December 30, 2007
With a 38-35 victory over the New York Giants at Giants Stadium Saturday night, the New England Patriots became the second team in the modern era of the National Football League to go undefeated (16-0) in the regular season. The only other team to have achieved this feat was the Miami Dolphins in 1972, who were 14-0 due to a different regular season structure at the time.
Trailing by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, the Patriots soon came back with touchdowns from running back
Laurence Maroney and wide receiver Randy Moss.
Two other NFL records were broken in the course of one play; with 11:06 remaining in the game, quarterback Tom Brady threw a pass to Moss for a touchdown. This broke Peyton Manning's record of 49 touchdown passes and Jerry Rice's record of 22 touchdown catches. The Patriots also ended up with a record-high 589 points for the season.
"In this game of football, it's hard to go 16-and-0," Moss stated. "As a football player and a fan of the game, my
hat's off to this organization."
Don Shula, coach of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, commended the Patriots, saying "going undefeated during the regular season
is a remarkable achievement."
In an attempt to reach as many viewers as possible, the game was simulcast on three networks, with the coverage from NFL Network (only digital/satellite channel) being broadcast on NBC and CBS. This was the first NFL game to be nationally televised on more than one broadcast network since Super Bowl I in 1967.
year of perfection capped by thrilling comeback win over Giants
While it obviously
was a record-setting game for Tom Brady, Randy Moss and everyone associated with the Patriots organization, the Giants took
plenty of positives out of this game, as well. It was apparent Plaxico Burress is finally healthy, and the play of rookie
replacement TE Kevin Boss was encouraging, with Jeremy Shockey out for the remainder of the season. But the big story for
the Giants was the play of Eli Manning, who not only put up excellent numbers, but also showed poise and leadership on a big
stage. Losing in the NFL is never a good thing, but New York should be able to build on the momentum it created Saturday night as it prepares
to travel to Tampa Bay
for its first-round playoff matchup. New York has to feel
confident it can hang with any team it faces in the postseason.
N.J. (AP) -- Tom Brady was as giddy as the quarterback of an unbeaten and perhaps unbeatable team should be. Had Bill Belichick
spotted him slapping the backs of his New England teammates, the dour coach might have scoffed.
After all, a
perfect 16-0 regular season won't mean much if the Patriots don't win their next three games and another Super Bowl.
"We've been dealing
with being undefeated all season," Brady said Saturday night after the thrilling 38-35 victory over the New York Giants in
a game worthy of the NFL's championship showcase. "It was kind of a strange game. It really doesn't mean much to either team,
but it means a lot."
England became the first NFL team since the 1972 Dolphins to win every game on the schedule, and that one was
only 14-0. This victory required a Brady-engineered comeback from a 12-point deficit and smashed the Patriots' league mark
for consecutive victories.
during the regular season is a remarkable achievement," 1972 Dolphins coach Don Shula said. "I know firsthand how difficult
it is to win every game, and just as we did in 1972, the Patriots have done a great job concentrating on each week's opponent
and not letting any other distractions interrupt that focus. If they go on to complete an undefeated season, I will be the
first to congratulate Coach Belichick and the Patriot organization."
the Patriots' inexorable march through the season can only come by adding a Super Bowl championship. Do that, and there'll
be no challenge to their spot at the top.
"Hats off to
us," said record-setting receiver Randy Moss, who caught Brady's 65-yard bomb for the go-ahead score that set two major records.
"I know a lot of people didn't think we were going to do it. A lot of people didn't want us to do it.
"In this game
of football, it's hard to go 16-and-0. As a football player and a fan of the game, my hat's off to this organization."
In gaining their
19th straight win over two seasons, the Patriots went on top on Brady's 50th touchdown pass of the year and Moss' 23rd TD
reception. It came with 11:06 remaining.
Brady beat Peyton
Manning's mark of 49 touchdown passes and Moss broke Jerry Rice's record of 22 TD receptions. And the Patriots finished with
an incredible 589 points for the season, another single-season record.
Once the victory
was clinched, Belichick was barely more animated than usual. He shared hugs with players and assistant coaches on the sideline,
but there was no thought of carrying him off on the Patriots' shoulders or dumping Gatorade all over him.
That will have
to wait for three more wins -- if they come.
"It's a great
feeling," Belichick admitted. "Now is the time to take a day or two and appreciate what this team has done, but at the same
time we have our biggest game of the year coming up. Pretty soon we need to turn the page and move on."
Who knows, the
Patriots might even find the Giants on one of the next pages, especially if Eli Manning again resembles his vaunted older
"We didn't win
the game, but if you saw everybody in the locker room, everybody was excited," Manning said. "I never saw a locker room so
upbeat after a loss because we played so well, did some good things and hung in there in a game where we didn't have to play.
We wanted to. We wanted to come out and play well, and we did that."
The Giants (10-6),
already guaranteed a playoff game against Tampa Bay
next weekend and with little to play for except spoiling New England's perfect ride, led
28-16 in the third quarter. It was the Patriots' largest deficit all year as the Giants showed no fear and plenty of versatility,
scoring the most points New England allowed in a game during this remarkable run.
for four touchdowns and Domenik Hixon, in his first game as New York's
primary kick returner, went 74 yards for a score 11 seconds after Brady and Moss tied their respective records.
Not to worry.
