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Pats Madness: What does the Pats Pulpit staff see as the best game of the Patriots dynasty?

Read more: Pats Madness: Championship weekend is here!

Super Bowl X Patten

For the last month, Pats Pulpit staff writer and podcaster Pat Lane served as the commissioner for a very special March Madness-style tournament: Pats Madness. The search for the best game of the New England Patriots’ still ongoing dynastic run is now down to two games — make sure to vote here! — as the team’s victories in Super Bowls 36 and 51 now square off against each other.

While you can let us know your opinion in the comment section, the staff of Pats Pulpit shares its thoughts on the matchup between the Patriots’ first and fifth championship victories right here:

Pats Madness: Staff Picks

Bernd Rich Alec Marima Slot Machine Player Oliver Matt Ryan K. Pat Consensus
Bernd Rich Alec Marima Slot Machine Player Oliver Matt Ryan K. Pat Consensus
SB51 SB51 SB36 SB36 SB51 SB36 SB36 SB51 SB36 Super Bowl 36 (5:4)

As can be seen, the battle between the two title games is a close one when it comes to the Pats Pulpit crew, with 36 closely beating out 51. Why did that happen? Let’s take a look at our writers’ rationale to find out:

Bernd Buchmasser: Disclaimer: I don’t have any children — but this is how a parent must feel when asked about which of his kids they love more. They are all so special (all six of them) and will forever have a place in my heart. That being said, choose we must and for me that means going with the Patriots’ comeback against the Falcons in Super Bowl 51.

Don’t get me wrong: Super Bowl 36 will always be one of my favorite sports-related memories, being the first-ever football game I was interested in watching from start to finish; the one that got me hooked on the Patriots. But from the perspective of sheer in-game dramaturgy, it can’t quite beat the 51st AFC-NFC championship game — the greatest comeback in the NFL history.

Yes, the Patriots pretty much sucked for most of the contest but like phoenix from the ashes they rose to break hearts across the non-New England parts of the nation. Every play the team had to make, it made, up until that final run by James White that decided the first Super Bowl to ever go to extra time. But as I’ve said: there really is no wrong answer because Super Bowl 36 (just like, my personal favorite, 49) was a terrific game as well.

Rich Hill: I’m actually shocked. I had Super Bowl 49 as the greatest game of the Patriots’ dynasty, so I’m a little bitter. How can you beat a competitive game that included the single most-valuable play in NFL history (a goal line interception that seals a championship in the final minute!!)? Well, I guess you have to settle for the greatest comeback in NFL history against the greatest underdog performance since the NFL and AFL merged.

Man, we’ve been spoiled.

These are two incredible games. Watching Tom Brady lead that game-winning drive while John Madden is doubting the decision will be one of the greatest moments in franchise history, and The Game That Started The Dynasty should be treasured. And the first 40 minutes of Super Bowl 51 was absolute agony.

But I’m going to go with Super Bowl 51 because coming back from 28-3 late in the third quarter is arguably the most impressive in-game feat of the Bill Belichick era. And, sure, it required a complete stinker to get into that position in the first place, but that just adds to the lore because they won. I’ve never been more enraptured by a stretch of a Patriots game than during the comeback. I’ve never held my breath for as long, and I’ve never witnessed such technically perfect football as when every single thing had to go perfectly for the Patriots to mount the comeback. And I’ve never been so assured of victory than when the Patriots won the coin toss in overtime.

Football is a brutish game, but for the 27 minutes it took for the Patriots to go from 28-3 to Super Bowl champions, it was beautiful.

Alec Shane: Nothing is ever going to top SB 36 for me; you only get to win your first championship once. Not only did Super Bowl XXXVI see the Patriots pull off an amazing upset to bring the Lombardi Trophy home to New England for the first time in team history, but that entire 2001 season - Drew Bledsoe and Moe Lewis leading to Tom Brady, 11-5 and a first round playoff bye, the Snow Bowl, taking out a Steelers team that had already packed their bags for New Orleans, and being two TD underdogs against the Greatest Show on Turf only to have Adam Vinatieri kick a game-winning FG as time expired - was just unreal.

