How Belichick's Patriots have fared on road in playoffs
How are they on the road?
The Patriots have played in 30 postseason games since in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Era . . . and very few of them have been in enemy stadiums. Of the 24 non-Super Bowl playoff games, 18 have been played in Foxboro and only 6 on the road. Sunday’s game will be the seventh. The Pats are 15-3 in the home games, but how have they fared on the road? (HINT: They have some demons to exorcise in Denver.)
2001 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AT PITTSBURGH: Patriots 24, Steelers 17
The Patriots first road playoff game with Tom Brady under center didn’t end with Tom Brady under center. Drew Bledsoe, who had been replaced by Brady in Week 2 of the regular season due to injury, came on after Brady got hurt during the game, and helped the Patriots to a big win in Pittsburgh.
Bledsoe’s return to the field -- albeit for just that game-- was a nice story, and he even threw a touchdown pass at the end of the second quarter to give the Patriots a 14-3 lead at the half. But this game was won due to special teams and defense. Troy Brown returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown to open up the scoring, and then in the second half picked up a blocked field-goal attempt and lateraled it to teammate Antwan Harris for a touchdown that made it 21-3. Steelers QB Kordell Stewart threw for 255 yards, but also three interceptions, and Steelers running backs were shut down. The Patriots were Super Bowl-bound.
2004 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AT PITTSBURGH: Patriots 41, Steelers 27
The Patriots stamped their third Super Bowl ticket in four years, once again knocking off the Steelers in their own back yard. It wasn’t Stewart on the other end of it, but rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who earlier in the regular season beat the Patriots.
But Big Ben was overwhelmed this time around, failing to take his team on a touchdown drive until the third quarter, when they were already down 24-3. Before that, Brady and Patriots had gone to work. Brady hit Deion Branch for a 60-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and then he hit David Patten for another in the second quarter. Rodney Harrisons’s 87-yard pick-six made it 24-3 before the half, and Corey Dillon’s 25-yard touchdown run put the Patriots up 31-10 midway though the third. They’d go on to win, 41-27.
2005 AFC SEMIFINALS AT DENVER: Broncos 27, Patriots 13
For the first time under Bill Belichick, the Patriots lost a playoff game. And perhaps not the best omen, it came in Denver (more on this place in a few slides). With the Patriots looking to go ahead 14-10 in the third quarter, Tom Brady’s pass from the 5-yard line was picked off by Champ Bailey in the end zone and returned 100 yards for what was almost a touchdown. Ben Watson, chasing Bailey all the way down the field, caught up with him and knocked the ball from him at the one-yard line. Or did it go out of bounds in the end zone, therefore giving ball back to New England?
Perhaps we’ll never know for sure – Bailey recently said he thought it was a touchback -- but the officials awarded the Broncos ball and they punched it in for a game-altering touchdown to go up 17-6. The Patriots turned the ball over five times in this one, and Adam Vinatieri even missed a field goal. It just wasn’t their day.
2006 AFC SEMIFINALS AT SAN DIEGO: Patriots 24, Chargers 21
The Patriots went into San Diego to face league MVP LaDanian Tomlinson and the 14-2 Chargers in the Divisional Round . . . and they left there moving on to the AFC Championship.
It was not, however, without its fair share of drama.
Tom Brady had his worst playoff game of his career -- up until the last couple drives of the game. Brady threw three interceptions and found himself down 21-13 to the Chargers. Brady then marched the Pats 54 yards in 10 plays, capping off a touchdown drive with a four-yard pass to former Charger Reche Caldwell, who had 7 catches for 80 yards on the day. Kevin Faulk ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game. After the defense forced a Chargers three-and-out, Brady took the Patriots from their own 15-yard line to San Diego’s 13-yard line, setting up a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski that gave New England the lead. The Chargers’ 54-yard field goal try as time expired came up short, and New England advanced.
Tomlinson didn’t like the way in which New England celebrated the win. “They showed no class and maybe that comes from the head coach,” he said.
2006 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP AT INDIANAPOLIS: Colts 38, Patriots 34
The Patriots didn’t have much time to celebrate their comeback win over the Chargers. But they did have plenty of time to think about their loss to the Colts one week later. It turns out that the third time was a charm for Peyton Manning, who had previously lost his first two playoff games against the Patriots. But with this one in Indianapolis, the Patriots couldn’t hold on to their cushy 21-6 halftime lead, which even included a Peyton Manning pick-six.
The Colts came storming back in the third quarter to tie things up, and after the Patriots re-took the lead thanks in part to an 80-yard kickoff return by Ellis Hobbs, Manning again drove the Colts 65 yards to tie the game -- though the TD came on a botched handoff that Colts center Jeff Saturday fell on in the end zone.
Even so, the Patriots held a three-point lead with 3:49 remaining in the fourth quarter before Manning took the Colts 80 yards, finishing with a Joseph Addai three-yard run with one minute remaining.
There was no Brady magic this time as he was picked off by Marlin Jackson. Manning and the Colts were headed to the Super Bowl.
2013 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP AT DENVER: Broncos 26, Patriots 16
Combine the last two Patriots losses on the road -- one in Denver in 2005 and the other against Peyton Manning in 2006 - and you had a recipe for disaster with the Patriots in Denver in 2013 against now Broncos quarterback, Manning. Having lost Rob Gronkowski earlier in the season to a torn ACL, the Pats were already scratching and clawing for offense any way they could get it. The Broncos? They didn’t have that problem. Manning had plenty of weapons in his arsenal, and once then-Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib went down with a knee injury, they became that much easier to use.
Manning’s touchdown to Demaryius Thomas made it 20-3 Broncos in the third quarter, and field goal early in the fourth made it 23-3. Manning threw for 400 yards, 134 of which went to Thomas. Julius Thomas (8 catches, 85 yards), Eric Decker (5 catches, 73 yards), and Wes Welker (4 catches, 38 yards) got in on the action too.
Brady threw his first touchdown of the game with 9:30 remaining in the game to Julian Edelman, and later rushed for another. But it was too little too late by then. The Patriots were going home, and once again Peyton Manning was going to the Super Bowl.
Will it play out differently this Sunday?