Okay, you might not remember, but back in the winter, I did a rankings of the Patriots teams since 2001 that did NOT make the Super Bowl.
It was a week prior to Super Bowl LIII, and I wanted to show just how great the team has been since this dynasty began. For what are considered the bottom half of Patriot teams, there were some goodies.
Anyway, this will be the creme de la creme, the 9 Patriots teams that have made the Super Bowl since 2001. These teams have a combined record of 118-26 (.819), good for an average of over 13 wins per season. 6 Super Bowl champions, a perfect regular season, 2 MVP seasons… lots of good football.
Just another reason to appreciate the greatest run of success in the history of professional sports
9. 2011 New England Patriots
Record: 13-3 (1st seed); Lost Super Bowl XXLVI to the New York Giants
Pro Bowlers: Tom Brady, Andre Carter, Rob Gronkowski, Logan Mankins, Matthew Slater, Brian Waters, Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork
Offense: 3rd in points (32.1 per game), 2nd in yards (2nd passing/20th rushing)
Defense: 15th in points (21.4 per game), 31st in yards (31st passing/17th rushing)
I’m not afraid to call this team what it was: the worst Patriots team since 2001 to make the Super Bowl. This was during the peak of the “carried by Brady” era in terms of him doing it all on offense (which had weapons), but being let down by the defense (see: 31st in yards).
This was the season where Gronk went bonkers, but when you put them up against the teams of the past, it feels like a very weak overall team. I know the wording doesn’t matter, but I always feel like this Super Bowl against the Giants was more of a loss than a Giants win. In 2007, the Giants were the better team on the field and outplayed the Patriots, but this team should’ve won, and shot themselves in the foot during the game en route to losing.
Even the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens (which I was at) felt like New England was lucky to win (one could say the missed FG by Billy Cundiff is justification for that view). Great offense, Gronk’s best season, but come on… they even lost to the Bills this season. Some other teams on the old list probably have no issue beating this team.
8. 2017 New England Patriots
Record: 13-3 (1st seed); Lost Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles
Pro Bowlers: Tom Brady, James Develin, Rob Gronkowski, Matthew Slater
All-Pros: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Matthew Slater (2nd team)
Offense: 2nd in points (28.6 per game), 1st in yards (3rd passing/10th rushing)
Defense: 5th in points (18.5 per game), 29th in yards (30th passing/20th rushing)
This team gave me headaches. They were good, but a lot of games were close, and it felt like there was a lot of tension with this group (as the media loved to tell us everyday). Still, Brady was as good as ever, which culminated in his 3rd MVP.
Stealing a win in Pittsburgh late in the season helped secure home field advantage for the playoffs, which became beneficial in the AFC Championship Game. They had a close game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, one that needed yet another classic comeback, but New England prevailed, going to their second straight Super Bowl.
Super Bowl LII was a shootout, a game where Brady threw for over 500 yards. However, New England’s defense could not stop Philly, and on a 4th quarter drive when his team was trailing 38-33 with less than 3 minutes to go, Brady was stopped. I’d argue it was the first time with enough time on the clock and a chance to take the lead Brady was truly stopped in the Super Bowl, which made it hurt so much more.
Tom had a great postseason, and it was the first time that many doubted Bill Belichick due to his benching of CB Malcolm Butler… but things would be different a year later.
7. 2018 New England Patriots
Record: 11-5 (2nd seed); Won Super Bowl LIII versus the Los Angles Rams
Pro Bowlers: Tom Brady, Stephon Gilmore
All-Pros: Stephon Gilmore, Cordarrelle Patterson (2nd team)
Offense: 4th in points (27.3 per game), 5th in yards (8th passing/5th rushing)
Defense: 7th in points (20.3 per game), 21st in yards (22nd passing/11th rushing)
What a difference a year makes. When the voices were as loud as ever that the dynasty was over (helped by a 1-2 start), this team never quit. Even at 9-5 and after losing a key weapon in Josh Gordon, the team transformed into a more run-first philosophy, which was highlighted in the postseason.
You can say Brady took a step back from his 2017 MVP self, but when it mattered most, he was on. In the Divisional Round against the Chargers, he was 34 for 44 with 343 yards and a TD (106.5 passer rating). He looked sloppy at times in the AFC Championship Game, but in the 4th quarter and OT, he went tit for tat with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, leading a touchdown drive each time his team was tied or trailing… which led to a win. In the Super Bowl, it was a defensive grudge match, but in the 4th quarter, Brady orchestrated a TD drive, highlighted by what should be the last catch of Rob Gronkowski’s career. He did his job, and the team won their 6th Super Bowl since 2001.
The defense came up huge during the playoffs, and had an all-time performance in the Super Bowl. It was one of Bill Belichick’s best coaching jobs (which is saying a lot), and certainly helped him save face based on how the previous season went.
A hard team to peg on this list, but a Super Bowl Champion.
