On December 24, 2000, the New England Patriots lost 27-24 against the Miami Dolphins at old Foxboro Stadium. The Bill Clinton presidency was in its final days. Independent Woman by Destiny’s Child was sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100. The first Harry Potter movie was just being filmed in the United Kingdom. YouTube would not go online for another five years, as would the original Pats Pulpit.
The world truly was a different one back then.
What nobody at the time knew was that the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins would kick off an unprecedented run in NFL history. That defeat at the hands of Miami, after all, was the last time the organization would be swept by an AFC East rival for two decades: between 2001 and 2019, no division rival was able to best New England twice in a single regular season — all while Belichick’s team built the greatest dynasty pro football has ever seen.
All things must eventually come to an end, however, and the Patriots’ sweep-less streak is no exception. It took until Week 16 of the 2020 season for that to happen, but happen it did when the Buffalo Bills blew out New England 38-9 on Monday Night Football.
Thus ended another impressive record established by New England during its dynastic run.
The Bills already put an end to the Patriots’ all-time run of 11 straight division titles earlier this season, with a 24-21 win over New England in Week 8 helping them accomplish the feat. Eight weeks later, Sean McDermott’s squad added another victory over the former AFC East powerhouse, to end the only sweep-less streak since the NFL’s divisional realignment in 2002.
Despite the impressive streak coming to an end, however, the minds inside the Patriots’ locker room after the Monday night debacle against the Bills were elsewhere. There was disappointment, first and foremost, and frustration as illustrated by quarterback Cam Newton.
“It’s frustrating. It makes you mad,” Newton said after the game. “It makes you angry knowing that to be a trusted teammate, you first have to submit to authority and submit to what the coaches are asking you to do. I feel like I have done that. I’m not in the place to blame. I’m more or less venting right now because I’ve sacrificed so much this year. It hurts when you have the outing that you have tonight.”
The Patriots’ 2020 season as a whole was a disappointment, as the team is not just out of playoff contention but also in the middle of its first losing season since that 2000 campaign mentioned above. Could this be the starting point for another historic run, though? If the last two decades have taught us one thing, it’s never to say never.
Of course, New England will first have to play its upcoming game against the 2-13 New York Jets before shifting its focus onto the challenges that await in 2021. And based on the game versus Buffalo, there are quite a few issues to address.