Not only that, but the whole season took place under the shadow of 9/11, a tragedy so significant the NFL suspended play for a week as America tried to pick up the pieces. We all looked at sports a little differently that year, valued them in a way we haven’t before or since. For so many of us, sports were a return to normalcy, a way to show the world that we’re still here, and an escape from the massive, sweeping global change that was about to take place. Whether it was Chiefs fans drowning out Arrowhead with cheers when their opponents, the New York Giants, were announced, Joe Andruzzi coming out of the tunnel waving American flags in support of his FDNY and NYPD brothers, GW Bush throwing an absolute rope, with movement, from the mound for Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, or the SB 36 halftime show which featured the names of the fallen as U2 sang a breathtaking rendition of “Where The Streets Have No Name” (if you can watch it without tearing up a bit, you’re stronger than I am), America and her sports were linked more deeply and wholly than I ever dreamed possible. And to have my team raise their arms in victory at that season’s end, led by the walking embodiment of the American Dream in Tom Brady...there is nothing that has happened, or will ever happen, that will even come close to catching Super Bowl XXXVI.

For me, at least.

Younger fans who weren’t around for all the lean years (it’s crazy to think that Pats fans in their mid-20s were like 5 or 6 years old the last time the Patriots had a losing record) - will likely point to SB 51, and they’d be right to do so; hell, even if you’ve been around since the 60s and still think that 51 is superior, I certainly won’t fight you. There really isn’t a wrong answer here. All the more reason to squeeze every last drop of juice out of this remarkable run.

Marima: I loved Super Bowl 51, but had to go with the game that launched it all.

Has to be a first championship, as improbable as it was at the time, to get the dynasty rolling. If these are only two choices, I have to pick SB 36. After that I have to put SB 49 because there absolutely was a ton riding on that game. The ten years since the last win, including two trips and two losses, the start of deflategate, plus the pressure of going 3-3 in SB appearances instead of 4-2 — huge difference.

Slot Machine Player: In Super Bowl 36, the odds were certainly stacked against the Patriots, and while it was “the first time” we won, it was also the third time we tried, so there was some adversity to overcome. It was special to stand for the first time on the top of that mountain as the victor. Had SpyGate and DeflateGate never happened, that would be my vote because that “first time” is certainly special. Unfortunately, someone came along sprayed graffiti all over that Lombardi that said, “Cheater!”

Of course, SpyGate did happen and cast a HUGE shadow over the Patriots three Super Bowl wins including that first one where we were accused of taping a walk-through, except the guy lied and we didn’t. The resounding theme across the NFL and many water coolers was, “Pats can’t win without cheating”. Once the NFL cracked down on the Pats and their shenanigans, they couldn’t win a “fair” Super Bowl. They were 0-2 without cheating (0-4 if you counted pre-BeliCheat).

Super Bowl 49 was also “the first time” we won after SpyGate and also the third time we tried. There’s a lot of symmetry there, and it restored some of the glory to the Patriots older titles. It featured yet another “fluke catch” that was sure to doom the Patriots like the last two had. Then “The Butler Did It!”. Not only did the Patriots finally win, some of the shine was restored to those earlier victories as well. Unfortunately, the NFL couldn’t leave it at that.

Of course, SB49 brought with it a NEW specter in the shape of DeflateGate. It wasn’t the spying after all, it’s just because Tom Brady has been illegally deflating footballs for years. Ignore the ridiculous training regimen, the countless hours of film study and preparation, all of the GOAT food that Brady eats, a few tenths of PSI pressure is all that ever mattered ... and maybe a Dorito Dink.

Super Bowl 51 was Brady’s comeback from 4 game exile tour. The Patriots were down 25 points in the Super Bowl! Without illegal film and with the NFL guarding the footballs, the Patriots just didn’t have what it takes. I guess they were cheating all along.... Then Brady happened. Yes, the defense stiffened and made some great plays. Yes, Edelman made an incrEDELble catch. Every Pat stepped up, but it was clear who they were following and they didn’t want to let down their field general. If there was ever any doubt who the GOAT was, it was laid to rest after that game. Largest comeback in Super Bowl history, first ever overtime Super Bowl, records falling all over the place. Oh, and why had the Patriots won 5 Super Bowl? Thomas Patrick Edward F-ing Brady, Jr. Yeah, that’s about the size of it.