6. 2001 New England Patriots
Record: 11-5 (2nd seed); Won Super Bowl XXXVI versus the St. Louis Rams
Pro Bowlers: Tom Brady, Troy Brown, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy
Offense: 6th in points (23.2 per game), 19th in yards (22nd passing/13th rushing)
Defense: 6th in points (17.0 per game), 24th in yards (24th passing/19th rushing)
The team that started it all. They went from going 0-2 (5-13 in Belichick’s first 18 games as the coach), and losing their franchise QB to injury… to finishing the season by going 11-3, seeing that the backup QB was actually better than the starter, and reaching the Super Bowl for the first time since 1996.
There were a lot of hold overs from the Bill Parcells era here, but one huge thing changed: Tom Brady was the QB. Although he was injured in the AFC Championship Game, and Drew Bledsoe came in and led the team to a win, Belichick chose Brady to start Super Bwl XXXVI versus the Greatest Show on Turf. The Rams seemed like an overwhelming favorite, yet New England was not going to roll over. The Rams took a 3-0 lead, but New England led 14-3 at halftime, and had a 17-3 lead in the 4th quarter.
The Rams were able to have some luck and tie the game at 20, then the legend of Tom Brady was truly born. The Patriots got the ball at their 17 with 1:21 to go, and Brady was able to move the offense down the field to the STL 30, downing the ball with 7 seconds on the clock. Adam Vinatieri then kicked the GW FG, giving the Patriots their first Super Bowl ever.
A dynasty was born this season, and 18 years later, the Patriots still have Tom Brady at QB and Bill Belichick as their head coach, and are still the best of the best.
5. 2007 New England Patriots
Record: 16-0 (1st seed); Lost Super Bowl XXLI to the New York Giants
Pro Bowlers: Tom Brady, Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Randy Moss, Asante Samuel, Mike Vrabel, Vince Wilfork
All-Pros: Tom Brady, Dan Koppen (2nd team), Matt Light, Logan Mankins (2nd team), Randy Moss, Asante Samuel, Mike Vrabel, Wes Welker (2nd team), Vince Wilfork (2nd team)
Offense: 1st in points (36.8 per game), 1st in yards (1st passing/13th rushing)
Defense: 4th in points (17.8 per game), 4th in yards (6th passing/10th rushing)
This is going to be controversial. I understand this team lost a Super Bowl, but I have to give them some credit for going 16-0. They still have the second highest scoring offense in NFL history, and Brady became the first QB ever to throw 50 TDs. To me, it came down to this: which Patriots teams on this list would this team beat.
I see them easily beating the 2011 and 2017 teams, and after some tossing and turning, I think they’d outmatch the 2001 and 2018 teams (it was close). It’s a tough team to talk about, but still a great one.
It took until their 9th game of the season to score less than 34 points and win a game by one possession. They had more games in the regular season where they scored 40+ points (4) than they did games with multiple turnovers (3). Their defense was no joke either, still featuring many players from the 3 Super Bowl teams from earlier in the decade.
If they win that one game, they jump to 1st on this list.
4. 2016 New England Patriots
Record: 14-2 (1st seed); Won Super Bowl LI versus the Atlanta Falcons
Pro Bowlers: Tom Brady, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater
All-Pros: Tom Brady (2nd team), Malcolm Butler (2nd team), Marcus Cannon (2nd team), Nate Ebner (2nd team), Dont’a Hightower (2nd team), Devin McCourty (2nd team), Matthew Slater
Offense: 3rd in points (27.6 per game), 4th in yards (4th passing/7th rushing)
Defense: 1st in points (15.6 per game), 8th in yards (12th passing/3rd rushing)
The Tom Brady revenge tour. We saw a prelude to this in 2015 when Brady’s suspension was initially announced, but it was overturned prior to the beginning of the season. In 2016, Brady served his 4-game suspension, and the team went 3-1 in his absence. When he got back, it was game on (insert Billy Madison dodgeball clip).
Brady went 11-1 during the regular season, with 3554 yards, 28 TDs and 2 INTs. His 112.2 passer rating was the second best of his career (behind his 2007 season).
The team won it’s most games since 2010, and secured the first seed in the AFC. Brady had an iffy game against the Texans, but was spectacular against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game (another game I got to go to). Then you know the story about Super Bowl LI (detailed here). The greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, capping off a revenge tour where Brady won his 5th Super Bowl, surpassing Joe Montana.
At times it looked like this team feasted on easier opponents, but Brady was as good as ever, and showed as much when it mattered most.
3. 2003 New England Patriots
Record: 14-2 (1st seed); Won Super Bowl XXXVIII versus the Carolina Panthers
Pro Bowlers: Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Richard Seymour
All-Pros: Tedy Bruschi (2nd team), Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Richard Seymour
Offense: 12 in points (21.8 per game), 17th in yards (9th passing/27th rushing)
Defense: 1st in points (14.9 per game), 7th in yards (15th passing, 4th rushing)
2001 may have been the first Super Bowl of the dynasty, but 2003 was the beginning of dominance. The Patriots missed the playoffs in 2002, and went 2-2 to start the season (including a 31-0 loss against the Buffalo Bills, featuring Drew Bledsoe and Lawyer Milloy).