These Patriots are unflappable, and they matched their comebacks in wins over Dallas, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Baltimore
earlier in the season. A 73-yard drive ended with Laurence Maroney's 6-yard run to make it 28-23 with 4:00 to go in the third
Then came the
most familiar of scenes: Brady dropping back, winding up and hitting a wide-open Moss in stride for a touchdown. The final
go-ahead TD in their perfect year.
"What I'm most
proud of is playing a playoff team on the road that was playing extremely hard," Brady said. "We found a way to come back
and win. We did the same thing at Dallas. We did the same
thing at Indy. We've been in some tough games.
going to enjoy this one. It happens once every 35 years."
are eager to hail these Patriots as the NFL's all-time best, such acclaim won't come unless they win two playoff games and
their fourth Super Bowl this decade. And for those who might deny such greatness considering the "Spygate" scandal, well,
19-0 would speak pretty loudly.
than any postgame celebrations at Giants Stadium, the same building where they were caught videotaping New York Jets assistant
coaches in Week 1, a rules violation that cost Belichick and the franchise $750,000 in fines and a 2008 first-round draft
choice. That made Belichick even more close-mouthed and dour than usual, and his team followed his lead -- right to 16-0.
The Giants opened
the game as if they were, well, the Patriots, driving 74 yards, sparked by a 52-yard completion on which Plaxico Burress outleapt
Ellis Hobbs for Manning's jump-ball throw. Brandon Jacobs broke Tedy Bruschi's tackle to score on a 7-yard reception for a
Patriots, the highest-scoring team in NFL history, struck back. After Stephen Gostkowski's 37-yard field goal, New England
went on top -- and surpassed Minnesota's league mark of
556 points -- on the record-tying 4-yard TD pass from Brady to Moss, who soared above rookie Aaron Ross for the score.
The 10-7 lead
lasted all of 11 seconds. The usually staid Patriots gathered around Moss as he did a dance in the end zone, prompting a 15-yard
excessive celebration penalty. Belichick argued the call with referee Mike Carey, perhaps sensing how costly it might be.
It was as Hixon
sped 74 yards untouched to lift the Giants back in front.
"There is nothing
but positives," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "I told the players in playing this game everything would be positives, there
would be no negatives and that is how I feel.
"I don't know
any better way to be prepared for the playoffs than to go against a team that was 15-0."
two more field goals as the Patriots grabbed a 16-14 lead with 1:59 left in the half.
That's when Manning,
coming off several rough games, was at his best, leading a quick 85-yard drive that included a rare scramble for 11 yards
just before he found Kevin Boss in the middle of the end zone with 13 seconds remaining. The 21-16 deficit was only the second
time New England has trailed at halftime this season; the other was to the older Manning
and the Colts.
But with such
a potent offense, the Patriots never are out of any game. Once they got the lead, they closed it out with another touchdown
drive, Maroney scoring from the 5. Manning hit Burress again from 3 yards with 1:04 to go, but New England
recovered the onside kick.
"We're down 10 or 11 (actually
12) in the third quarter, the crowd was into it, and we found a way to win," Brady said. "That's the way it's going to be
down the stretch ... just hope we can continue to play this kind of football."
Griese '72 Dolphins salute Patriots' success
2007, 4:53 AM ET
RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The last coach of an unbeaten NFL team on Saturday praised the New England Patriots, who are
the first team to finish 16-and-0 in the regular season.
The 1972 Miami
Dolphins, who went 14-and-0 and then won three playoff games, are the last team to go undefeated.
Don Shula, says "going undefeated during the regular season is a remarkable achievement."
Shula says the
Pats "have done a great job concentrating on each week's opponent and not letting any other distractions interrupt that focus.
If they go on to complete an undefeated season, I will be the first to congratulate Coach Belichick and the Patriot organization."
Shula was the
most prominent of several members of the 72 Dolphins who saluted the perfect Patriots on Saturday.
The best [the
Pats] can do is to stand beside us, and in the end, that's not a bad thing. I will welcome them to the neighborhood with my
Mr. Rogers sweater on, but first they have to get to the neighborhood.
-- Mercury Morris
quarterback Bob Griese issued a statement to congratulate New England on "going undefeated
during the regular season" and compliment Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for one of the "greatest seasons ever by an NFL quarterback."
"I hope he [Brady]
continues to play at such a high level in the playoffs, and if he does it will be very difficult to beat them the rest of
the way," Shula said.
Manny Fernandez said he welcomed the Patriots achieving their level of perfection.
"If they finish
without a loss," he said about their upcoming playoffs campaign, "it's almost going to be a relief to me. That way, the media
will start to call them the first eight or nine games each year whenever a team starts undefeated instead of calling us. That
will give us a break."
The only relatively
lukewarm voice came from 1972 running back Mercury Morris, a frequently only-grudging admirer of the Patriots.
"It doesn't matter to me whether or not they win them all because it doesn't affect anything we've done. When all the dust
clears, the best they can do is to stand beside us, and in the end, that's not a bad thing. I will welcome them to the neighborhood
with my Mr. Rogers sweater on, but first they have to get to the neighborhood."
The 1972 Dolphins
were also divided as to whether the Patriots will finish the season unbeaten.
"I do not believe
they'll go 19-0," said 1972 guard Bob Kuechenberg, noting they still have three postseason games to win. Among the teams they
may have to beat are the reigning Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts and the NFC champion in the Super Bowl.
"If the Patriots can do all
that, my hat is off to them," Kuechenberg said. "They will have earned the right to join us in the ranks of the immortals."