In 2006, two years after their last Super Bowl appearance, the Patriots lost the AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis. One thing became clear during that game: a wide receiver depth chart consisting of players like Reche Caldwell or Chad Jackson would be insufficient to get the team back onto the grand stage. Therefore, the Patriots re-loaded – big time.
The 2007 Patriots, due to acquisitions like Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Adalius Thomas, were arguably the best regular season team of all time. The offense was deadly, while the veteran defense was stifling. With the (way overblown) Spygate-”controversy” in the back of its head, New England destroyed the rest of the NFL on the way to a 16-0 record, while winning games by an average of almost 20 points – the team’s +315 point differential is still an all-time best.
Towards the end of the year, however, the machine that was the 2007 Patriots started to slow down. The team still won the AFC, though, and after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers earned its ticket to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
Date: February 3, 2008
Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale AZ
Final score: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
The Patriots’ sixth Super Bowl appearance started with the longest drive in Super Bowl history. The Giants took 9:59 seconds off the clock and a 3-0 lead after being stopped on 3rd-and-11. New England answered with a five-minute drive to take the lead on the first play of the second quarter. Laurence Maroney rushed the ball into the endzone from one yard out to put the Patriots ahead 7-3.
After Stephen Gostkowski channeled his inner John Kasay and kicked the ball out of bounds, the Giants started their next series at their own 40 yard line. They moved the football well until Eli Manning was intercepted by cornerback Ellis Hobbs at the New England 14. While the Patriots’ offense had issues moving the ball in the second quarter, their defense almost came up with two additional takeaways. However, the Giants recovered two fumbles by Manning. The Giants would also recover a fumble by Tom Brady late in the quarter. They were unable to capitalize and therefore the teams headed into the locker room at 7-3 in the AFC Champions’ favor.
The first drive of the second half saw the Patriots march to the Giants 25 yard line. However, they came away empty as Tom Brady was sacked on 3rd down and the team – instead of attempting a 49-yard field goal – went for it on 4th-and-13. Tom Brady’s pass fell incomplete and the Giants took over.
Neither team was able to drive the ball into scoring range until the Giants’ first drive of the fourth quarter, when they took a 10-7 lead. The Patriots relied almost exclusively on their passing attack to re-gain the lead; something they were able to do with 2:45 left in the game, when Tom Brady found Randy Moss for the touchdown.
Up 14-10, the Patriots’ defense had to stop the Giants from driving 83 yards. They had a chance to stop them on 4th-and-1 – but could not do it. They had the chance to intercept them with 1:20 left in the game – but could not do it. They had the chance to sack Eli Manning on 3rd-and-5 – but could not do it. Instead, Manning found David Tyree, who somehow was able to come down with a 32-yard pass. Four plays later, the Giants were up 17-14. The Patriots had 30 seconds and three timeouts to answer – but could not do it.
New England had its chances to win the game, as illustrated by the final drive, but came up short every time. The Giants, on the other hand, made the plays when they had to and saw the necessary bounces go their way. Therefore, the Patriots lost their first Super Bowl of the Brady-Belichick-era.