However, the team went on a 12-game winning streak to finish 2003, including a 31-0 win in Week 17 against the Bills, winning 12 games for the first time in franchise history (the first of many during this run). They won a close game against the Tennessee Titans in the first playoff game to be played at Gillette Stadium, and then dominated the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, a game where Peyton Manning threw 4 INTs and had a passer rating of 35.5.
In a crazy (and often underrated) Super Bowl, the Patriots found themselves in a back and fourth match against the Carolina Panthers. They trailed for just over 4 minutes in the game (late in the 4th quarter), but were nevertheless tied with just over 60 seconds left. A horrible kickoff by the Panthers resulted in a penalty and gave the Patriots the ball at their 40-yard line. 4 completions later, the ball was at the CAR 23 with 9 seconds to go. Vinatieri kicked yet another GW FG, giving New England their second Super Bowl win in three seasons. Brady was 4 for 4 with 47 yards on the final drive, capping off another clutch drive in the Super Bowl.
2. 2014 New England Patriots
Record: 12-4 (2nd seed); Won Super Bowl XLIX versus the Seattle Seahawks
Pro Bowlers: Tom Brady, Stephen Gostkowski, Rob Gronkowski, Darrelle Revis, Matthew Slater
All-Pros: Stephen Gostkowski, Rob Gronkowski, Darrelle Revis, Matthew Slater
Offense: 4th in points (29.3 per game), 11th in yards (9th passing/13th rushing)
Defense: 8th in points (19.6 per game), 13th in yards (17th passing/9th rushing)
This felt like the most balanced Patriots team in years, one that was truly on a mission to win a Super Bowl. The Patriots had not won the big game in a decade, and for years it seemed like their defense was letting them down. However, the team signed stud CB Darrelle Revis in the offseason, and putting him with defenders such as Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Vince Wilfork finally made it seem like they had a defense that could compete.
However, it took a little bit to get going. The team started 2-2, and after coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career, many began to doubt how much longer Tom Brady had. This led to the classic “we’re onto Cincinnati” game, where the Patriots beat the Bengals 43-17. The team finished the season 10-2, and Brady had 3318 yards, 29 TDs and 7 INTs during that stretch (103 passer rating).
In a wild playoff game against the rival Baltimore Ravens, New England kept coming back, overcoming two 14-point deficits to tie the game, then coming back from from trailing 31-28 in the 4th to take the lead, and win the game. They destroyed the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, but allegations of deflating footballs in the game became a media sensation in the run-up to Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks. The world did not end, and although the Patriots were trailing 24-14 in the 4th quarter, they came back and won 28-24, securing their win off of a game-saving INT at the goal line by Malcolm Butler.
This was the Patriots first Super Bowl win since 2004, and 4th since 2001. The drama behind Deflategate helped fuel Tom Brady into having arguably the best 3 seasons of his career in 2015-2017, and 3 more Super Bowl appearances (including 2 more wins).
1. 2004 New England Patriots
Record: 14-2 (2nd seed); Won Super Bowl XXXIX versus the Philadelphia Eagles
Pro Bowlers: Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Corey Dillon, Larry Izzo, Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri
All-Pros: Tedy Bruschi (2nd team), Rodney Harrison (2nd team), Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri
Offense: 4th in points (27.3 per game), 7th in yards (11th passing/7th rushing)
Defense: 2nd in points (16.3 per game), 9th in yards (17th passing/6th rushing)
Out of all the teams over the years, this is the best Patriots team of all-time. It was the most balanced, as the defense was as good as ever, and a 27-year-old Tom Brady was beginning to go from a perceived game manager to elite QB.
The team started the season 6-0, continuing their winning streak from the season prior, reaching a then-NFL record 21 straight wins. However, they lost to the Steelers and rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger (a team that went 15-1 in 2004), ending the streak. New England won 6 games in a row before their traditional loss in Miami, but finished 2004 by going 14-2.
They began the postseason by hosting the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning, easily winning 20-3. In the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, New England annihilated the Steelers. They had a 24-3 lead going into halftime, stretching out the game to 41-20 in the 4th quarter before winning 41-27.
Reaching their second Super Bowl in as many seasons, New England faced the 13-3 Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles took a 7-0 lead in the 2nd quarter, but the Patriots quickly tied it. The game was tied at 7 going into halftime, and 14 in the 4th quarter, but the Patriots pulled ahead. The Eagles scored a late TD to make it 24-21, and got the ball back with less than a minute to go, but a Rodney Harrison interception secured the game for New England.
This was when is became safe to call the Patriots a dynasty, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick Hall of Famers.
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