Go ahead and pick Super Bowl 36 if you like it was special and the shine is fully restored to that Lombardi. Super Bowl 51 took care of that.

Oliver Thomas: Super Bowl XXXVI is like a movie you remember seeing at the theaters with your childhood friends during summer vacation. You’ve seen others since then that are superior in production or entertainment value, but have a hard time recalling the experience more so than what was on the screen. It wasn’t the game that Super Bowl LI was. Or Super Bowl XLIX. That might not have mattered.

Matthew Rewinski: I’m Team 36.

If we may take a cue from the music world: in the same way that a debut album that explodes on to the scene with all the subtlety of an M-80 in a mailbox, Super Bowl 36 had every key ingredient of the dynasty that nobody saw coming. Think like how Metallica’s “Kill ‘Em All” had everything: the vocals, the shred, the drums, the solos, and all the “Seek and Destroy” you could want. 36 introduced the world to:

1A) Belichick devising a game-specific plan each week to counter the strengths of his opponents;

1B) Belichick’s now-famous “whoever your best player is, we’re taking them out of the game. Make them beat us left-handed”;

2) The defense that played (cough) right at the edge of the rules, taking out the Ram’s Friday Night Lights passing game with pounding hits and shoot-your-shot defense over 60 minutes;

3) Hours and hours of film study resulting in huge game-breaking plays like Ty Law’s franchise-defining pick-six;

4) Don’t turn the ball over on offense, and limit big plays on defense;

5) Make ‘em defend every blade of grass on the field, and if that means taking a checkdown, then that’s how the cookie crumbles, live to fight another down;

6) Maximize the value of field position;


And last but certainly not least, when the chips are down, go for the throat. Playing to tie is for cowards.

For a generation of New England sports fans that were born too late to experience the glory years of the 80’s Celtics, grew up with the Bruins on the tail end of the Ray Borque era, and we all know where the Sox were at curse-wise, never mind the Patriots regularly finishing with double-digit losses, this was that moment when you quit watching other teams like the Chicago Bulls or the Dallas Cowboys clean up championships like “Wow, that’s what a real team looks like, they’re so cool!” and got that trademark New England brashness back. Well, back for the first time, for a lot of us.

Ryan Keiran: My first memory period is SB36, I was a college Junior for SB51. I think I can appreciate 51 just a little bit more :)

Pat Lane: I was a senior in High School when the Patriots won Super Bowl 36. I had never seen a championship in Boston before, and I had been a fan of the Patriots since 1992, when they went 2-14. It was a life changing experience for me, and it changed the way we view Boston sports. It not only started the Patriots dynasty, but it is looked at as the launching off point of the greatest run by a city since the fall of Rome.

I understand that Super Bowl 51 was maybe the most improbable win in the history of sports, as the Patriots had a .01% chance of winning in the 4th quarter. But, in 2001, the Patriots had to have no less than 793 things break the right way for them just to get the bye. They had to beat Buffalo in Buffalo, which was aided by David Patten retaining possession of his fumble because his unconscious head was inches out of bounds and the ball was touching his leg. Never have I been so happy that the rules of electricity were enforced. Then the Jets had to beat the Raiders in Oakland, something they hadn’t done in 20 years, only to fly back out and lose to them in Oakland the next weekend. Then there’s the Tuck Rule, Derrick Gibson accidentally downing the ball in the end zone(huge field position play), and, of course Adam’s kick. Then they went to Pittsburgh, and Bledsoe had to lead them to victory after Brady went down with an injury. All that is before the game itself, which was the first one to ever be decided on the final play. Not sure about you, but I still get chills when I hear Gil’s final call of 36. We could win 20 more, that feeling will never go away. The only pick for me is 36.

Vote here to help decide the winner of the Pats Madness tournament:


Super Bowl 51 vs Super Bowl 36

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Super Bowl 51
    (723 votes)
  • 28%
    Super Bowl 36
    (295 votes)
1018 votes total Vote Now

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