It was a spectacle, possibly the most anticipated regular season contest of all time. After all, everybody wanted to see whether or not the New England Patriots would be able to properly end their perfect journey that began almost four months earlier in the very same stadium where they would play the New York Giants in week 17 of the 2007 season – where they would try to go put the finishing touches on the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history.
Week one, a road game at the New York Jets already gave a glimpse of what would turn out to be one of the greatest teams ever assembled. The Patriots received the opening kickoff, scored a touchdown and never looked back en route to a 38-14 victory that set the tone for what was about to come: Fueled by the ensuing Spygate scandal, the team would not just win its games – it would dominate them.
This is exactly what the Patriots did. They won their next games by 24, 31, 21 and 17 points before heading to Dallas to face the also-undefeated Cowboys. And while the contest was comparatively close for New England’s standards, the team pulled away late and ultimately defeated Dallas rather comfortably with a final score of 48-27 to improve to 6-0. And on the journey went – a journey which saw its groundwork laid before the game opening game against the Jets.
The machine that was the 2007 Patriots was born in January, in Indianapolis: New England went on the road to play the Colts in the AFC title game. Despite a 21-3 lead at one point, the team lost 38-34 as an offense that was lacking high-end talent ran out of gas and the defense failed to pull out the stops needed for the victory. This loss, in retrospect, molded the team that would go on to re-write the NFL’s record books.
Over the next few months, the Patriots added plenty of veteran help on offense and defense: While Randy Moss – who would set an all-time record with 23 receiving touchdowns –, Wes Welker and Dante’ Stallworth would form the core of New England’s wide receiver group, Adalius Thomas would (at least in 2007 and 2008) add big-play ability to an aging but experienced and still excellent defense that became one of the league’s best units and finished fourth in scoring.
With the pieces in place, particularly on offense, the team had virtually no problems marching through the early portions of its schedule. Following the game against the Cowboys, the Patriots went on the road to destroy the Miami Dolphins 49-28 before a game against the Washington Redskins set up a highly-anticipated rematch of the conference title game against the then-7-0 Colts.
Every other year, Indianapolis would have been the best team in the league: The defending world champions had Peyton Manning and his star-powered offense to complement an opportunistic defense. But 2007 was different because the Patriots had all that as well plus a head coach willing to take no prisoners and a quarterback playing football unlike the world has ever seen.
Tom Brady had spectacular moments before, otherwise he would not have led New England to three Super Bowl wins in the early 2000s. But Brady, despite his superior success, was oftentimes not placed on the same level Manning or even beyond him by the national media. It all changed in 2007, when he finally had an offensive arsenal to match his rival’s. Brady went on to throw an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes compared to only eight interceptions, winning his first MVP trophy.
Against the Colts, Brady had a mediocre day for his lofty standards. Still, he was able to lead his team back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat Indianapolis 24-20. Coming out of their bye week, New England's success continued. However, the games – at least some of them – became closer as opponents were able to slow down the team's record-breaking offense. The Baltimore Ravens came closest to upsetting the Patriots, who were 11-0 at that point, but a last-minute drive secured a 27-24 win.
The journey kept on going and led back to New Jersey's Meadowlands, where the team would play the Giants on a Saturday prime time game in its regular season finale. The 15-0 Patriots were, of course, the heavy favorites against a 10-5 Giants team that had nothing to play for. Still, the home squad put up a fight against New England and went toe-for-toe with the NFL's powerhouse.
The high-scoring affair saw the Giants take an early lead and hold onto it until the Patriots went up 16-14 late in the second quarter. Still, New York would come back and scored to head into the locker rooms at halftime with a 21-16 lead. Six minutes into the third period, the team would score again to put New England in its deepest hole of the season, a 12 point deficit. However, climb out of that hole the Patriots did, scoring three straight touchdowns to take a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.
New York was able to come within three points but it was too little, too late. After recovering a Giants onside kick, it was official: The 2007 Patriots would finish the 2007 regular season with a perfect 16-0 record; a feature never before accomplished in NFL history. It was not just the fact that the Patriots went through the regular season with an unblemished record that stands out, though.
The Patriots went 16-0 in a) an era of parity designed to prevent things like that from happening and b) truly impressive fashion: New England had the NFL's top scoring offense of all time while featuring a stingy defense to finish with a point differential of +315 or 19.7 points per game – a record that still stands and will likely continue to for a long time.
Ultimately, the 2007 Patriots ran out of gas: After two more wins in the playoffs, the team fell 17-14 to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. But despite not winning the Lombardi Trophy in the end, New England's 2007 squad was a historic one – one that put the finishing touches on the greatest regular season of all time exactly 10 years ago.