Looking back on each division-clincher of the Belichick era
Looking back on each division-clincher of the Belichick era
From snow to masks to horrifying performances by opposing backup quarterbacks, the Patriots' AFC East-clinching wins have been pretty memorable. Here's a look back at all 14 of the Belichick era.
Dec. 18, 2016: Patriots 16, Broncos 3
The Broncos are the defending Super Bowl champs and the team that eliminated the Pats in last season’s AFC Championship. Denver is where Stephen Gostkowski’s struggles began. The past held plenty of bad memories for the Pats.
Yet this season’s been a different story for Denver. Both of last season’s top quarterbacks are gone, the Broncos are probably going to miss the playoffs and they’re 4-3 in Denver after going 6-2 at home last season. The Patriots are better by a good margin this season and it showed Sunday.
The slump-buster against old friends
Dec. 13, 2015: Patriots 27, Texans 6
After winning their first 10 games of the season, the Patriots hit a rut with back-to-back losses to the Broncos and Eagles. They would clinch the division in Week 14 with a blowout win over Bill O’Brien and the Texans, a game that saw them give former Pats backup Brian Hoyer an absolute beating. Hoyer was sacked five times before leaving the game with a concussion.
The Tom Brady scramble game
Dec. 14, 2014: Patriots 41, Dolphins 13
Tom Brady came five yards from a career-best run when he scrambled for 17 yards on a 3rd-and-11 play. His long runs always feature something hilarious (other than someone that slow running), with his 2006 juke on Brian Urlacher the crème de la crème. His third-quarter run in this game saw him try to run over safety Walt Atkins by lowering his shoulder as he was pushed out of bounds at the 3 yard line.
The really-a-statement-win game
Dec. 15, 2013: Patriots 41, Ravens 7
Where this season’s clincher against the defending champs was impressive, the 2013 clincher against the defending champs was really something. The Ravens hadn’t experienced the type of dropoff this season’s Broncos have and all the familiar faces were there.
Logan Ryan was Joe Flacco’s worst nightmare, as he intercepted the Baltimore quarterback twice before the Ravens put in Tyrod Taylor late in the game. Taylor’s first snap was botched, with the ball bouncing all the way from the Ravens’ 20 into the end zone and recovered by Chandler Jones. Taylor threw a 74-yard pick-six to Tavon Wilson the next drive.
The Tom-Brady-is-human-but-Ryan-Tannehill-is-Ryan-Tannehill game
Dec. 2, 2012: Patriots 23, Dolphins 16
Not the most exciting game of this group, but Stephen Gostkowski made three of four field goals and the Patriots survived a mediocre showing from Tom Brady (24/40, 238 yards with a TD and a pick) to win their third straight division title.
The first of two Tim Tebow games
Dec. 18, 2011: Patriots 41, Broncos 23
Ah man, 2011 was a blast. The Broncos made the playoffs with Tim Tebow as their quarterback! Teams would make fun of him after games and everything, but the AFC West was so bad that they made the playoffs at 8-8.
Tebow was pretty good in this game, as he ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns. His passing performance (194 yards, no touchdowns or picks) was overshadowed by a 320-yard, two touchdown performance from Tom Brady in the sixth of what would be eight straight Patriots wins to end the regular season. The teams would meet again in the postseason, with the Pats winning a 45-10 blowout.
The Tom-Brady-is-Tom-Brady-and-Ryan-Fitzpatrick-is-Ryan-Fitzpatrick game
Dec. 26, 2010: Patriots 34, Bills 3
For every touchdown Tom Brady threw, Ryan Fitzpatrick matched with an interception. Unfortunately for the Bills, Fitzpatrick didn’t have any touchdowns to water down his three picks. The Pats nearly had two 100-yard rushing performances, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis running for 104 yards and Danny Woodhead running for 93. Brady also set the record for most pass attempts without an interception.
The Randy Moss mask game
Dec. 27, 2009: Patriots 35, Jaguars 7
After Randy Moss caught his third touchdown of the game, the big screen at Gillette Stadium showed a fan wearing a Randy Moss mask. It sounds very, very simple, but at the time it was one of the greatest moments in sports history. No clue why.
The perfect season scare
Nov. 25, 2007: Patriots 31, Eagles 28
Ah, the old Week 12 clincher. This one was actually the biggest scare the Patriots faced in their perfect regular season to that point, as the 5-5 Eagles took a 28-24 lead into the fourth quarter. Tom Brady led a fourth-quarter drive capped by a Laurence Maroney touchdown to keep the Patriots’ undefeated season intact and sew up the division.
The how-did-the-Jaguars-not-win-this-game game
Dec. 24, 2006: Patriots 24, Jaguars 21
David Thomas was the Patriots’ leading receiver, Tom Brady only threw one touchdown, which David Garrard matched with no picks and Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 131 yards with two touchdowns. You’d think the Jaguars would take those odds any day of the week, but touchdowns from Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillion plus a better kicking game from New England (Josh Scobee missed his only field goal attempt) wrapped up the win for the Pats.
The blowout vs. an 11-5 team
Dec. 17, 2005: Patriots 28, Buccaneers 0
The Buccaneers were pretty good in 2005. Cadillac Williams was awesome as a rookie, Joey Galloway had the best season of his career, Ronde Barber was a thing, etc. They went 11-5 and made the playoffs. They also got shut out by the Pats in a game in which they were held to 138 yards of offense.
Also, Williams lasted seven seasons in the NFL? You’re lying if you say you remember that.
The Corey Dillon revenge game
Dec. 12, 2004: Patriots 35, Bengals 28
What kind of disgusting team goes off and trades their starting running back just because his younger, cheaper backup is better than him? Gross. Well Corey Dillon got payback in his first game against his old team by running for 88 yards and a touchdown. Rudi Johnson outgained him by a yard, but failed to reach the end zone in the Pats' win.
The snow game
Dec. 7, 2003: Patriots 12, Dolphins 0
The most adorable thing in the world is when a dog sees snow for the first time. They’re confused. They’re excited. It’s pretty incredible.
What about when drunk New Englanders see snow for like the billionth time? You get the Patriots’ Week 14 meeting with the Dolphins in 2003. Not to be forgotten in this game: Tom Brady’s 36-yard pooch punt. Trivia question: Who was the Patriots’ actual punter that game?
The clinch-in-the-last-week-like-the-common-folk game
Jan. 6, 2002: Patriots 38, Panthers 6
Ty Law and Otis Smith each had pick-sixes to supplement a somewhat lacking performance from Tom Brady (198 yards, a touchdown and two picks). This is the only season of the Brady era in which the Pats clinched the division in the final week of the season.