The Patriots have been a part of many opening day memories. Here are the top 10 most significant Week One games in team history.
#10 – Sept. 7, 2008
|Tom Brady helped off the field (AP Photo)|
In the first quarter of the first game of the season, Tom Brady was injured in the left knee by Chief's safety Bernard Pollard. Brady left the game, never to return the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL.
Matt Cassel replaced Brady and was able to win the game, 17-10, with the help from Randy Moss and his six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. Cassel went on to lead the team to an 11-5 record and a first place tie with Miami in the AFC East. However, the Patriots missed the playoffs due to a tie-breaker.
#9 – Sept. 9, 2004
The Patriots unveiled their second championship banner during the NFL's first Thursday night game to kickoff a season and they did it against Peyton Manning and the Colts. Early on in the game, Mike Vanderjagt taunted the Patriots after hitting a 42-yard field to give the Colts a 17-13 lead in the second quarter. The Patriots got the last laugh. While the Patriots clung to a 27-24 lead with less than two minutes left in the game, Manning drove the Colts to the Patriots red-zone, but was sacked outside the 30 by Willie McGinest. Vanderjagt then missed a 48-yard field goal to clinch the game for the Patriots.
#8 – Sept. 8, 1963
|Nick Buoniconti Boston Patriots|
The Boston Patriots defeated the New York Titans (Jets) 38-14 in the home-opener at Boston College Alumni Field. With the game tied 14-14 at halftime, the Patriots exploded for 24 unanswered points to win. Pats quarterback Babe Parilli led Boston with 288 yards passing on 19 completions and one touchdown. He also scampered for a ten-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Titans. The defense came up with five interceptions, including two by Dick Felt and one by Hall-of-Famer Nick Buoniconti . It was the first ever season-opening game win in franchise history. The Patriots went on to win the AFL Eastern Division Championship, the first title in Patriots history. Eleven players on this team made the AFL All-Star team.
#7 – Sept. 14, 2009
Tom Brady returned to the field for the first time after missing virtually the entire 2008 season due to a horrific knee injury. With 5:25 remaining in the game and down by 11 points, Brady led 81-yard touchdown drive on 11 plays in 3:26 and scoring on an 18-yard Ben Watson touchdown reception from Brady. On the ensuing kickoff, Brandon Meiweather caused a Bills fumble to set up the game-winning Brady to Watson touchdown for a Patriots dramatic win.
#6 – August 31, 1997
In one of the biggest routs by the Patriots to start the season, Drew Bledsoe threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns to beat the San Diego Chargers 41-7. The scoring was capped off by a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown by Pats safety Willie "Big Play" Clay. The Patriots went on to win the AFC East with a 10-6 record.
#5 – Sept. 8, 2005
The Patriots celebrated their third championship by hosting Randy Moss and the Oakland Raiders. Prior to the game, Moss criticized the Patriots secondary, especially safety Rodney Harrison. He backed up his talk with five catches for 130 yards, including a 73 yard touchdown against Harrison. Tom Brady and the Patriots had the last word beating Oakland, 30-20. Brady had 306 yards passing and two touchdowns. Two years later, Brady and Moss team-up for an NFL record 23 touchdown receptions.
#4 – Sept. 4, 1994
|Bledsoe and Marino 1994 Season Opener|
Although this season-opener against Miami was a loss, the game proved the Patriots were no longer the doormat of the NFL. It was the first game with Robert Kraft as Patriots owner. It also featured one of the best quarterback shootouts in the history of the league between Drew Bledsoe and Dan Marino. Both quarterbacks combined for nearly 900 passing yards and nine touchdowns. The Dolphins won the game, but the Patriots were just starting to build a winning franchise. They made the playoffs that season for the first time in seven years.
#3 – Sept. 9, 2007
In Randy Moss' first game as a member of the Patriots, he caught nine passes from Tom Brady for 183 yards and a touchdown as the Patriots destroyed the Jets on the road 38-14. The game also featured an NFL record 108-second half kickoff return for a touchdown by Ellis Hobbs of the Patriots.
This game also featured a Patriots staff member illegal taping the Jets defense. The video was confiscated and the Patriots were later accused of cheating in the infamous "Spy-Gate" scandal.
After beating the Jets in the opener, the Patriots would not lose another game in 2007 until the Super Bowl.
#2 – Sept. 12, 2011
Tom Brady kicked off the season by becoming the 11th quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 500 yards in a game with 517 yards. He also threw four touchdowns, including a 99-yard score to Wes Welker, in the 38-24 win at Miami.
#1 – Sept. 9, 2002
|Deion Branch (AP Photo)|
The Patriots opened the new Gillette Stadium and unveiled their first championship banner on Monday night against the Pittsburg Steelers. Tom Brady threw three touchdowns, including one to rookie wide-out Deion Branch and Adam Vinatieri added two field goals in the 30-14 rout of the Steelers. The first Super Bowl banner is always the most memorable.
Kevin Saleeba is the senior editor and columnist for Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinSaleeba