Even before Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 28-yard field goal to seal the New England Patriots’ 43-40 win over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, the contest was living up to its enormous pregame hype: plenty of scoring, momentum shifts, and huge plays on both sides made for a highly entertaining product. In fact, an argument can be made that last night’s game was one of the greatest contests ever to be played at Gillette Stadium.
Let’s take a look at some other regular season games that could fall under this category and be named in the same breath as yesterday’s meeting. And even though those games do not carry the weight of do-or-die playoff meetings, they nevertheless oftentimes leave the crowd highly satisfied about having witnessed a truly spectacular contest – even if the result may not always be a positive one, as the list shows.
Disclaimer: we are only including games played at Gillette Stadium, which has opened in 2002 and since hosted 139 regular season contests. Furthermore, games like “On to Cincinnati” or “59-0” are not included in the list. While they were entertaining from the Patriots’ perspective, they were not exactly back-and-forth nail-biters like yesterday’s game.
2002: New England Patriots vs Kansas City Chiefs
The second regular season game ever to be played at Gillette Stadium turned into a modern but by now largely forgotten classic – and one that again had the Chiefs take part in the action. The meeting was a fairly close one early on as the two teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 17. At that point, however, both offenses picked up steam and scored a combined six touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to end regulation at 38-38. New England subsequently won the coin toss and drove to a game-winning field goal in overtime
2009: New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills
On opening day 2009, Tom Brady made his comeback from a knee injury that cost him virtually all of the 2008 season. The prime time matchup against the Buffalo Bills turned into a memorable one that saw the visitors jump to a 24-13 lead with under six minutes left to play. However, a touchdown pass by Brady was followed by a Bills fumble on the ensuing kick return. Just three plays later, the Patriots were on top 25-24 thanks to another scoring pass by Brady – and all was right again in New England’s football world.
2012: New England Patriots vs San Francisco 49ers
Week 15 of the 2012 season saw the Patriots and 49ers play a shootout not unlike yesterday’s: one team – San Francisco in this particular case – went up big early on before seeing the other almost complete the comeback. New England found itself down 31-3 early in the third period before scoring 28 unanswered points to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter. The 49ers, however, were able to pull away again late and ultimately ended up winning 41-34.
2013: New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos
One year after their failed comeback attempt versus San Francisco, the Patriots once more found themselves in a big hole during a prime time matchup that saw plenty of hype before the game: down 24-0 at the half against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, the team went on a ferocious rally to score 31 straight points. Denver ultimately tied the game at 31 to force overtime. In the extra period, the Patriots’ decision to kick away paid off and the team ultimately won by a field goal.
2017: New England Patriots vs Houston Texans
Last year’s meeting between the Patriots and Texans was more competitive than this year’s. The back-and-forth game saw New England go up early in the third quarter before Houston rallied back to go up 33-28 with under three minutes remaining. However, Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does and drove New England’s offense the length of the field. The drive ended with a pin-point touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Brandin Cooks.