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The Patriots were awarded a franchise in November of 1959 and began in play in 1960. The Patriots Hall of Fame presented by Raytheon displays the letter Lamar Hunt sent to Billy Sullivan on Nov. 18, 1959 accepting Sullivan’s $25,000 fee and confirming admission as the American Football League’s eighth and final franchise. The minutes of the AFL’s Nov. 22-23, 1959 meeting show that the other owners voted to approve the new franchise on Nov. 23. So while the Patriots officially turn 60 this month, The Hall compiled the Top 60 moments in Patriots history.
Compiling a list of the Patriots Top 60 moments is a challenge, especially given the team’s dynastic success over the past 19 seasons. Narrowing it down to 60 is tough enough, but trying to put them in order is nearly impossible. We’re sure many of these on the list could be moved to other spots and some that didn’t make the list could displace some that did without anyone thinking much of it. But we sought the opinion of some experts and we built a list that covers different time periods, off-field moments and some of the indelible, emotional memories we all share. So enjoy and debate away…
60 of the Patriots best moments
1. Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal wins team’s first Super Bowl – The Patriots, after 42 years, finally reached the top of the mountain and dispelled the something-will-go-wrong mentality when Adam Vinatieri’s kick split the uprights to secure a 20-17 Super Bowl XXXVI win on Feb. 3, 2002. The confetti has been falling ever since.
2. Butler’s interception on the goal line wins Super Bowl XLIX – Undrafted rookie free agent Malcolm Butler made the greatest play in Super Bowl history to secure a 28-24 championship win after Tom Brady completed 13-of-15 fourth quarter passes to overcome a 10-point deficit. The Feb. 1, 2015 win was the Patriots fourth Super Bowl title.
3. Patriots overcome 28-3 deficit to win Super Bowl LI – New England trailed by 25 points (28-3) with 2:12 left in the third quarter … a strip sack, the Julian Edelman catch, a pair of two-point conversions, first overtime in Super Bowl history. A 34-28 win. A fifth world championship. Feb. 5, 2017 is a day to remember.
4. Robert Kraft officially buys the Patriots in February of 1994 to keep the team in New England – The Patriots were gone. St. Louis bound. Robert Kraft upped his ante and kept his hometown team home when he paid a then-record $172 million to buy the Patriots. The team sold almost 6,000 season tickets the day after the sale was final – a single day record. Six Super Bowl wins later, we are all grateful.
5. Bill Belichick hired in February of 2000 – After a trip to Super Bowl XXXI, the Patriots experienced three years of decline. Robert Kraft then traded a first round pick to bring Bill Belichick to New England. The Patriots won a Super Bowl in Belichick’s second season and he has emerged as the greatest head coach in NFL history.
6. With the 199th pick, the Patriots select Tom Brady, quarterback, Michigan – No one batted an eye at this pick in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. No one’s closed one since as they watched Brady win six Super Bowls.
7. Tom Brady named starting QB for the “foreseeable future” – Back-to-back Brady? Yes. Bill Belichick had a choice. Make the so-called safe decision and return to the veteran, Drew Bledsoe, who helped resurrect the franchise but had been out injured since Week 3, or stick with the untested kid that had helped right the ship in 2001… Belichick chose to stick with Tom Brady and nine straight wins later, the Pats were champions. History shows this as one of the most important decisions in Patriots history.
8. Adam Vinatieri’s 45-yard Snow Bowl kick on Jan. 19, 2002 – Late, great NFL historian Steve Sabol called Vinatieri’s game-tying, 45-yarder off a snow-covered field the greatest kick in NFL history. The snow was still falling and had been for hours and throughout the Patriots Divisional Playoff game against the Raiders. But the line-drive kick tied the game at 13 to send it to OT where a Vinatieri 23-yarder sent the Patriots to the AFC Championship Game and an eventual world championship.
9. Ty Law’s Super Bowl XXXVI pick-six – No one thought the Patriots could possibly upset the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, known as the Greatest Show on Turf. But when Ty Law intercepted Kurt Warner and raced 47 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead, the tide turned. The Patriots defense proved greater that night while Tom Brady led a game-winning drive that Adam Vinatieri ended with a championship-winning kick as time expired. Thankfully, the Patriots didn’t take a knee and settle for overtime.
Photo by Keith Nordstrom
10. Gronk’s last catch sets up only TD of Super Bowl LIII – So many great Rob Gronkowski plays from which to choose, but what better than his final NFL catch to round out our top 10? A perfect throw and a fabulous catch at the 2-yard line to set up the only touchdown in the Patriots 13-3 Super Bowl LIII win on Feb. 3, 2019. It was exactly 18 years to the day of the team’s first championship win over the Rams. Long live Gronk.
