Best of the 2010s: Ranking the 10 greatest Patriots wins of the decade
Even if we were to lop off the entire first half of this Patriots dynasty -- an entire decade -- what the Patriots have done since 2010 would still qualify as one of the greatest runs any franchise has put together in NFL history.
Three Super Bowl titles. Five Super Bowl appearances. Eight AFC Championship Games. Ten AFC East crowns. It's mind-boggling. Narrowing down the list of big wins to 10 is equally disorienting. The ones that resulted in Lombardi Trophies are obvious, but after that . . . it's an eye-of-the-beholder situation.
Your view of the rankings might differ from mine, but no matter which way you go, the end result is the same: It's been a pretty good time to be a Patriots fan.
10. Week 5, 2014: Patriots 43, Bengals 17
"We're on to Cincinnati" became a rallying cry more for the fans who followed this team than the players and coaches who roamed its locker room. But it was a statement win, no doubt. Despite the competition being what it was, when the Patriots rolled over the Bengals by almost 30 points at home, it set them off on a seven-game winning streak. After a 2-2 start that many pundits believed was the beginning of the end for the team's run as an annual favorite, they lost just one meaningful game — a Week 13 matchup in Green Bay — the rest of the way.
Because of what it signaled that season, and the streak it started, this game makes it over other impressive regular-season wins like a 2017 victory in Pittsburgh (punctuated by what you might remember as "the Gronk Drive"), a 2013 last-minute win over the Saints (the same night David Ortiz beat the Tigers with a walk-off grand slam) and the 2013 overtime triumph over the Broncos (when the Patriots won the toss and gave the ball to Peyton Manning). It just meant more.
9. Week 6, 2018: Patriots 43, Chiefs 40
Rob Gronkowski sought out Tom Brady on the field after this one and thanked him. The tight end, in his final year before retirement, was not himself. He'd only been targeted four times in the game, but he still ended up with 97 yards on three catches, including one that set up the game-winning field goal at Gillette Stadium. But Gronkowski's reaction — to thank his quarterback for going to him in a big spot — was telling. He wasn't the superhero he'd been for much of his career. The offense wasn't perfect. And yet it put up 43 points and outscored the soon-to-be MVP of the league in Patrick Mahomes.
They could beat the best the league had to offer with what they had. And the defense — which allowed just nine points in the first half — realized it had the ability to slow down Andy Reid's machine if it played things perfectly. That side of the ball did just enough again about three months later to help the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl. As a critical prelude to the AFC title game later in the same season, this one deserves mention as the first regular-season win on the list.
8. 2011 AFC Championship: Patriots 23, Ravens 20
The Billy Cundiff Game. Not exactly the height of professional football. Not one the historians will care much to rehash.
That's the reason that — though 31 other franchises might hold dear any game that propelled its team to a Super Bowl — this one almost didn't make the list. The fact that the Patriots couldn't finish the job the following week knocks this one down a few notches, too. It was close, at least.
But consider Sterling Moore made the play of the game on the defensive side of the ball, and that Tom Brady's signature moment was a quarterback sneak . . . and you gather why its hovering near the bottom of this list.
7. 2018 Divisional Round: Patriots 41, Chargers 28
Hindsight perhaps makes this win a touch less impressive, but remember where the Patriots were prior to kickoff? They'd won their last two regular-season games against subpar AFC East competition, and prior to that they'd lost to the Steelers and Dolphins. There were questions.
The Patriots emphatically put those to rest behind 129 yards and three touchdowns from Sony Michel and a 41-14 lead through 50 minutes of play. They had to go to Kansas City for their eighth straight AFC title game. Real challenge. But they were a much more formidable foe than they'd appeared prior to beating up on the Chargers.
6. 2017 AFC Championship: Patriots 24, Jaguars 20
This is the first win on the list that came from a season that ended with a loss. But there are only so many wins that landed the Patriots in a Super Bowl this decade so here we are.
Impressive performance from a team at less than full strength — Julian Edelman missed that season with a torn ACL, Rob Gronkowski suffered a concussion mid-game, Tom Brady sliced his throwing hand open in practice that week — and yet showed up in critical spots. Danny Amendola caught two touchdown passes to help overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Even somewhat under-manned it sent them to Minnesota with a shot at a second championship in as many years.
5. 2014 Divisional Round: Patriots 35, Ravens 31
It took three touchdown passes from Tom Brady. It took oddball formations that had Ravens coach John Harbaugh steamed. It took a late interception from Devin McCourty. It took a double-pass touchdown from Julian Edelman to Danny Amendola.
But finally, with about five minutes left, two years after falling to the Ravens at home in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots took their first lead of the game — after having to come back from a 14-point deficit twice — and won, advancing to the AFC title game for the fourth straight year. They'd be faced with a similar come-from-behind scenario in the Super Bowl two games later and passed with flying colors.
4. 2018 AFC Championship: Patriots 37, Chiefs 31
Before the Patriots could pound their chests after beating the Rams, they had to hold up against another up-and-coming team looking to usurp their AFC throne.
In the process of beating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in overtime, Tom Brady posted a vintage late-game postseason performance. He finished with 348 yards passing, a touchdown and two picks, but threw dart after dart to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman in overtime to help the Patriots win it. It might go down as the last best clutch performance by Brady in a Patriots uniform.
Combine that possibility with the team he beat — a team that looks like it could be in the mix for championships for the next decade or so because of the quarterback — and that's why this is in the Top 5.
3. Super Bowl LIII: Patriots 13, Rams 3
The game itself won't be held up against others on this list in terms of entertainment value. But for Patriots fans unwilling to allow themselves to consider life beyond their team's dominance, this was one to savor.
Up against an up-and-coming head coach with his own spin on an old scheme, Bill Belichick showed why he was still the best in the business. Playing more zone defense than they'd typically shown that season, the Patriots overwhelmed an overmatched quarterback and nearly shut out a record-setting offense.
The offense was there when it needed to be, thanks in part to a timely catch from Rob Gronkowski in his swan song.
2. Super Bowl LII: Patriots 34, Falcons 28
Even if you were to take out the improbable nature of the comeback, it held massive significance on a variety of fronts.
It gave Bill Belichick sole possession of first place among head coaches when it came to Super Bowl wins (5). It did the same for Tom Brady among quarterbacks, breaking his tie with Joe Mantana and Terry Bradshaw. It elevated them to another stratosphere.
Then add in the comeback — which gave the franchise a touchstone to which it can refer back any time it's in a difficult spot, which confirmed the importance of all they do conditioning-wise throughout the course of a season — and you have your No. 2.
1. Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
Down 24-14 going into the fourth quarter, Tom Brady threw two more touchdowns — he had four in the game — to take a late lead. You know what happened from there.
Dont'a Hightower stuffed Marshawn Lynch, Malcolm Butler picked off Russell Wilson, and the Patriots had their validation as a multi-decade dynasty.
That's why this is No. 1 as the "biggest."