By Kevin J. Stone/@kstone06
When the Patriots take the field at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, it will be Bill Belichick’s 21st opener as head coach of the franchise.
Since 2000, BB has led the greatest dynasty in the history of professional sports, but the openers haven’t always been pretty.
Over the next two days, I’ll be taking a look at each Patriots opener since 2000. Today I’ll be going through the games from 2000-2010. Tomorrow (Saturday) will be the 2011 opener up until the present day. Enjoy this stroll down memory lane and try not to laugh too hard at some of the throwback names that happen to come up.
2000: TAMPA BAY 21, PATS 16
Yikes. The Sean King-led Bucs were able to take down Bledsoe and the Pats in front of over 60,000 at the old Foxborough Stadium.
King was 12-for-24 with a TD and just 167 yards. Bledsoe threw for 216 yards and a TD in the loss. Terry Glenn had a 39-yard TD reception and Troy Brown added a 65-yard punt return for a TD. Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott combined for 110 yards rushing for the Bucs.
2001: CINCINATTI 23, PATS 17
Another yikes moment for Belichick and crew. The Bengals 204 yards and a touchdown from Jon-freaking-Kitna in the win while Bledsoe had 241 yards and two TD’s in the loss.
Corey Dillon had 104 yards on the ground for the Bengals while Antowain Smith had just 33 3rds on 11 carries. Troy Brown had a great day catching seven balls for 106 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough. Of course, this team would bounce back nicely, to say the least.
2002: PATS 30, PITTSBURGH 14
This of course was the opening night of Gillette Stadium and the first-ever banner ceremony for the Patriots. Kordell Stewart was still the QB for the Steelers and he threw three picks in the loss.
Brady racked up 294 yards and three TD’s in the special win. Smith had just 60 yards on 17 carries, but more importantly, the defense held Jerome Bettis to just 35 yards.
Deion Branch, Christian Fauria, and Donald Hayes all caught TD passes from Brady as well.
2003: BUFFALO 31, PATS 0
We all know how this one went and how the year ended up. Bledsoe and Lawyer Milloy had a field day against their former team in Buffalo, but the Pats returned the favor in the final game of the regular season.
2004: PATS 27, INDIANAPOLIS 24
The second banner raising ceremony at Gillette was followed by an instant classic between Brady and Manning.
Brady threw for 335 yards and three TD’s while Peyton had 256 yards and two TDs of his own. Edgerrin James was an absolute beast for the Colts, racking up 142 yards on the ground.
Branch, Daniel Graham and David Patten had the three TD receptions from Brady in the win.
2005: PATS 30, OAKLAND 20
Ho Hum, another year, another banner raising. This one was a bit more of an ass-kicking compared to some of the others we’ve gone over so far.
Stunningly, Kerry Collins had three TD’s without a pick in the loss for the Raiders and he also threw for 265 yards. Collins found Randy Moss for a 73-yard TD in this one too. Moss finished the night with 130 yards on just five catches, torching the Pats secondary.
Still, the Pats were too much for Oakland as Brady had 306 yards and two TDs. Dillon added two TD’s on just 63 yards rushing. Branch and Tim Dwight had the two TD receptions from Brady.
2006: PATS 19, BUFFALO 17
Probably one of the uglier openers we’ve seen the last 20 years, the Pats snuck by the Bills at Gillette.
Trailing 17-14 heading to the fourth quarter, Stephen Gostkowski hit a late field goal to make it 17-17, and then a Ty Warren sack of JP Lossman in the end zone ultimately gave the Pats a 19-17 win.
Brady completed just 11 passes for 163 yards but still hit Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk for touchdowns. Laurence Maroney debuted and had 86 yards on 17 carries.
2007: PATS 38, NY JETS 14
This one might be my favorite despite how the year ended. The Pats loaded up in the offseason with Welker and Moss and exploded on the scene here in the Meadowlands.
Brady had 297 yards and three TD’s, with Moss and Welker grabbing one each. Ben Watson had the other TD reception. Moss racked up a ridiculous 183 yards on nine balls while Welker had six catches for 61 yards.
2008: PATS 17, Kansas City 10
Brady. ACL tear. Matt Cassell. Let’s move on.
2009: PATS 25, BUFFALO 24
This is another one of the most memorable openers in recent history. On Monday Night Football and rocking the throwback red jerseys the Pats came back with a thrilling fourth-quarter win in Brady’s return from the ACL.
Ben Watson caught both of the late fourth-quarter TD’s from Brady that led to the win. Brady had 378 yards and both of those TD’s in the win but it was Trent Edwards and Fred Jackson show for a while as Buffalo led 24-13 with just a little over 9:00 left.
2010: PATS 38, CINCINNATI 24
The Pats jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead and made this one way more interesting then it needed to be.
Carson Palmer (345 yards) and Brady (258 yards) combined for 85 pass attempts with Brady throwing for three TD’s and Palmer notching two.
Chad Johnson (or Ocho Cinco, whatever you prefer) had a hell of a day, catching 12 balls for 159 yards and a TD. Terrell Owens was also on that Bengals team and added 53 yards on seven catches.
Welker had two TD’s but just 64 yards receiving while Moss went for just 59 yards on five receptions.
Quite a few big-time games in openers from both Patriots and opponents alike that many of us may have forgotten. Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of this Opening Kickoff weekend stroll down memory lane.