11. Squish the Fish – Jan. 12, 1985 – 18 straight trips to the Orange Bowl and 18 straight losses. But not on this day. The Patriots forced six Miami Dolphins turnovers, broke the so-called jinx and won the 1985 AFC Championship Game, 31-14, to advance to their first Super Bowl (XX). We don’t recall what happened two weeks later, but we remember that rainy day in South Florida.
12. The Tuck Rule announcement – “After further review, the quarterback’s arm was going forward, it is an incomplete pass.” The Patriots fortunes changed quickly when referee Walt Coleman uttered those words. Still trailing by three in a 2001 Divisional Playoff game at Foxboro Stadium (the last game ever played there), the Patriots converted a fourth down, booted a 45-yard field goal through the snow and won in overtime. It took 25 years to exact some revenge for the Phantom Roughing the Passer call that cost the Patriots a 1976 playoff win over the eventual champion Raiders. This game evokes emotions.
13. Gillette Stadium opens with a banner ceremony on Sept. 9, 2002 – The team was on the verge of leaving town when Robert Kraft bought it in 1994, but the Patriots needed a new stadium to stay competitive. So the Krafts privately financed Gillette Stadium and then raised the Patriots first championship banner at its grand opening. That’s just flat-out awesome.
14. Adam Vinatieri kick wins Super Bowl XXXVIII – Two years after kicking the Pats to their first World Championship, Vinatieri did it again with the pressure on, booting a 41-yarder in the waning second for a 32-29 win over the Carolina Panthers on Feb. 1, 2004.
15. Ty Law’s three interceptions vs. Colts in 2003 AFC Championship – Peyton Manning and the stampeding Colts were left prancing home after Ty Law intercepted one of history’s most prolific passers three times in a 24-14 AFC Championship win at Gillette.
16. Patriots win epic 2018 AFC Championship at KC in OT – The 2018 Patriots lost five road games to non-playoff teams so the doubters were out in full force when New England visited Arrowhead Stadium. But when Rex Burkhead slammed across the goal line in overtime, the Patriots silenced their doubters (well, not really) on the way to an eventual Super Bowl LIII win.
17. Patriots set record for most consecutive wins in 2004 – The streak started with a 38-30 home win over the Titans in October, 2003. It went through Super Bowl XXXVIII and eventually ended on Halloween 2004 after an NFL record 21 consecutive victories. Don’t hold your breath waiting for some team to break this record in a parity-filled NFL.
Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images
18. Rodney Harrison interception clinches back-to-back Super Bowls – The Patriots leader on the back end of the defense intercepted Eagles QB Donovan McNabb twice including once in the final minute to clinch the Patriots 24-21 victory over Philly in Super Bowl XXXIX back on Feb. 6, 2005.
19. Patriots announced as a team before Super Bowl XXXVI – A chilling moment. When Pat Summerall announced, “Choosing to be introduced as team, the American Football Conference Champion New England Patriots,” an upset was already in the making. The Patriots, 14-point underdogs in Super Bowl XXXVI, went on to win, 20-17. Since then, every team at the Super Bowl has been announced a team. #changethegame
20. Brady to Moss sets records and helps Pats to 16-0 regular season in 2007 – When Tom Brady lofted a 65-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss, both players set single-season NFL records and the Patriots completed the only 16-0 regular season in league history. It was Brady’s 50th TD pass of the season and Moss’ 23rd TD reception.
21. Patriots overcome two 14-point deficits to win 2014 Divisional Playoff over Baltimore – The Patriots trailed seemingly all afternoon against the Ravens, but some creative formations and some trickery helped them storm back from the two different 14-point deficits before eventually pulling out a win. The signature play was a double pass that featured wideout Julian Edelman completing a 51-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola.
22. The Patriots get their own stadium in Foxborough and change their name – From 1960-1970, the Patriots were renters, playing home games at Boston University, Boston College, Harvard and Fenway Park. In 1971, they opened a $6.7 million stadium in Foxborough and changed their name from the Boston Patriots to New England. The Patriots finally had a home.
23. John Hannah becomes first Patriot elected to the Pro Football Hal of Fame in 1991 – A franchise that struggled off and on throughout its existence finally saw one of its own enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Guard John Hannah, who Sports Illustrated called the greatest offensive lineman of all time, was the first Patriots player inducted in Canton.
24. Kraft helps end 135-day lockout preventing a late start to the 2011 season – The signature image is Colts center Jeff Saturday hugging Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose wife Myra was battling cancer. While his family was dealing with personal adversity, Kraft stepped in to lead the way in ending a lockout that threatened the 2011 season.
