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Pats' Past: The Patriots' First Win

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In week 2 of the 1960 season, the Boston Patriots won their first ever game. It was a thriller.

The 1960 Patriots, among them Thomas Dimitroff Sr. (last row, second from left).
The 1960 Patriots, among them Thomas Dimitroff Sr. (last row, second from left).
talesfromtheamericanfootballleague.com

It was a Saturday in September and the start of a rivalry that is still intense 55 years later. Week 2 of the American Football League's inaugural season saw the Boston Patriots travel to the Big Apple to face the New York Titans – a team that would later re-name itself and from 1963 onward be known as the New York Jets.

The Titans entered the game at 1-0 after beating the Buffalo Bills 27-3 on opening day 1960. The Patriots, on the other hand, were 0-1 after losing the franchise's first game – which also was the first AFL game ever – 10-13 to the visiting Denver Broncos. 19,200 people visited New York's Polo Grounds to watch the Titans, coached by legendary former Washington Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh, take on the visiting Patriots, coached by Lou Saban.

The game started well for the visitors when running back Walt Livingston scored from one yard out to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead. It would be Boston's only points of the first three quarters, though. The Titans were more successful and scored 24 unanswered points, courtesy of a Bill Shockley field goal and three Al Dorow touchdown passes.

By the start of the fourth quarter the score was 24-7 in New York's favor and the Patriots looked destined to start their inaugural season 0-2. However, they would not quit and rally back. A Tom Greene to Oscar Lofton touchdown pass brought the Patriots within 10, another touchdown pass – this time from Butch Songin to Jim Colclough – would cut the Titans' lead to just three points.

Late in the final period, with the Titans still leading 24-21, the home team held the ball but a defensive stand by the Patriots forced New York to punt with 12 seconds left in the game (the victory formation was not yet a part of the game). Titans center Mike Hudock's snap was low and, as a result, punter Rick Sapienza fumbled the ball. During the ensuing scrum both a Patriot and a Titan appeared to kick the ball forward until it was finally scooped up by Patriots defensive back Chuck Shonta, who returned the loose ball 25 yards for the touchdown.

Patriots 28, Titans 24. Game over.

Baugh and Titans owner Harry Wismer were furious and filed a complaint at the league office. Wismer even claimed that he had video evidence of the Patriots' illegally kicking the ball. Even though AFL commissioner Joe Foss later acknowledged that the referees made a mistake and should have whistled the play dead, he stuck with the original ruling claiming that games should not be decided by retroactively watching film.

The Patriots would go on to also win their second match-up with the Titans (38-21 in Boston). However, they would finish their inaugural season with a below-.500 record of five wins and nine losses. Overall, the 1960 season was the first chapter in Patriots history – and also the first in one of the NFL's fiercest rivalries.