The New England Patriots are the most successful football team of the 21st century. As such, the team has naturally won a lot of games, has earned a lot of accolades and has beaten a lot of teams. And while the Patriots often were on the winning side of games, their opponents had to leave the field in defeat – often in historical fashion.
USA Today, in true offseason form, has looked at those historical occurrences and the Patriots are featured more than any other team: overall, New England is responsible for six teams' worst losses, according to USA Today's Steven Ruiz.
Let's take a look at those games.
Final score: 32-29 Patriots
Super Bowl XXXVIII is arguably one of the best NFL title games ever played. It had everything: stifling defense, high-powered offense and difference-making special teams. The first and third quarter ended scoreless, as the scoreboard read 0-0 until 3:10 left in the first half. Still, both team's offenses found their momentum and scored a combined 24 points in half one, and a combined 37 in the last 15 minutes – the last three, a 41-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri won the game for New England.
Final score: 20-17 Patriots
In one of the biggest upsets in NFL history, the 14-point underdog Patriots were able to beat the "Greatest Show on Turf"-Rams. New England's defense was able to slow down the league's most potent offense by playing physical football and taking advantage of the St. Louis' mistakes. In the fourth quarter, however, the Rams came back from a 14-point deficit, only to witness the legend of Tom Brady being born: with no timeouts left and only 1:21 left on the game clock, Brady, in his 17th start, led the Patriots on a game-winning field goal drive.
Final score: 28-24 Patriots
The Patriots dominated most of the first half but were unable to pull away, as both teams entered halftime tied at 14. The defending world champion Seahawks started the second half better and by the time the fourth quarter arrived led by 10 points. However, the final period saw the Patriots' score two touchdowns against the league's best defense to take a 28-24 lead as the game turned into a contest for the ages: Seattle, aided by a miracle catch, found itself on the one-yard line before undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler turned fortunes around with his game-clinching interception with 24 seconds left.
Baltimore Ravens: 2011 AFC Championship Game
Final score: 23-20 Patriots
As usual, Patriots versus Ravens was a close affair, that saw neither team being able to secure victory until the final moments of the game. New England was down by four entering the fourth quarter but took a 23-20 lead thanks to a quarterback sneak by Brady. The game was far from over, though, as Baltimore drove to the Patriots' red zone and came close to winning when Lee Evans seemingly caught a touchdown before Sterling Moore knocked the football out of his hands. The Ravens still had a chance to tie the game but Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left.
San Diego Chargers: 2006 Divisional Playoff Game
Final score: 24-21 Patriots
The top-seeded Chargers hosted the Patriots in the 2006 divisional playoffs and were able to slow down Tom Brady and his offense – not enough to win the game, however. New England was down 21-13 when Chargers defensive back Marlon McCree recorded what looked like a game-clinching interception but he subsequently fumbled the ball (forced by Troy Brown) and Reche Caldwell recovered. Four plays later, the game was tied. Caldwell made another important play on the Patriots' next drive, setting up Steven Gostkowski's game-winning 31-yard field goal.
Oakland Raiders: 2001 Divisional Playoff Game
Final score: 16-13 (OT) Patriots
The last game to be played at old Foxboro Stadium is its most memorable: the Tuck Rule game. Both teams struggled to move the ball in the snowy, windy conditions. Oakland was able to take a 13-3 fourth quarter lead but the Patriots fought back to cut the deficit to three points. The game was seemingly lost when Brady lost the football with 1:47 left, but citing the so-called "tuck rule", referee Walt Coleman overturned the call and New England kept the ball – setting up Adam Vinatieri's 45-yard game-tying field goal. In overtime, another Vinatieri kick won the game.
The Patriots' worst loss, according to Ruiz, is Super Bowl XLII, by the way. It is tough to argue with the game considering a) that it spoiled New England's perfect season, and b) how close the team came to winning it. Other games that could be classified as the Patriots' worst loss are the 2006 AFC Championship loss against the Indianapolis Colts or the controversial 1976 divisional round loss at the hand of the Raiders.
While the list seems a little biased towards the 21st century, it is hard to argue with all the games named above being some of the, if not really the toughest losses for their respective teams. Thankfully, the Patriots have been on the winning side of six of them.