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New England Patriots Super Bowl History: Super Bowl XXXI

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After their 1996 season, the Patriots appeared in the Super Bowl for just the second time in franchise history. Let's take a look back.

The only - and hopefully last - time, the Patriots lost a Super Bowl wearing white.
The only - and hopefully last - time, the Patriots lost a Super Bowl wearing white.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With Super Bowl XLIX on the horizon, we take the time to look back at the New England Patriots' past seven Super Bowls. Today, we continue the series with the Patriots' second appearance on the game's biggest stage – Super Bowl XXXI.

After losing Super Bowl XX, the Patriots were heading towards the most tumultuous ten-year span in franchise history; both on and off the field. On the field, the team struggled to repeat the success of its 1985 season: the Patriots had five consecutive losing seasons from 1989 to 1993. The low point was reached in 1990, when New England went 1-15 and had the worst in-season point differential of the 1990s at -265.

While the on-field-product was mediocre at best, the off-field environment was a mess. The franchise saw three ownership changes from 1988 to 1994, when Robert Kraft bought the Patriots to avoid a possible re-location to St. Louis. A year before Kraft purchased the team, then-owner James Orthwein was looking for a new coach after firing Dick MacPherson, who went 8-24 in his two years at the helm. He found one, who would eventually bring the Patriots back to relevancy – and the Super Bowl: Bill Parcells.

Parcells' tenure started with selecting quarterback Drew Bledsoe with the first overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. One year later, the team reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Two years after that, it won its first playoff game in 11 years. Three weeks later, the team faced the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI.

Super Bowl XXXI: New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers – Game Synopsis

Date: January 26, 1997

Stadium: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans LA

Final Score:
New England Patriots 21
Green Bay Packers 35

Not even six minutes had passed in the first quarter of Super Bowl XXXI, when the Patriots already found themselves in a 10-point hole. On Green Bay's second offensive play of the day, Brett Favre hit wide receiver Andre Rison for a 54-yard touchdown. Three plays later, Drew Bledsoe threw an interception, which the Packers converted into a field goal. The Patriots, however, fought back and entered the second quarter up 14-10 – thanks to two Bledsoe touchdown passes; one apiece to fullback Keith Byars and tight end Ben Coates.

The Patriots were back in the game but, just like in the first quarter, could not stop the big play. This time, it was an 81-yard touchdown pass to give the Packers a 17-14 lead. The Patriots were unable to find any offensive rhythm and, to make matters worse, Bledsoe threw another interception midway through the quarter. On the ensuing 10-play, 74-yard drive, Green Bay expanded its lead even further, and the Patriots – after failing to convert on 4th-and-2 in Packers' territory with 26 seconds to go – headed into the locker room down 27-14.

The second half began better for New England. On the opening drive of the third quarter, the Patriots' defense stopped the Packers on 4th-and-1 on New England's 37 yard line. The offense, however, was unable to turn the good field position into points. The team would have to wait until its next drive, when running back Curtis Martin scored on an 18-yard touchdown run. However, soon-to-be Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard returned Adam Vinatieri's subsequent kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Green Bay led 35-21 heading into the final quarter of the 1996 NFL season.

The Patriots tried to rally but could not mount the comeback because the team's fourth quarter drives ended as follows: 3-and-out. Interception. 3-and-out. Interception. The quarter ended scoreless, and Green Bay won its third Lombardi Trophy. Overall, the Patriots were outgained 323-257 in total net yards, while Bledsoe threw four interceptions and was sacked five times (the Patriots – led by Tedy Bruschi's two sacks – also registered five quarterback take-downs).

New England's second Super Bowl appearance was – as opposed to the team's first – a more competitive contest. The Patriots' turnovers and inabilities to prevent the big play were too much to overcome, though. Therefore, just like 11 years earlier, the Patriots came up short in the Louisiana Superdome.

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After the game, Bill Parcells resigned as head coach of the New England Patriots due to disputes with owner Robert Kraft; he was succeeded by Pete Carroll. After leaving Foxborough, Parcells became head coach of the New York Jets – his defensive coordinator in New York would lead the Patriots to their third Super Bowl appearance just five years after Super Bowl XXXI.

Super Bowl XXXI Highlights: