the dynasty’s second act.” — Sam R., South Portland, Maine


“I was never so deflated (no pun intended) than when Seattle was driving for the game-winning score and never so excited than when Malcolm Butler intercepted Wilson to win the Super Bowl.  What a great moment!” — Paul V.

Super Bowl XXXVI

“Nobody believed the Pats could beat the Rams. Unbelievable break-out game for the Patriots and Brady! “ — Tim Stearns, Cumberland, Maine

“For me, it’s the first one: Super Bowl XXXVI victory over the Rams. Boston hadn’t seen a championship in 15 years and they were large (14-point) underdogs heading into the game so nobody was giving them a chance. Belichick had the perfect game plan to slow down the Rams and then Brady’s final drive to set up [Adam] Vinatieri’s game-winner was legendary. (Although this one should’ve been over — the penalty on [Willie] McGinest to wipe out the Tebucky Jones scoop and score was brutal.) I’ll also go to my grave telling anyone that Ty Law should’ve been named MVP of this one.” — Fran, Melrose


“Falcons Super Bowl comeback. Something about the ending of that game really brought a genuine feeling of happiness to me. Close second: Butt fumble on Thanksgiving.” — Anthony, Hicksville

“28-3. Doesn’t get better than that.” — Felipe, Amherst

“[Julian] Edelman’s catch against the Falcons.” — Frank

“Super Bowl 51 comeback, notably the Edelman catch. Had fun hosting a Super Bowl party in Atlanta, SURROUNDED by Pats fans.” — Scott P., Suwanee, Ga. (formerly Bristol, N.H.)

What’s the worst Patriots moment of the last 20 years?

Losing Super Bowl XLII to the Giants 

“The David Tyree catch in the 2007 Super Bowl which gave the Giants the win and ended the perfect season.” — Peter R., Sudbury 


“Super Bowl XLII. I literally ended up on the floor in a fetal position.” — Scott P., Suwanee, Ga. (formerly Bristol, N.H.)

“I know it’ll be a popular choice, but the loss to the Giants to spoil the perfect season is the worst by a lot.” — Scott W.

“When they were going for 19-0, I felt the worst after that David Tyree miracle catch that allowed the Giants to continue the drive and win that game. Heartbreaking.” — Paul V.

“Super Bowl XLII. This loss has been softened a bit by time and additional Super Bowl wins, but 18-1 will always hurt. [Tedy] Bruschi and Brady’s recent comments on trading a ring for that 2007 season is an indication of how painful the loss was.” — Sam R., South Portland, Maine

Benching Malcolm Butler

“Bill not doing what’s best for the team and not playing Malcolm in the Super Bowl.” — Jay, Dartmouth

“None of this stuff interests me. But we probably would have won if Butler had played vs Philadelphia.” — Jon G.


“The stupid antics the NFL went to over ‘deflated’ footballs. At every level of football, the team that is on offense maintains their footballs. When has a football ever made the difference in a game that was a few [PSI levels] over or under? Players still have to throw, players still have to catch, and players still have to hang onto the ball. For all the money the league threw at this…what a waste.” — Darrell L., Littleton, N.H.


“Deflategate. Do the math, do the physics — it was all a sham.” — Chris, Northampton occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.

Join our next virtual Book Club discussion

Join the Book Club on Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. for a virtual discussion with The Silver Unicorn Bookstore’s Paul Swydan and ESPN senior writer and author Seth Wickersham on “It’s Better to Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness.” 

Order “It’s Better to Be Feared” from: Bookshop | The Silver Unicorn Bookstore 

Publisher Liveright is raffling off 10 free copies of “It’s Better to Be Feared” to readers. RSVP to the event and submit a discussion question for your chance to win! (Open to U.S. or Canada residents only.)


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