25. Patriots win 1963 playoff game to reach AFL title game – Important as far as planting roots … the team’s first ever playoff game and win, 26-8 over the Bills at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, sent the upstart Patriots to the AFL Championship Game and helped put the team on the New England map.
26. Otis Smith’s 47-yard fumble return clinches 1996 AFC Championship – The Patriots were clinging to a 13-6 AFC Championship Game lead over the upset-minded Jacksonville Jaguars when Chris Slade forced a fumble that Otis Smith returned 47 yards for a late fourth-quarter touchdown that cemented a berth in Super Bowl XXXI.
27. Drew Bledsoe comes off the bench to throw TD pass in 2001 AFC Championship – When Tom Brady limped off of Heinz Field in the 2001 AFC Championship Game, few knew what Drew Bledsoe would bring after a long injury-induced hiatus. All he did was complete his first three passes – all to David Patten – with the last resulting in a touchdown. The triumphant return prompted radio announcer Bob Trumpy to emphatically utter, “How ’bout that for coming off the bench!”
28. The Snow Plow – December 12, 1982. An awful, snowy day in Foxborough. The Pats and Dolphins were tied, 0-0, in the fourth quarter. As John Smith prepared to attempt a 33-yard field goal, Head Coach Ron Meyer sent Mark Henderson onto the field on his John Deere tractor to clear a spot for the field goal try. Smith nailed it and the Patriots won, 3-0. Soon after, such a plowing move was deemed illegal.
29. Drew Bledsoe OT TD to Kevin Turner on Nov. 13, 1994 – The Patriots trailed the Vikings 20-0 before a late first half field goal provided a semblance of hope. Then Drew Bledsoe put the team on his back in the second half and eventually connected with Kevin Turner for a game-winning, overtime TD pass for a 26-20 win that started a seven-game winning streak and led to the team’s first playoff appearance in seven years. Bledsoe set NFL records for completions (45) and attempts (70) and wasn’t sacked.
30. Patriots finish 1994 with a win over the Bears to clinch the first playoff berth since 1986 – The Patriots finished their seven-game winning streak in dramatic fashion with a playoff-clinching win over the Bears to finish 10-6 and earn a 1994 Wildcard berth. It was the team’s first playoff trip since 1986. Between the two playoff seasons, the Patriots were 36-75.
31. Patriots overcome 24-0 halftime deficit to beat Peyton Manning’s Broncos in overtime on Nov. 24, 2013 – The Pats turned it over three times in the first half, but Denver returned the favor with two second half turnovers. A muffed punt in OT set the Patriots up for the amazing 34-31 win that is the largest comeback win in Patriots regular season history.
32. The Andruzzi Brothers representing America at Foxboro Stadium on Sept. 23, 2001 – This was an emotional afternoon. It was the first game after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi’s three brothers – all New York City firefighters – were on hand as honorary captains when the NFL resumed its schedule. It also felt appropriate that the New York Jets were in town that day.
33. Goal line stand in Indy on Nov. 30, 2003 – The Patriots had jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but led 38-34 when the Colts lined up for a first-and-goal play from the New England 2-yard line with 40 seconds left. After holding Edgerrin James to one yard on two carries and a third down incomplete pass, the Colts faced a fourth-and-goal situation from the 1. Indy went back to James, but Willie McGinest exploded off the edge to stop James for a loss and a Patriots win that helped them secure the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed.
AP Photo by Charles Krupa
34. Hail Mary in LA – The Patriots trailed the Los Angeles Rams, 28-23, when Tony Eason took the snap from the Rams 25 with three seconds left in a Nov. 16, 1986 game at Anaheim Stadium. Eason lofted a Hail Mary to the end zone and wide receiver Irving Fryar snared the tipped pass for a game winning touchdown with no time left on the clock. The miracle play proved to be the difference as the Patriots edged the Jets by one game for their second ever AFC East title.
35. Danny Amendola’s terrific in the 2017 AFC Championship vs. Jacksonville – Amendola’s numbers don’t do him justice. He had 7 catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns, but his spectacular toe-tapping game-winner with 2:48 to go was one of his many clutch plays in the game.
36. Pats clinch first NFL Playoff berth in 1976 (only team to beat Oakland that year) – The 1976 Patriots may be best remembered for getting hosed in the 1976 playoffs on the Phantom Roughing the Passer call, but this 11-3 club was the first NFL playoff team in Patriots history and was the only team to beat the eventual Super Bowl champion Raiders that season.
37. Fill-in rookie kicker David Posey boots game winner to clinch Patriots first ever AFC East title in 1978 – A 21-yard field with eight seconds left gave the Patriots a 26-24 win over the Bills at Schaefer Stadium for the team’s first-ever AFC East title.