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The History of Patriots Bounceback Games

patriots bounceback games

The Patriots got beaten by the Dolphins pretty badly on Monday night. But the fact is that the Patriots have had this kind of bad loss before – and they’ve rebounded from it. And it always takes people by surprise. At some point, you wonder how this could possibly still take people off guard.

With Tom Brady under center, the Patriots are 45-11 after a loss. Brady has a passer rating of 99.8 in these games, throwing for 112 touchdowns against just 27 interceptions.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to take six of the worst regular season losses that have the most similarities to the game this past week, and then chronicle the Patriots bounceback games that followed – and how the team fared the rest of that season.


The First Bad Loss of the Brady-Belichick Era

October 7th, 2001 – Dolphins 30 Patriots 10

After starting 0-2, the Patriots came into this week four contest high off a 44-13 pasting of the Indianapolis Colts (Brady-Manning I). The game was tied 10-10 in the second quarter before tight end Jed Weaver (more on him later) caught a touchdown pass from Jay Fiedler. The Dolphins would score 20 unanswered points in a game that both quarterbacks held under 90 yards passing. Brady was sacked four times and completed only 12 passes and no touchdowns.

The loss dropped New England to 1-3 – two games behind the Dolphins for first place in the AFC East.

What happened the next?

The Patriots beat the Doug Flutie-led Chargers in overtime the next week 29-26. The Patriots would meet the Dolphins again in the last regular season game in Foxboro and dispatch Miami 20-13 in a game that featured Tom Brady’s first career catch. The win led to the Patriots claiming the first of 14 division championships of the Brady-Belichick era.

That Dolphins team was throttled by the Baltimore Ravens 20-3 in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.  The Patriots bounced back from the loss to the Dolphins to go 13-2 the rest of the way for their first championship

Don’t feel too bad for Jed Weaver. He eventually won a Super Bowl in 2004… with the Patriots.


The Lawyer Milloy Game

September 7th, 2003 – Bills 31 Patriots 0

The most lopsided loss of the Brady-Belichick era took place on opening day, 2003. Having been released by the Patriots the previous week, Milloy’s Bills ran roughshod over the Patriots. They intercepted Brady four times, and 350-pound defensive tackle Sam Adams returned one of those for a humiliating touchdown. Brady managed only 14 completions for 123 yards as the Patriots dropped to 0-1.

The media had a field day and came out with gems like, “They hate their coach.”

So how did the Patriots respond?

The next week they punished Andy Reid’s Eagles 31-10, and went 34-3 over their next 37 games – including the longest winning streak in NFL history – and won the next two Super Bowls. And they famously met Milloy’s Bills again in week 17, and fittingly beat them 31-0.

Past is Prologue

December 20, 2004 – Dolphins 29 Patriots 28

If ever you wanted to be reminded of what happened this past Monday night, then look to a Monday night in December of 2004.

The 12-1 Patriots led the 2-11 Dolphins 28-17 with under four minutes left to go in the game – before the Dolphins stormed back on two late touchdowns to stun the top-seeded Patriots. The loss all but assured that the Pittsburgh Steelers would have home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Tom Brady again threw four picks in the game – including a back-breaker on a potential game-winning drive with just over a minute to play.

Again, we were told that the Patriots’ weaknesses had been exposed.

And obviously, they were, because the Patriots would blow out the Jets and 49ers by a combined 44-14 count to close out the season at 14-2, before dismissing the Colts 20-3 in the Divisional Playoffs, and dismantling the Steelers in Pittsburgh 41-27. Two weeks later they beat the Eagles for their 3rd Super Bowl championship.


Their Worst Game in Miami

December 10th, 2006 – Dolphins 21 Patriots 0

The 5-7 Dolphins frustrated the 9-3 Dolphins from wire-to-wire. Brady was held to 12-25 for 78 yards passing. He was sacked four times. The Patriots lost three fumbles. Sammy Morris’s three-yard touchdown run with just under five minutes left to play put the game out of reach.

As usual, the game was a turning point for both teams…

The Dolphins didn’t win another game, finishing 0-3 – getting shut out by the Bills by an identical 21-0 score the next week and losing to the Jets and Colts to finish up 6-10. After the season, their coach, Nick Saban left for greener pastures in Alabama.

The Patriots finished the regular season 3-0. After being shut out by the Dolphins, they’d score 40 points twice in three games, pounding the Texans, Jaguars, and Titans into submission. They won two playoff games before coming up short in the AFC Championship Game – with arguably Brady’s worst receiving corps of his career. Reche Caldwell‘s dropped passes probably kept the Patriots from another Super Bowl.

On To Cincinnati

September 29th, 2014 – Chiefs 41 Patriots 14

Probably the most famous of the Patriots bad games was the 27-point drubbing they took from the Kansas City Chiefs on a Monday night in 2014. Brady finished 14 of 23 for 159 yards. He threw two interceptions against only one touchdown. He also lost a fumble.

The Chiefs shocked the Patriots by scoring the first 27 points of the game. Alex Smith threw three TD passes. Kansas City, led by Knile Davis and Jamaal Charles gashed the Patriots for 207 yards on the ground.

Again, the reaction was hysterical. Trent Dilfer was hardly alone in thinking the game was the end of the Patriots era of dominance.

To his eternal credit, the good Mr. Dilfer has spent three years apologizing. There are many who get caught up in this sort of doomsaying over and over again.

After the game, Bill Belichick told the world that the Patriots were “On to Cincinnati”, and eventually, “On to Seattle.”

We all know how the 2014 season ended for the Patriots, right?

The Seahawks Strike Back

November 13, 2016 –  Seahawks 31 Patriots 24

As losses go, this one was painful. The Patriots had first and goal from the Seahawks 2-yard-line with 43 seconds left in the game, and they couldn’t push it in. After two Brady sneaks and LeGarrette Blount run couldn’t get it in, Rob Gronkowski tripped on 4th down and the Patriots hopes fell with the ball.

Brady did throw for 316 yards but threw an interception and no touchdowns. Julian Edelman lost a critical fumble. Rob Gronkowski suffered a crushing hit from Earl Thomas that contribute to his season-ending back issues.

And after that, the Patriots rolled to win their next 10 games, and a Super Bowl Championship… again.



And after all of this, you’d think people would start to see a pattern. Some never will, and I suppose that’s what keeps it fun.

There’s a reason that people hate this team. It’s not the fake “cheating” scandals. They’ve long been debunked, and were far more the result of the Patriots winning than the other way around.

It’s the fact that the Patriots keep coming back again and again. You can’t count them out, ever. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, and yes, there’s a tee shirt.

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Mike Cooney
Mike is a lifelong Boston sports fan. He's got a degree in journalism from Northeastern University, and has been writing about sports in various methods since the mid-1990's. He's gotten to meet Bobby Orr, Luis Tiant, Rich Gedman, Nomar Garciaparra, and once shut out Carlos Pena's two twin brothers in a game of foosball at McCoy Stadium.