It was 14 season openers ago when kickoff returner Ellis Hobbs helped kickstart a perfect 16-0 regular season with an electric, record-setting return to helped the Patriots beat the rival New York Jets in a season opener that started the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history.
The Patriots led the Jets, 14-7, at halftime courtesy of the first two of 50 Tom Brady touchdown passes on the season. The first went to newcomer Wes Welker and the second to tight end Ben Watson with 1:07 left in the half to break a 7-7 tie.
Hobbs caught the second half’s opening kickoff eight yards deep in his own end zone. As he started to run it out, it wouldn’t have been surprising to hear people yelling, “Noooooo. Take a knee. What are you doing?”
Of course, seconds later, that skepticism was erased by chants of “Go Go Go! Yes!” as Hobbs set a then-NFL record with a 108-yard return. Those shoes, signed by Hobbs, are currently on display at The Hall as part of the All-Dynasty Team exhibit. He and Bethel Johnson were the two kickoff return specialists selected to that team.
Future and former Patriots Cordarrelle Patterson actually broke Hobbs’ record when he returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown while playing for the Chicago Bears.