We, at the Patriots Hall of Fame presented by RTX, are in the history business. Preserving it. Interpreting it. Educating about it. Honoring it. Presenting it to the public.
So as the 2023 season kicks off with the start of training camp, it seemed like a good time to reflect on upcoming “anniversaries” for the season. So we looked back every five years to see if there were significant moments or memories from those seasons. Every season has memories, so we don’t mean to slight anyone’s recall, but consider the below moments “our” anniversary-type memories.
Five- year Anniversary – 2018 – The Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2018 season, 13-3, over the Los Angeles Rams. After thumping the Los Angeles Chargers, 41-28, in the Divisional round, Tom Brady declared that “everyone thinks we suck.” The Pats then went to Kansas City and won a thrilling overtime battle, 37-31, over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. The defense dominated the Rams in Super Bowl LXIII. The 2018 team won the AFC East with an 11-5 record. One of those five losses was a game we’d all like to forget – a 34-33 loss at Miami on the game’s final play. One of those 11 wins was another exciting contest against the Chiefs – a 43-40 victory at Gillette.
10-year Anniversary – 2013 – The Patriots went 12-4 and won the AFC East. This was the year of the comeback. There was the last-second touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Kenbrell Thompkins to beat the Saints, 30-27, on Oct. 13. Then on Nov. 24, the Patriots trailed the Broncos, 24-0, at halftime but rallied to a 34-31 overtime win. New England rattled off 31 straight points only to see Denver tie it. Stephen Gostkowski’s 31-yard field goal with 1:56 left in OT gave the Patriots their largest regular-season comeback win in team history. Two weeks later, on Dec. 8, New England trailed the Cleveland Browns, 26-14, with 2:39 to go in the game. Julian Edelman caught a 2-yard TD pass from Brady with 1:01 remaining. Then Kyle Arrington recovered an onside kick – the Patriots first successful onside kick recovery since Jan. 1, 1995. The Pats needed just 25 seconds for Brady to hit Danny Amendola for the game-winning TD with 35 seconds left. New England lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to a season-ending knee injury in that win. The season ended for the team in an AFC Championship loss at Denver.
15-year Anniversary – 2008 – The Patriots went 11-5 in 2008 and became the second team in the Wild Card era to miss the playoffs with that record. It was the season that Tom Brady tore his ACL 15 plays into the season opener vs. Kansas City. Matt Cassell guided the team to the cusp of the playoffs. The team won its last four games – three on the road, but it wasn’t enough. A highlight to 2008 was that the Patriots Hall of Fame presented by RTX opened on Sept. 18.
20-year Anniversary – 2003 – The Patriots went 14-2 and won Super Bowl XXXVIII at the end of the 2003 season. It was the team’s second Super Bowl title in three seasons. The start of that season was marred by some controversy. The Patriots released popular safety Lawyer Milloy five days before the season opener at Buffalo. Milloy then signed with the Bills, who proceeded to maul the Patriots in Orchard Park, 31-0. A week later, ESPN’s Tom Jackson said the Patriots “hate their coach” during the Week 2 pregame show. The Patriots won that day, 31-10, at Philadelphia. They lost 20-17 two weeks later at Washington and never lost again. On Oct. 5, New England beat Tennessee, 38-30, to start what would be an NFL-record 21-game winning streak. The team beat Tennessee, 17-14, in the Divisional Playoffs in the coldest game in team history (4 degrees at kickoff) and then downed the Colts, 24-14, in the AFC Championship Game. Super Bowl XXXVIII was a back-and-forth affair that New England won, 32-29, in the final seconds over Carolina.
25-year Anniversary – 1998 – The 1998 Patriots struggled to a 9-7 record and fourth-place AFC East finish, but still managed to secure a Wild Card playoff berth. The team started 4-1, but lost four of five in the middle of the season. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe broke a finger on his throwing hand in a Monday night comeback win over the Dolphins on Nov. 23 and played with the injury during a comeback win over Buffalo a week later and during a 23-9 win in Pittsburgh. But the injury was exacerbated in a bad 32-18 loss in St. Louis that ended Bledsoe’s season. Scott Zolak engineered a huge win over the 49ers before a blowout loss to the Jets completed the regular season. The Pats lost to Jacksonville, 25-10, in a Wild Card playoff game.
30-year Anniversary – 1993 – The 1993 season started with a logo change as the Pats switched their primary logo from Pat Patriot to what is often referred to as the Flying Elvis. The team’s primary color switched from red to royal blue. New England also had a new head coach in two-time Super Bowl champion Bill Parcells and the first pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. That pick was used on Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe. New England went 5-11 that season, but a semblance of hope was restored with a proven head coach and a top, young quarterback guiding the offense. The 1-11 Pats won their last four games to end the season on a high note.
35-year Anniversary – 1988 – The Patriots finished 9-7, which was good for second place in the AFC East but left them on the outside of the playoff tournament. In October of that season, team founder Billy Sullivan sold the team to Remington Razor magnate Victor Kiam. Fortunately for Patriots fans, Robert Kraft outbid Kiam in bankruptcy court for what was then called Sullivan Stadium. That would eventually be the key to keeping the Patriots in New England.
40-year Anniversary – 1983 – The Patriots finished 8-8 and tied for second in the AFC East during Ron Meyer’s second season as head coach, but it was not good enough for a postseason berth. The team drafted quarterback Tony Eason in the first round along with players like Stephen Starring, Johnny Rembert, Craig James, and Ronnie Lippett that season – all players that would help the Patriots reach Super Bowl XX two years later.
45-year Anniversary – 1978 – Chuck Fairbanks had rebuilt the Patriots. The 1976 team was thought good enough to win a Super Bowl before a controversial playoff loss in Oakland ended those hopes. Two years later, in the first 16-game season in NFL history, Fairbanks guided the team to its first ever AFC East title with an 11-5 record. Unfortunately, controversy marred that accomplishment as well. Team owner Billy Sullivan learned that Fairbanks had accepted the head coaching position at the University of Colorado. Sullivan suspended Fairbanks hours before the Monday night regular season finale in Miami. Assistants Ron Erhardt and Hank Bullough coached the 23-3 loss to the Dolphins. Fairbanks was eventually reinstated, but the Patriots lost their first home playoff game in team history, 31-14, to the Houston Oilers at Schaefer Stadium. Fairbanks then left for Colorado.
50-year Anniversary – 1973 – The 1973 Patriots finished 5-9 in Chuck Fairbanks first season as head coach. It was the team’s seventh straight losing season. But armed with three first round picks, the Patriots drafted guard John Hannah, wide receiver Darryl Stingley and running back Sam Cunningham – two Patriots Hall of Famers and one Pro Football Hall of Famer. The rebuilding process was underway.
55-year Anniversary – 1968 – The Patriots stumbled to a 4-10 record and a fourth-place finish in the American Football League’s Eastern Division while playing home games at Fenway Park.
60-year Anniversary – 1963 – The 1963 Patriots finished 7-6-1 under head coach Mike Holovak but finished tied with the Buffalo Bills atop the AFL’s Eastern Division. That led to the Boston Patriots first-ever playoff appearance. The team traveled to Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium and beat the Bills, 26-8, to advance to the AFL Championship Game, which it lost, 51-10, to the San Diego Chargers. The Patriots did not make the playoffs again until 1976. The Pats did play their first game at Fenway Park on Oct. 11, 1963 – a 20-14 win over the Oakland Raiders.